Dealing With Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) at Work

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is especially hard on people at work, but there are ways to cope.

Even getting ready to go to work can be hard for people with some types of IB S. It's not unusual for IBS sufferers to have four to five bowel movements before they leave the house, says Jeffrey Roberts, president and founder of the IBS Self Help and Support Group. The group has 25,000 active members online, and face-to-face meetings in the U.S., Canada, and other countries.

"We have seen people who've stopped working, because they can't cope with getting ready in the morning, leaving, and having that uneasy feeling of having to deal with (symptoms)," says Roberts.

Leaving the working world is just one of the things people with IBS do because of their disorder. Sufferers often miss or are late for work, school, and other activities.

The Costs of Care for IBS

According to a 1995 Mayo Clinic study, IBS costs society more than $8 billion in medical expenses for drugs, and hospital, emergency room, and office visits. Plus, IBS causes $20 billion in lost productivity. The numbers alone are staggering. And numbers cannot even begin to quantify the cost of human suffering and damage to relationships.

Give Yourself Time to Prepare if You Have IBS

To reduce your own potential economic loss, Roberts suggests giving yourself time to prepare for work. He has IBS, and gives himself at least two hours to get ready in the morning. Once at work, he does the best he can to deal with IBS symptoms.