Most working environments aren’t at all ideal for IBS sufferers. I have predominantly worked in an office environment since having IBS and it has thrown up daily challenges for me; from being in a client meeting where it’s quiet and my bowels are not! To being in the toilet cubicle whilst there are other ladies in the toilets and I have one of those (noisy) embarrassing moments.
IBS has always been quite a ‘taboo’ subject, due to the symptoms such as diarrhea which isn’t the most pleasant to talk about or admit that you have. However, after three years of trying to cover up my symptoms in front of others and attempting to ignore them as much as possible when I was on my own or with family, once getting a diagnosis I was happy to be ‘open’ about it.
I could finally understand my symptoms, do something about them and explain to people why I felt how I felt, why I had to go to the doctors again etc. I found life became easier by talking about it and the most common two responses I got (and still receive) are – “I have IBS too” or “My friend/partner/family member has IBS”.
With around one in 10 people in the UK suffering with IBS, it’s no wonder nearly everyone you speak to either has it or knows someone close to them who suffers with it.
Going back to talking about the office environment, I worked in a marketing agency when I found out I had IBS and once I spoke to my colleagues and friends at work about it, I found out another three people suffered with the same – that was four out of 35 of us! Plus quite a few others had friends or family who suffered with IBS too. Being able to talk about it with my colleagues, friends and fellow sufferers made me feel far more relaxed at work – which in turn helps your symptoms (stress worsens the symptoms of IBS if you already have a flare up and can cause symptoms to trigger if you are very stressed).
For CEO’s IBS can be a nightmare to have amongst their staff. It is estimated that Britain’s businesses lose almost £3 billion every year through sick days related to gut health1; and that’s just sick days, it doesn’t even take into account the unproductivity of staff who are at work with a flare up and so often feel uncomfortable, lethargic and are having pretty regular toilet visits.
So, my best advice to deal with IBS at work? Talk about it with friends and colleagues
It’s amazing how understanding they can be and how much advice they can offer from their own experience or the experiences of their friends/family who are fellow IBS sufferers.
1 Gut Week press release: All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from One Poll. Total sample size was 2,000 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken on 14th July 2016. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).