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June 2024
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Irregular Work Schedule Bad for Regularity

Study:  IBS More Common Among People with Rotating Shifts

The unpredictability of your job may affect your risk for irritable bowel syndrome.

It’s said that the only constant thing people can expect in life is change, a frustrating fact of life for we are creatures of habit.

While change is almost always uncomfortable, change, for the most part, is a good thing.  It enables us to grow.  It enables us to adapt to circumstances both within and beyond our control.

Knowing that change is a good thing doesn’t make it any easier to deal with, though.  In fact, even small changes, like never having a consistent work schedule, can really throw off the body’s body clock.

All of us have an internal body clock.  We all develop patterns of behavior that our body remembers, where we wake around the same time every morning, go to bed around the same time every night, and eat around the same time for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Where we also develop patterns is in our bowel habits.

If you’re anything like me, you tend to use the facilities around the same time every day (yes, I know that’s too much information, but there’s a point to my mentioning this).   Here, a lack of change is a good thing because it indicates that you’re getting a good amount of fiber in your diet and that you’re staying “regular.”

But according to researchers, a work schedule that’s constantly in flux spells bad news for your bowels by putting you at risk for irritable bowel syndrome.

Researchers from the University of Michigan discovered this after evaluating 400 people whose profession epitomizes unpredictability:  nurses.

About half of the participating nurses had the fortune of working pretty consistent schedules, but 75 of them had very irregular schedules.

After taking into account potential contributing factors for IBS diagnosis (e.g. gender, stress levels, age, etc.), they found that the nurses whose schedules were constantly in flux were far more likely to have IBS.

They found that about 50 percent of the nurses who had rotating shifts reported symptoms indicative of IBS, which is a stark contrast to the 40 percent of nurses with IBS on the graveyard shift and the 31 percent that work dayside.

This is an interesting finding because even though the rate is highest among those working the unpredictable shift, it’s a high rate of IBS among all three groupings, especially when you compare their rate of IBS to the country at large (about 20 percent of the population has IBS, or 1 in 5).

Then again it’s not too surprising the rate of IBS was high among all the groupings when you factor into the equation that most of the participants were young women (IBS is more common among women, especially those who are in their 20s and 30s).

The study was published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology.

If these nurses’ situation is in anyway similar to yours, ask your boss if you can work a more regular schedule.  It may be embarrassing for you to explain why you want a regular schedule, but keep in mind that IBS is an extremely common condition that LOTS of people have.  Plus, if your work schedule is causing your IBS, a steadier work schedule will enable you to work more effectively and efficiently—a win-win for your employer!  A 1995 Mayo Clinic study found that IBS costs the economy $20 billion every year in lost work productivity.

If your work schedule isn’t the cause of your IBS, it may be your diet.  There’s no such thing as a food that fixes or causes IBS, as the cause of IBS flare-ups tend to vary from person to person.  It may be because your diet’s too low in fiber or you’ve started to eat a food that you haven’t eaten in a while.   Take inventory of your diet.

Then again, your IBS may be a result of your emotional state.  Have you been feeling a lot of stress at work lately?  How’s life been at home with your spouse or your kids?  Stress plays a significant role in IBS onset, so do everything you can to de-stress your life (e.g. start an exercise routine, do yoga, or get a massage).

A gastroenterologist will be able to identify if you have IBS, but there are some all-natural supplements you should consider if you’d rather not deal with the doc.  You can learn all about those here.


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