Lorraine Cooney, Registered Dietitian, BSc, MSc, MINDI
Dietary advice you can trust.

Top Tips for Teachers who Suffer with IBS in INTOuch Magazine

Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS can be a debilitating condition. You may even keep the fact that your have IBS a secret as the associated symptoms of bloating, wind, pain, change in bowel habit or a noisy tummy can be upsetting and embarrassing. No one wants to talk about number ‘2s’, have anyone listen to ‘noises’ or be near the ‘smells’. Being a teacher can place you under even more pressure if frequent unpredictable toilet visits are needed during class time or on school trips.

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Recent research has shown that IBS can affect over 40% of the teaching population. It is known that IBS symptoms significantly affect the work performance of the teachers (62%) and leads to high absenteeism rates (47%).

One of the most effective ways to try and control symptoms of IBS is to identify and remove trigger foods from your diet. But this can be a minefield! You will have different symptoms, different triggers and a different lifestyle to anyone else. The most prudent dietary recommendations are in the tips below.

Also, if you are a person who’s symptoms improve when on holidays, then it may be proof that there is a stress-IBS link. As teachers are at high risk of stress related disorders many feel they symptoms are worse when having a tough day, feeling burnt out or nor sleeping well. Managing stress can really help.

Do know that IBS does not have to rule your life and dictate what you can and cannot do. If you think you are affected by IBS, always seek advice form your GP or dietitian as they can give you personalised advice.

Top tips:

  1. If you have uncontrolled IBS symptoms, tell your principal or an understanding colleague. Ask to be placed in a classroom nearest the bathroom.
  2. Ask a trusted colleague to cover you if having a tough time of it.
  3. Try to get up early and use the bathroom before you leave to commute to work.
  4. Reduce high fat foods (e.g. cakes, biscuits, ice-cream, pastries, cream, fried foods)
  5. Eat slowly – chew each bit at least 15 times
  6. Don’t skip meals – eat something during your scheduled school breaks
  7. Avoid large meals
  8. Avoid fizzy drinks and chewing gum
  9. Avoid re-heating foods
  10. 10. Avoid eating wheat bran
  11. 11. Drink more water – up to 1.5L per day
  12. 12. Take a probiotic for a month and assess any beneficial effects
  13. 13. Cut down on caffeinated drinks (e.g. coffee, tea, coke, energy drinks)
  14. 14. Cut down on alcohol
  15. 15. If the above points (4-14) are not helping to control your IBS symptoms, you may wish to consider a Low FODMAP diet. What on earth are FODMAPs, I hear you ask! If you haven’t heard the term, which is normal as it’s a newish specialized dietary intervention for IBS, it’s an acronym for a cluster of foods that contain fermentable sugars that are poorly absorbed in the body. FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligo-, Di-saccharides, Mono-saccharides and Polyols. Theses are found in every day foods (e.g. bread, cereal, onions, garlic, milk, beans, apples and pears). Removing FODMAPs from your diet help reduce symptoms in 70% of people who try it. It is a structured intervention that is best done with the support of a FODMAP trained dietitian.
  16. 16. Get regular exercise – short walks are a good starting point!
  17. 17. Try stress reducing interventions such as CBT, mindfulness, hypnotherapy, yoga, meditation, massage, listening to music, reading.
  18. 18. Keep a food and symptom diary to try and identify your food triggers
  19. 19. Maintain a healthy weight
  20. 20. Get enough sleep – 7-8 hours a night is best.

INTOuch

References:

AlKhalifah MI1, Al-Aql AM, Al-Mutairi MS, Alnuqaydan SA, Al-Wehaibi AS, AlJurayyed AM, Aldhuwyan AS, Al-Harbi KG, Alomar IN, Alayyaf SS, Zafar M.Prevalence of irritable bowel syndrome among Qassim school teachers, and its impact on their performance and life duties.Saudi Med J. 2016 Jul;37(7):817.

Arvidsson I, Håkansson C, Karlson B, Björk J, Persson R. Burnout among Swedish school teachers – a cross-sectional analysis. BMC Public Health. 2016 Aug 18;16(1):823.

Ballou S, Keefer L.Psychological Interventions for Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, Clin Transl Gastroenterol. 2017 Jan 19;8(1):e214.

McKenzie YA1, Bowyer RK2, Leach H3, Gulia P4, Horobin J5, O’Sullivan NA6, Pettitt C7, Reeves LB8, Seamark L9, Williams M9, Thompson J10, Lomer MC6,11; (IBS Dietetic Guideline Review Group on behalf of Gastroenterology Specialist Group of the British Dietetic Association).British Dietetic Association systematic review and evidence-based practice guidelines for the dietary management of irritable bowel syndrome in adults (2016 update). J Hum Nutr Diet. 2016 Oct;29(5):549-75.