Is Irritable Bowel Syndrome a Disability?

Written by: Ankita Kathad – MA (Clinical Psychology)

Last updated date : March 06, 2023

Irritable bowel syndrome is a condition that affects the digestive tract. This includes the small and the large intestines. In this, a person has problems with the digestion of food as well as the passage of stools. Here, a person suffers from cramping, bloating, nausea or diarrhea, and other problems related to the gut. In this article, we explore if irritable bowel syndrome is a disability or not. We try to understand how this condition impacts various aspects of a person’s life.

In this write-up, we aim to explore more about the condition. We try to understand the symptoms and explore ways in which we can manage the condition.

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Chapter 1:

What Is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

To know if irritable bowel syndrome is a disability or not, let’s know about the condition. In this, a person has a group of symptoms that affects the digestive system. Here is a list of other common symptoms:

  1. Pain and Cramps: Pain in the stomach area is the most common factor in diagnosis. Some people have mild pain while others have extreme pain. People may feel that there is knot in their gut. They may experience cramps in the stomach area.
  2. Diarrhea or Constipation: Unavoidable urge to use the bathroom. This is due to irregular bowel movements. Sometimes fast bowel movements may also lead to diarrhea. On the other hand, irregularity in the abdomen can slow down bowel movement. This can cause constipation. A person can have either or both.
  3. Irregular Bowel Movements: IBS alters the duration stool remains in the body. This further changes the amount of water content in the stool. There the stool can range from watery to hard and dry.
  4. Bloating and Gas: In this process, the digestion system is altered. This causes gas production and bloating.
  5. Tiredness and Lack of Sleep: As there is a disturbance in digestion, the person can find difficulty sleeping. Further due to lack of sleep, he may feel tired.

A person can have all the symptoms or some of them. These symptoms impact various aspects of a person’s life. There are many reasons why a person can suffer from this condition. Here are some of them.

Chapter 2:

What Causes This Condition?

To determine if irritable bowel syndrome is a disability or not, it is important to know how it is caused. The exact cause of IBS is not known so far. However one of the following factors or a combination of them could be the reason.

  1. The Brain-Gut Connection: Sometimes, there can be a misunderstanding between the brain and the gut. The brain and the stomach share a close relationship. The nerves in the brain and the intestines are connected. Therefore what happens in the mind affects the intestine or digestive tract. Vice versa can also happen. Therefore any miscommunication at this axis can disrupt bowel movements.
  2. Hypersensitivity: When nerves in the intestinal tract become extra sensitive. This can affect bowel movements.
  3. Muscle Dysfunction: When there are problems in the muscles of the abdominal tract which push the food forward.
  4. Stress: When a person is stressed, it can send signals in the brain that trigger pain areas in the gut. This may cause the gut and the colon to react. This is why when we are worried or stressed, we can feel our stomach responding.

Chapter 3:

Is IBS a Disability?

IBS affects many areas of a person’s life. This can lead to fatigue, depression, and even anxiety. The urge to pass stool or discomfort in the stomach can affect social life. The person can start avoiding friends and outdoor events. They may feel awkward or ashamed. Moreover, it can lead to problems like malnutrition or other stomach-related disorders. This is because IBS affects eating patterns.

This condition is classified as a disorder and not a disability. However, the condition is often very disabling. As mentioned, it affects several areas of life Therefore, if one requires a certificate of disability for this condition, personal symptoms are assessed. So to say, whether this condition classifies as a disability or not is dependent on the symptoms. If a person’s daily life is restricted by IBS, they can get a certificate of disability. Therefore one needs to provide a detailed history of their symptoms.

Since not much is clear about the cause of this disorder, people can find it hard to understand this condition. However, in reality, people can find it tough to deal with IBS. For example, the frequent need to pass the stools can lead to getting late at work. Feeling nauseous can make you want to leave work early. Other symptoms like cramps and pain in the stomach can make you feel uncomfortable. This can lead to a lot of trouble in the work-life of a person. A disability certificate can certainly be helpful.

Chapter 4:

How to Manage Symptoms of IBS

However, there are some steps that can help to relieve some symptoms or prevent them. They are as follows:

  1. Try to maintain a routine for meals and sleep. It is a very healthy habit to enforce a schedule. Therefore, with or without IBS, people should try eating at the same time and sleep for at least six hours. There should be enough gap between meals and sleep time. This allows time for digestion hence reducing bloating.
  2. Cook food from fresh ingredients. Try shopping from local markets for fresh fruits and vegetables. Do not store food for a long time. Moreover, avoid packed food. Packed food has preservatives that harm the body. Try to cook fresh food for every meal. Do not drink sodas in between. Try to eat light and healthy meals. avoid eating oily and fatty food.
  3. Maintain a food journal that can help you identify which food triggers your intestines. Additionally, this journal can help you keep a track of your emotions too. Often factors such as worry or stress are the main causes of this condition. A journal can help you understand the problem better.
  4. Try exercising and working out daily. A lot of problems arise because we live a life where we don’t take care of our bodies. Therefore commit to daily exercises. Try yoga poses that improve gut health. There are many poses that help in digestion. Try to work out daily so that the body is fit from the inside.
  5. Adopt a healthy and mindful eating routine. Try to eat slowly and chew the food properly. Do not overeat. Have a healthy meal plan ready. Moreover, you can include variety in your diet.

Chapter 5:

End Note

Whether IBS is a disability or not is subjective. Additionally, a person will have to check health laws to get a disability certificate. Since this condition affects various aspects of life, mental health is affected too. Therefore, it is important to address the mental symptoms too. At Epsychonline, there are self-help courses to address different problems. One of the courses named Managing IBS can be very beneficial. This course is self-help in nature. It is curated by experts in the field. Many articles deal with this condition. Do check them out.

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92 sections

6-Weeks Self-Paced

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  • Self-reflection material
  • Suggestions & feedback
  • Worksheet, tips & tools to use

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