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Backed Up On the Job? Constipation At Work Affects Us All

When was the last time you went poop?

It's an impolite question that impacts us all, and it could be a frequent question on your mind if you happen to be a stressed-out employee or job seeker. Congratulations, you're constipated! Plugged up more than the Hoover Dam. Let's go ahead and make Number Two today's Number One topic, shall we? - Constipation: The sure sign that your guts are giving you The Silent Treatment.

Work stress is rearing its ugly head, and it's sending your diet and exercise habits into the crapper. Of course, this means that you're spending less and less time actually sitting on the crapper. It drives you crazy when your co-workers or family members announce that they need to take a(nother) poop break. They grab a magazine or their smartphone (ew), and disappear for awhile. They emerge from the loo looking so relaxed and happy, their problems flushed away, while you stare at your yummy cinnamon-raisin bagel knowing that it will simply join the club if you eat it. In this case, the club sandwich you had for lunch 48 hours ago.

You doubt you'll be wearing the glorious brown T-shirt today. Meanwhile, those around you keep taking their smartphones to the bathroom. Time for another poop break! Hey, no one ever said that life is fair.

Intrepid researchers have studied the effects of constipation on our work habits. A 2007 National Health and Wellness Survey concluded that regularly-constipated people have a lower health-related quality of life compared to their non-constipated co-workers. What managers might be most interested to know, however, is that regularly-constipated employees suffer "significantly higher levels of loss of work productivity," absenteeism and presenteeism (e.g., I'm here physically but not mentally). No wonder the work pipeline is so backed up, eh?

The problem is, employees aren't going to talk about this problem at work for obvious reasons. No, our plugged-up counterparts are releasing their pent-up frustrations online, where the reasons behind this common workplace problem flow freely and anonymously without the need for more water, fiber and/or stool softeners. The most often-cited reason for workplace constipation seems to be losing the "poop window," meaning that poop schedules do not align with commuting and general dashing to and fro on the job. Like the astronauts in the movie Apollo 13, you're just trying to keep "the earth" in the window, so to speak. You have to be out of the house by such-and-such time to arrive at work in a timely manner, but if you could just hang out a little bit longer perhaps there would be a double flush in your future.

Poor eating and exercise habits are also cited as a major culprit amid the silent workplace constipation epidemic. Too much junk food from the vending machine, too many working lunches, not enough water consumption, too much travel, too much sitting, too many overtime hours, too many unexpected detours.

And stress. Did I mention stress? The modern workplace thrives on it. Sure, I could tell you to "just relax," but you have a stressful meeting coming up at 2 p.m., a report due later this week, a co-worker who keeps talking behind your back, a grumpy boss, and you're still waiting on final word from a wishy-washy client about re-upping for the next twelve months. Yes, it's easy for me to tell you to "relax." But please, do try. Go for a walk, take a yoga class, get back into jogging, jump rope -- just do something active in your very spare time if possible. Activity does wonders.

There are millions of online articles offering the scoop on how to poop more regularly. The list of suggestions is long. Eat more fiber (but don't overdo it), drink more liquids, eat prunes as a pre-bedtime snack, keep some Colace or Miralax handy if necessary, or try taking a daily, over-the-counter magnesium tablet, which from what I've read online can be the...well, you know. There are always laxatives and enemas as a last resort, but that's sort of like letting Mom or Dad do your homework for you, isn't it? You should be trying to do it yourself. Otherwise, you'll get too used to getting a, er, helpful assist.

Women tend to have more bowel "issues" than men. This fact of life must be why all of the actors in the constipation commercials are women. Damn you, hormones! Or maybe you have low thyroid (if you've been having poop problems for months on end or a family history, you might think about getting your thyroid checked). So ladies, hang in there. I wish you much luck riding the porcelain Honda.

Managers, it's time to substitute flax seed and oatmeal muffins for the white, doughy bagels at the morning meetings and black beans for sourdough finger sandwiches at the in-office catered lunches. Think in terms of fiber content. Replace the chip bowl with fruit, install a hot tea dispenser and encourage employees to get up and move around more often. Then hope that all of the fresh produce and prodding promotes higher productivity levels. Being able to say, "all I got was this crummy T-shirt" never felt so good for the bottom line.

But I'm not a doctor, and no one would ever want me to play one on teevee. I'm going to sign off before this post gets even more bloated. Happy pooping!


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