Coping with Your IBD at Work

When you have an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) like ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, planning for surprises and symptoms at work plays a key role in maintaining productivity and keeping up with your work responsibilities. It can be a challenge to navigate symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, and bowel urgency that can come on suddenly at any point during a workday. The goal of successfully managing IBD is to keep your symptoms in check so you can live and work without IBD interfering with your work and quality of life.

Here at Illinois Gastroenterology Associates, we want IBD patients to feel confident that with some knowledge and planning you can succeed at work and minimize your symptoms. Here are steps patients with IBD can take to keep things on track at work.

Prepare to disclose

While there’s no legal requirement to disclose your condition to your employer, doing so can help create a work environment that supports the management of your IBD. Inflammatory bowel disease is covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act. This means that people with Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and other inflammatory bowel diseases have a right to request adjustments to work conditions to enable you to work.

Reasonable accommodations for patients with IBD at work include:

Consider who you need to talk to about your condition so that you can make reasonable accommodations to manage symptoms at your workplace. Also consider how much detail about your condition you’re comfortable disclosing. Improving conditions at your workplace can make a major difference in your ability to get your work done and manage your symptoms. 

Create a rescue kit

A rescue kit can really save the day when symptoms come on unexpectedly at work. This kit should contain travel size versions of the key components of your symptom management regimen. Consider what you use at home to help manage your IBD symptoms and include those items in the kit. 

Some examples of items for a rescue kit are:

Eat IBD-friendly food at work

Eating away from home can be a major risk factor for an IBD flare. Whether you’re grabbing lunch with a coworker or enjoying a catered meal ordered for the office, deviating from the “safe” foods that keep your symptoms in check can mean triggering symptoms.

To successfully manage your IBD at work, it’s best to plan your work meals ahead of time. This means that you must think carefully about your coworker’s spontaneous lunch invite because limiting your symptoms at work is a top priority.

Prepare your work meals at home ahead of time with delicious foods that you can tolerate that are easy to eat at work. Create a go-to list of restaurants near work that have IBD-friendly menus. This way if a coworker invites you to lunch, you’ll have go-to recommendations where you know you can order a meal that’s unlikely to trigger IBD symptoms.

Limit IBD triggers

The work you put into limiting IBD triggers outside of work can go a long way in keeping your symptoms in check while at work. Triggers vary from person to person, and you probably have your own unique triggers but common ones may include:

Don’t let fear, uncertainty, or embarrassment get in the way of having a quality work life. If you’re struggling with managing your IBD symptoms at work, we can help. 

For more information, reach out to our office by calling us to schedule a visit. We have convenient locations throughout the Chicagoland area, including Arlington Heights and Elk Grove Village.

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