Working and dealing with the symptoms of IBS can be very challenging. Sitting through long meetings, video calls, and presentations is difficult enough without having abdominal pain or frequent bowel movements. Things like pain or getting up every hour to go to the bathroom can make it difficult to concentrate and make you less productive. But with a bit of help, you can keep IBS from interfering with your job.
Firstly, taking the necessary steps to get your symptoms under control is a must. However, sometimes small changes to your diet and daily life can positively impact your symptoms. Lifestyle changes, including diet and exercise, therapies, and medications, can keep symptoms in check.
Secondly, tell your supervisor about your condition. This can often alleviate some anxieties about going to work, and they can also help accommodate any needs you have concerning your IBS. For example, changing your seat in the office, taking regular breaks, or even working from home are all viable solutions.
To control your IBS symptoms at work, try some of these suggestions
Get up a little earlier
Getting up just a little earlier can make a massive impact on your day. Allow enough time for breakfast and your morning toilet routine before leaving for work. This will relieve some of the anxiety associated with traveling to work while suffering from IBS symptoms.
Limit long meetings, presentations, and travel
This would be another reason to notify your supervisor of your condition and develop an alternative solution. If your job requires travel, try to arrange conference calls or use video call systems such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams to avoid traveling for long periods.
Create a schedule you can stick to
Your eating habits and nutrition might help or hurt your IBS. It’s vital that you keep to a routine and eat and drink regularly. Creating a schedule for meals, exercise, and bathroom breaks can train your body to recognize when these things need to happen and, in turn, reduce your trips to the bathroom. When your body is on a schedule, you can arrange your meetings, presentations, etc., around it.
Minimize your stress (always easier said than done!)
IBS is a complicated condition with several factors that contribute to flare-ups. Usually, it is a mix of diet, stress, and anxiety. Though reducing stress in the workplace can be difficult, staying organized and following a routine can help keep you from getting overwhelmed. Try using a daily calendar and take some time at the start of the week, to list to-do’s, meetings, and so you can keep on top of your workload and reduce stressful situations occurring.
Take medication to prevent symptoms worsening
Although medication may not get rid of your IBS completely, it can reduce your symptoms, so they are not so severe. Over-the-counter medicines for diarrhea or gas are great to have on hand for meetings, long conference calls, etc., that you cannot miss. If over-the-counter medications don’t work for you, talk to your doctor, they may consider prescription medicines to calm your symptoms.
Find an IBS buddy
Let a close friend or colleague at work know about your condition so they can support you if you need to step out of a meeting or leave early. Sometimes IBS symptoms can flare up, and there is nothing you can do to prevent it, so having a friend to offer some support can help.
Make an emergency kit with everything you may need
Despite taking all the precautions, you need to take, accidents still happen. Being prepared in case they do occur is the key. If you carry an IBS emergency kit, you will be ready for anything that is thrown your way.
Depending on what IBS subtype you have (IBS-D, IBS-C, or IBS-M), what you pack in your emergency kit will be different, but here are some excellent ideas:
- Extra clothing – underwear, pants, socks, etc.
- Tissues – although you might be close to a bathroom, having tissues on hand is never a bad idea
- Flushable wipes
- Bottled water
- Medicines – Tums, Ibuprofen, Pepto-Bismol, etc.
- Peppermint tea
- Perfume/body spray
- Plastic Bags
For some people, dealing with IBS can be difficult, embarrassing, or even guilt-inducing, but it doesn’t have to be. You can maintain an outstanding work-life balance and pursue your career with the right treatments, medication, and proper planning.
If your symptoms are regularly getting in the way of your work, then you may want to speak to your doctor about further IBS treatment options.