Judith Cave, 53, of Stanwick, was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in April 1999, about six months after she first started to feel unwell with an upset stomach.
Her illness was originally put down to delayed shock following a car accident and it was not until she had lost a lot of weight that her condition was finally diagnosed.
Mrs Cave is now backing national calls from medical charity Crohns and Colitis UK for employers to learn more about the condition and make sure they have facilities available for staff with the illnesses.
She said: “Employers need to be understanding. They need to know if one of their staff has these problems they might go to toilet and be there for 20 minutes at a time. People accept that smokers go for cigarette breaks, but they’re not always so understanding in our case.”
Mrs Cave is also appealing to retailers to assist sufferers who want to use their facilities.
She said the charity was developing a card to identify sufferers. The idea behind it is that sufferers needing to go to the toilet urgently can show it in shops and ask to use their facilities.
Mrs Cave said: “Often you will go into a shop and the assistant will say they need to check with their manager before they can let you use the toilet. The problem is with these conditions you cannot wait for that to happen. We hope that if people become aware of these cards it will make things a lot easier.”
Research by the charity found of the 250,000 people with Crohn’s and Colitis 78 per cent worry about managing their symptoms, which can include urgent diarrhoea, extreme pain and fatigue, or flare-ups, while at work. It also found patchy provision of reasonable adjustments in the workplace, such as access to toilets and time off for hospital visits.