If you suffer from food intolerance or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), you know firsthand how these conditions can impact your performance at work.
Symptoms such as bloating, abdominal pain, fatigue and changes in bowel habits can make it difficult to focus and stay productive. Unfortunately, people often feel embarrassed discussing these symptoms which can lead to feeling isolated and lacking support.
Food intolerance means that your body has a negative response to certain foods - leading to a variety of symptoms that can be uncomfortable and even painful. Whilst there are many causes and several different types of intolerance, stress is a common trigger for all types. So the condition causes stress - and then the stress worsens the condition - it's a difficult cycle to break.
Many of my patients report that the symptoms of food intolerance and/or IBS are extremely limiting - reducing their ability to accept opportunities which may involve presenting for example - a common trigger for bowel symptoms. Others report losing significant amounts of sleep due to IBS symptoms - and this is backed by science. According to clinical research, people with IBS and food intolerance often suffer from disturbed sleep, which can lead to daytime fatigue and impact their overall quality of life. This type of fatigue is different than the body’s normal response to physical activity, as it is not linked to any type of exercise or muscle exertion. It can last for days or weeks and interfere with daily tasks, making work responsibilities appear more stressful and unmanageable.
However, there are steps you can take as an employee to manage your symptoms and improve your work performance. First and foremost, know that food intolerance awareness is on the rise and community support for IBS is improving. Find a person at work who you feel comfortable discussing your condition and any necessary accommodations you may need. This could include flexible work schedules to accommodate medical appointments or allowing you to work from home if/when needed. You may be pleasantly surprised to find that there are others in your workplace who suffer similar symptoms - it may even be your boss.
Additionally, it's important to prioritize self-care, such as taking lunch breaks to eat a healthy meal (away from your desk), reducing exposure to problem foods and incorporating stress-reducing practices such as mindful eating into your daily routine. By taking care of your physical and emotional well-being, you can improve your productivity in the workplace and reduce stress and overwhelm in day to day life.
Remember that you are not alone in managing food intolerance or IBS. Seeking support from coworkers or joining a support group can provide a sense of community and understanding. And, as more employers become aware of these conditions and their impact on employee well-being and performance, the workplace culture can become more accommodating and supportive for all employees. At FIA - we're working hard to increase awareness of these issues and encourage better support practices in the workplace.
Do you have an issue you commonly face due to your food intolerance? Reach out and tell us about it and we'll try to spread the word in an impactful way.