Advice for adults
Advice for adults
IBS has the potential to significantly disrupt our daily activities. Unsurprisingly, people with IBS often have a lot of questions regarding how their diagnosis affects their employment. Common concerns include whether to disclose one’s condition to an employer and colleagues, and how to manage workload due to IBS-related absences. While IBS can disrupt work life, it is important to remember that the condition can be managed, and its’ impact kept to a minimum. Many people with IBS lead highly productive, successful professional lives.
Communicating with your healthcare team
IBS is a complex condition with a variety of triggers, symptoms treatments. Consider keeping a diary of your condition (e.g., symptoms, medications taken, ‘trigger’ foods consumed). This can help remove any ambiguity around your current state of health and help identify patterns between triggers/treatments and symptom severity. Doing this can refine you and your doctor’s understanding of what makes you ‘well’. You can also extend this diary to include other aspects of your health history (e.g., other conditions, allergies) to create a more comprehensive picture of your health and wellbeing.
IBS can be unpredictable as is, so it helps to reduce any unnecessary uncertainty where possible. It can be a good idea to compile a list of questions that you have about your condition and discuss these with your doctor. You may find it empowering to improve your understanding of IBS and how it affects you. You may also find that having this conversation can help dispel any myths or assumptions about your illness and put things into perspective. Some things you may want to discuss:
- Can I be ‘cured’? Is effective management possible?
- How much can I rely on my medications? Can I use them ‘too much’?
- Can I drink alcohol?
- What foods/drinks should I be avoiding?
- Are there any ‘abnormal’ symptoms that are cause for alarm?
A diagnosis of IBS can be confusing, and you may feel like there is a lot of information to get your head around. Don’t hesitate or feel bad about raising any questions with your doctor, they understand that receiving a diagnosis can be a confronting, overwhelming process. If you feel confused or overwhelmed, consider taking someone you trust with you to your appointment. They can help you absorb and reflect on the information you get from your doctor. If you don’t have someone to take along, consider note taking, recording the session, or asking your doctor to write down key information.
In the course of treating your IBS, you may need to change your treatments (e.g., diet, medications) to manage symptoms properly. If you are unsure or uncomfortable about a treatment change then raise this with your doctor. It is important that you feel comfortable with your treatment. If you are unsure, consider getting a second opinion. Don’t worry about ‘offending’ your doctor –getting multiple perspectives is an inherent part of modern medicine and your doctor understands the need for patients to feel confident in their treatment decisions. It is also important that you don’t feel rushed into making any non-urgent treatment decisions. It is okay to ask your doctor for time to decide.
IBS is known to significantly impact mental health and exacerbate stress. This can manifest as depression, anxiety, mentally exhaustion, body-image issues, or self-esteem/confidence issues. It is normal and expected to feel some stress due to a health problem, but it is also important to acknowledge when you are not sufficiently coping. Stress can develop into a significant mental health issue if left unchecked. Take regular note of how you are feeling and consider raising this issue with your doctor if needed. They can suggest treatments and make referrals to mental health professionals where appropriate.
Your medical records and healthcare rights
You have many rights as a patient of the Australian healthcare system. For further information on you can view the Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights at:
The charter includes rights relating to access, safety, respect, communication, participation, and privacy:
- All patients have a right to healthcare
- All patients will have a right to receive safe and high-quality care
- All patients will have a right to be shown respect, dignity and consideration
- All patients will have a right to be informed about services, treatment, options and costs clearly and openly
- All patients will have a right to be included in decisions and choices about their care
- All patients will have a right to privacy and confidentiality of their personal information
If you wish to examine your health records or talk to someone about them, contact your healthcare team and they can arrange for this. For further information on accessing your records, visit the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC):