The office needs IBS solutions. At roughly $8 billion in medical costs alone, irritable bowel syndrome wreaks through the American economy with as much severity as the discomfort it brings. The Mayo Clinic estimates that IBS is responsible for up to $20 billion in lost productivity which, to use a common metaphor, literally gets flushed down the toilet.
Irritable bowel syndrome is a disorder of the bowel. While symptoms vary, there are generally three kinds of IBS, including:
IBS with constipation – with stomach pain and discomfort, infrequent bowel movements and hard or lumpy stool.
IBS with diarrhea – with similar stomach and abdominal pain as with constipation, but with added urgency for bowel movements and loose or watery stool.
IBS with diarrhea and constipation – with alternating symptoms between the two.
Curiously, 80% of IBS patients are women. And irritable bowel syndrome is more common in nations characterized by spicy food in their diets, with 43% of Brazilians complaining of IBS symptoms, and almost half the population of Mexico.
If you have irritable bowel syndrome, give yourself at least two hours to prepare for work. Experts note that it’s not uncommon for patients with IBS to have four or five bowel movements before leaving for work. IBS patients are often late for or miss work and other activities, and some find the disorder so debilitating that they take a specific route to work with multiple rest rooms along the way.
Also, talk to a trusted co-worker or supervisor. Be discreet, but tell them you have IBS symptoms. You might have to explain the disorder and its symptoms, but as several founders of IBS support groups in the United States will tell you, people are generally understanding – if for no other reason than we all go to the bathroom, and can relate that, when you gotta go, you gotta go.
Regardless of what you disclose, it is advisable to tell your supervisor or boss that you have the disorder (or occasional flare-ups). Remind your supervisor that you may need to run to the bathroom during a meeting, but you’re still a productive worker and you’ll function well when the pain subsides.
If your supervisor doesn’t sympathize, you might ask your doctor to write a note, explaining that irritable bowel syndrome is a true disorder with specific symptoms.
When symptoms flare-up, there’s little you can do other than to ride the storm and let it pass. Deep breathing and walking may help as symptoms persist.
Your doctor can prescribe IBS medications to alleviate symptoms, or preferably stop them before they happen. Common IBS medicines include laxatives, prescription treatments including Amitiza, antidepressants (which block the brain’s perception of the gut), and small doses of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants like Celexa and Paxil.
In addition, regular exercise may also reduce IBS symptoms, and some alternative treatments, including acupuncture and behavioural therapy, including hypnotherapy and relaxation techniques, remain popular IBS solutions.
Adjustments to diet, with an emphasis on fiber, may also reduce symptoms and flare-ups.
For many workers, IBS is a problematic, with persistent and painful symptoms that cost time and money, and in some cases, can ruin relationships. And while the search for IBS solutions will never subside, your best bet may be to keep a journal, of your triggers and symptoms. Communicate with your supervisor, and your doctor.
IBS, though painful, is an ongoing relationship. Don’t hate your gut. Just keep your IBS solutions with you at all times, and aim for more good days than bad.