Tips For Thriving In Your Dating Life When You Have IBS

We may receive a commission on purchases made from links.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a potentially debilitating chronic gastrointestinal illness that affects up to 45 million Americans. Two-thirds of sufferers are female, according to the International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders. If you're one of the millions living with IBS, you're well aware of how distressing and embarrassing its symptoms can be. The frequent abdominal pain or cramping, excessive gas, and chronic diarrhea, constipation, or both can interfere with your ability to work, go to school, socialize, and care for yourself or others (via the Mayo Clinic).


Adding dating into the mix, when you have IBS, can feel like an overwhelming proposition. A lot can go wrong when mixing a gastrointestinal disorder with meeting new people in public spaces, often over food and drinks. However, you still deserve to have romance in your life, if that's what you desire. Here is your guide to easing into dating while living with irritable bowel syndrome.

Identify your triggers and patterns

Before you start scheduling dates, take the time to get to know your body's triggers and the way your symptoms behave. While IBS has no known cause, its symptoms are often triggered by specific foods or by stress. These triggers vary between individual sufferers but wheat, dairy, high-fat or fried foods, and foods high in insoluble fiber are among the most common culprits, as reported by Healthline.


Keep a journal for a few weeks while you peruse a dating app or two. Simply write down what you ate, which symptoms you experienced, and your stress level for each day. Then, look back for connections. If there is more than one instance where you had a flare-up after eating a certain food, consider removing it from your diet or at least avoiding it before or during a date. If you notice that your flare-ups typically last about four days, don't schedule a date on day two.

Choose venues mindfully

Once you've decided to go ahead and start setting up in-person dates, take special care to choose or suggest locations that are accommodating to your condition. If you will be eating a meal together, research the menus of local restaurants and choose one that offers at least one option that is free of ingredients that trigger your symptoms. If you're planning to hit a local event, especially if it's outdoors, scope out the availability of bathroom facilities. If you could potentially end up needing to walk a mile just to arrive at a 30-person long line outside a porta-potty, consider suggesting another activity. If you find yourself in a situation where you need a bathroom and you haven't done your research, you can find the nearest public restroom using the Google Maps app (via how How-To Geek).


Create a pre-date ritual

Once you've gotten to know your own triggers and symptom patterns, you'll have an idea of what typically sets off a flare-up for you. You can also use this information to reverse engineer a ritual that is likely to have you feeling your best before a date. Schedule your dates at least 24 hours in advance and be extra vigilant to avoid potential food triggers during that time. On the morning of the date, incorporate a few extra minutes to meditate, journal, recite affirmations, or take a short walk.


Self-care activities will help you feel more centered and less susceptible to stress all day, according to the National Council for Mental Wellbeing. When you start getting ready for your date, consider drinking a glass of kombucha for probiotics or taking a preventative dose of an over-the-counter medication, such as Gas-X Maximum Strength Gas Relief Softgels with Simethicone, to stave off symptoms and ease your mind.

Be open to sharing

There is no reason to feel obligated to share your IBS diagnosis with every person you go out on a date or two with. Societal views about topics that relate to gastrointestinal health can result in a deep sense of shame and intense vulnerability around IBS symptoms. However, once you've formed a connection with a person wherein you see the potential for a relationship to emerge, it may be worth the risk to speak openly with them about your diagnosis and the struggles that come along with it. The stress of trying to hide your symptoms as you spend more time together could end up making them worse, thanks to the connection between the brain and the gut (via Mindset Health). The next time you're concerned about a potential date location because of a lack of bathrooms or safe menu options, use it as an opportunity to share your limitations with your potential partner.


Build a support network

Whether you're strictly single, dating, or in a relationship, there is immense value in the support of people who are experiencing the same struggles that you face. A supportive partner or friends who are always willing to accommodate are wonderful things to celebrate and be grateful for, but intellectual empathy is different than knowing exactly what another person is going through and truly grasping the intricacies of how their symptoms affect their lives. Find a local or online support group, like IBS Patient Support Group, and get involved. This could be a vital new addition to your self-care routine.