Learn about five gastrointestinal conditions that affect millions of Americans and disrupt workplaces every day.
Gastrointestinal (GI) conditions affect over 70 million Americans and are one of the top costs for organizations. In fact, GI conditions result in $136 billion in spending per year—more than for heart disease, trauma, or mental health. In addition to having a negative impact on employees, GI conditions may lead to low productivity and poor performance.
GIThrive is Vivante Health’s all-in-one digestive health program for employers and health plans. This revolutionary program provides employees with 24/7 access to licensed medical professionals to help them more effectively monitor and improve their gut health, including managing diseases and chronic conditions.
Below are five common GI conditions that GIThrive can help your employees control. Read on to learn about ways they may be impacting your business, and how they can be treated.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is a chronic digestive disease that affects an estimated 10-15% of adults in the U.S. People affected by this GI condition most commonly experience symptoms between their late teens and early 40s. In the U.S., IBS can cost organizations up to $1.5 billion dollars each year due to disruptions in employee productivity and work performance.
Symptoms of IBS can include abdominal pain or cramps, bloating, excess gas, diarrhea, constipation, and bowel movements that are harder or looser than usual.
Additionally, digestive health can have a significant impact on mental health as many of the same neurotransmitters found in the brain are also located in the gut. IBS can cause anxiety, depression and trouble sleeping due to the gut-brain connection. This can negatively impact employees’ performance in the workplace.
Crohn’s disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that can affect the entire GI tract. About three million Americans have Crohn’s disease. Symptoms typically start to occur early in life, between 15 and 35 years old, with the average age of diagnosis being 29.5 years old. This means that Crohn’s often first impacts a person during their early and most productive years in the workforce, making it essential to get quick and effective treatment.
Crohn’s disease can cause diarrhea, weight loss, fever, abdominal pain, frequent bowel movements, fatigue, and night sweats—all of which can cause pain throughout the work day and trouble sleeping at night. People with Crohn’s disease also often experience an urgent need to empty their bowels, which can interfere with workplace performance and attendance.
Constipation is typically defined as having fewer than three bowel movements in a week. This common GI issue accounts for more than 2.5 million doctor visits annually in America, but most people do not seek medical help.
As a result, many people deal with persistent pain and discomfort while constipated. This can result in reduced ability to focus during the work day, the need to take frequent bathroom breaks, and anxiety that impacts performance.
Symptoms of constipation can include irregular bowel movements, difficulty or straining to defecate, hard or small stools, feeling like you haven’t fully emptied your bowels, abdominal pain, and bloating. Constipation can impact one’s personal and work life, including the ability to perform their job at the fullest potential.
There are many causes of constipation, such as a diet lacking fiber, not drinking enough water, consuming too much dairy, stress, certain medications (e.g. antidepressants and opioid pain relievers), and lifestyle changes.
Approximately two million Americans are affected by celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation in the GI tract when consuming gluten. Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, barley, and rye, but trace amounts are often found in many other types of prepared and processed foods.
Celiac disease can cause pain and GI issues that can disrupt an employee’s work day and in many cases may result in the need to stay home from work. Symptoms of celiac disease include diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss, nausea, vomiting, bloating, gas, and abdominal pain.
Education about what foods contain gluten and how to check for potential cross contamination can help employees make better dietary decisions, ultimately reducing their symptoms and the impact celiac disease has on work performance and absenteeism. Tracking dietary habits can also help employees identify any other food sensitivities that may be contributing to their symptoms.
Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS)
Similar to celiac disease, NCGS is caused by consuming gluten. It is estimated that as many as 18 million Americans are affected by NCGS. Unlike celiac disease, NCGS is not a genetically inherited disease and does not cause extensive damage to the small intestines. However, people with NCGS still suffer from symptoms in response to consuming gluten.
NCGS can include symptoms of bloating, diarrhea, foggy mind, achy joints, constipation, fatigue, and headaches. The best way to minimize painful and disruptive NCGS symptoms is to avoid gluten and any other foods that may trigger a GI response. To minimize the impact of NCGS, you need to be able to track any foods or dietary habits that may cause symptoms to flare up.
Digestive diseases are a top cause of employee absenteeism and presenteeism, as well as low productivity and poor work performance. A resource like GIThrive supports your employees in identifying and managing their GI conditions, and can empower them to make better choices for their gut health in the future.