Why your employees should listen to their gut


Why your employees should listen to their gut

Nobody likes unnecessary toilet talk in the workplace. But a healthy gut is more important than you might think. And by encouraging your employees to take their digestion problems seriously, you can do wonders for their health and wellbeing.

One of the biggest problems with gut complaints is that they get ignored – especially at work. The truth is, most employees prefer to put up with a little discomfort rather than have an awkward conversation with a colleague or a GP. Unfortunately, when symptoms go untreated, they can develop into something more serious and start to affect performance. So, as tempting as it is to avoid the subject of gut health, it’s worth taking a moment to understand the issues and how you can help.

Despite having many features, the guts main role is to help the body get water and nutrients by digesting the food and drink that travels through it.

3 reasons why gut problems are bad for business

Although the gut is essentially used for processing and digesting food, it also plays an important role in general health. And when things go wrong, it can be unsettling for your employees and bad for business. Here are three reasons why it shouldn’t be brushed under the carpet.

1) An unhealthy gut can be hugely disruptive to concentration

Gut problems often lead to bloating, constipation and diarrhoea,[1] As well as making it hard to concentrate, these symptoms can cause feelings of embarrassment that make it difficult for your employees to focus on their work.

2) Many gut-related illnesses are contagious

Bugs like gastroenteritis can quickly spread in a busy workplace. Besides being unpleasant, they can lead to poor performance and multiple absences, which can have a huge impact on productivity – especially in smaller businesses.

3) Digestive problems can affect mental health

Scientists have found out that the gut – or more specifically the microbes living in it – can actually communicate with the brain and influence how it functions.[2] So as well as affecting the digestive system, it may have an impact on mental health.[3]

3 practical ways to improve your team’s gut health

While it’s impossible to completely eradicate gut problems from your workplace, there are plenty of ways you can make a positive difference. Here are three examples:

1) Create a clean working environment

Keeping your working environment clean and hygienic is a sensible starting point if you want to reduce gut problems. Obviously, you can’t control your employees’ personal hygiene, but simple reminders can help to create good habits – such as placing signs in bathrooms to promote thorough hand-washing.[4]

2) Encourage healthy eating habits

Diet is another important factor. So try passing on a few healthy eating tips. Encourage your team to reduce their sugar intake and eat fewer fatty foods. This can help them keep a healthy balance of bacteria in their gut.[5] Getting them to increase the amount of fibre in their diet can also be beneficial,[6] as can staying hydrated. Little things like reminding your team to drink plenty of water can make a big difference.[7],[8]

3) Make it easy for your employees to seek help

Without treatment, gut problems are likely to get worse. So even if it means an employee misses a few hours of work, you should encourage them to visit their GP when they first experience symptoms. Chances are, it will help to reduce sickness absence and improve productivity further down the line.[9]

The sooner a GP can arrange tests for gut-related illness, the better. Conditions like food intolerance, coeliac disease and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are known to benefit from early intervention. An early diagnosis can also be critical if a GP suspects a more serious condition such as bowel cancer.

Now you know the facts, all you need to do is pass it on… it’s just a case of getting your employees to listen to their gut!


[1] Overview of GI symptoms. MSD Manuals. www.manuals.com, last full review/revision March 2016. http://www.msdmanuals.com/en-gb/professional/gastrointestinal-disorders/symptoms-of-gi-disorders/overview-of-gi-symptoms.

[2] Rogers GB, Keating DJ, Young RL et al From gut dysbiosis to altered brain function and mental illness: mechanisms and pathways. Molecular Psychiatry 2016; 21, 738–748. doi:10.1038/mp.2016.50.

[3] Rogers GB, Keating DJ, Young RL et al From gut dysbiosis to altered brain function and mental illness: mechanisms and pathways. Molecular Psychiatry 2016; 21, 738–748. doi:10.1038/mp.2016.50.

[4] Diarrohoea and vomiting. Fit for work. December 2014, http://support.fitforwork.org/app/answers/detail/a_id/267/~/diarrhoea-and-vomiting

[5] Brown K, DeCoffee D, Molcan E et al. Diet-induced dysbiosis of the intestinal microbiota and the effects on immunity and disease. Nutrients. 2012; 4(8): 1095–1119. doi:  10.3390/nu4081095. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3448089/.

[6] Slavin J. Fiber and pre-biotics: Mechanisms ad health benefits. Nutrients. 2013; 5(4): 1417–1435. doi:  10.3390/nu5041417. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3705355/

[7] Dietary fibre (Nutrition science - nutrients, food and ingredients). British Nutrition Foundation. www.nutrition.org.uk, accessed December 2017.

[8] Popkin B, D'Anci K, Rosenberg I. Water, hydration and health. Nutr Rev. 2010; 68(8): 439–458.doi:  10.1111/j.1753-4887.2010.00304.x. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2908954/.

[9]  Sickness absence in the labour market: 2016. Office for National Statistics. March 2017. https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/labourproductivity/articles/sicknessabsenceinthelabourmarket/2016

Disclaimer: This article has been written in collaboration with Bupa, one of Elect’s insurance providers. It is for information only and is not specific advice. It is based on our current understanding of the attributed research which may change in the future.v