Managing Inflammatory Bowel Disease at School and Work

Dealing with IBD away from home can be extra challenging.

For the more than one million Americans who suffer from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), coping with a chronic intestinal condition can be difficult, and certain settings can make it even more challenging.

“Once we step out of our homes, we have less control over our environment,” said Tiffany Kratzer, MD, director of the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Program at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. “But since many of us spend most of our days at school or work, it’s important for patients with IBD to learn how to deal with their illnesses outside of the home.”

The two most common types of IBD are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. According to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America, these illnesses cause chronic inflammation and damage in the gastrointestinal tract, leading to symptoms such as persistent diarrhea, abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, weight loss and fatigue.

“Even though there is no cure for IBD, there are ways to mitigate the symptoms and take back some control over public environments,” Kratzer said.

She offers the following tips for dealing with IBD at school and work.

Develop a Medication Routine

Make taking your medication part of your daily routine, like brushing your teeth. If you are required to take your medication twice a day, leave it by your toothbrush so you don’t forget. Your lunch hour is a good time to take a third dose, if needed.

Scope Out a Private Bathroom

Always know where your nearest restrooms are and if possible, try to locate a facility that is not highly trafficked. To help ease public restroom anxiety, consider using flushable wipes and non-aerosol air freshener.

Turn to Your Doctor for Support

Your physician is your advocate. Without revealing your medical condition, your doctor can explain your unique needs to supervisors or teachers. In some cases, special arrangements may need to be made for extra bathroom privileges.

Ask about Probiotics

There’s promising research that shows taking a probiotic every day can improve IBD symptoms and perhaps even help to reduce flares. Before taking a probiotic, talk with your doctor to find out which one may be right for you.

“Patients with IBD may never gain total relief from their conditions,” Kratzer said. “But there are many ways they can make their lives easier and less stressful, thus reducing the symptoms.”