Dating can be a whole mix of things. It’s thrilling, fun, and even at its best, a little bit awkward.
But if you're somebody who deals with gastrointestinal issues, dating can involve even more discomfort than getting over those first-date jitters.
Should you address your stomach problems right away? What if you can’t find anything on the menu that you can safely eat? What if your stomach issues flare up and you need to call it a night early? Or worse, you need to spend the majority of the date in the bathroom?
Your concerns are valid, and you certainly aren’t alone. Here’s the thing though: GI problems shouldn’t keep you from a fun and fulfilling romantic life. So, we connected with people who date with various digestive issues to get their best tips. Here’s what they had to say.
If you already have a handle on what types of foods kick your stomach problems into overdrive, then it’s smart to avoid them—even well before your date.
“The things that have helped me are to really watch what I’m eating even 24 hours before a date,” says Sarah Sherren, who struggles with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). “If I stay on a good eating schedule and recommend we go somewhere with healthy foods, I’m usually alright.”
“It’s usually greasy or sugary foods that irritate it,” she adds. “So I’m really in trouble if I go on a date to a burger joint!”
With that in mind, if your planned date involves a meal, don’t be afraid to be the one to suggest the restaurant so that you can feel confident they have menu items that agree with you.
“When I was dating around, it would be hard to decide where to eat since I had to make sure the place was Celiac-friendly,” says Hannah Chusid, who has Celiac and functional dyspepsia, which give her GERD symptoms. She mentions that her boyfriend now automatically defaults to her to choose the restaurant. “Certain cuisines would be ruled out, such as most sushi or Asian restaurants due to the fact I can’t eat gluten, sesame, soy, or nuts.”
Just think: Ending up in a restaurant where the only safe choices for you are bread and water has the potential to be far more uncomfortable than being a little assertive and suggesting a restaurant right off the bat.
We’re not sure who made this rule, but most dates default to some sort of dining activity—whether it’s brunch, lunch, dinner, or even coffee. Fortunately, there’s no official proclamation that says you have to stick with eating on dates.
Many of the people we connected with have tried out different ideas. Sherren says she would go on dates to sporting events when she was in college.
Laura B., who deals with a severe gluten intolerance along with bloating, trapped gas, and stomach irritability that have yet to be diagnosed, says she’s tried a number of unique dates like concerts, festivals, state fairs, rodeos, museums, plays, or even hikes.
Not only does switching things up mean you get to avoid a meal and any potentially-negative consequences, but it also gives you and your date a chance to connect over a unique shared experience. It’s a win-win.
It never hurts to be extra prepared for a date—particularly if you’re worried about a flare up of your GI issues. Stash some of the supplies that come in handy for you—such an antispasmodic like Bentyl® (dicycloverine) or a peppermint capsule—in your coat pockets or your purse. Taking your preferred treatment at least 30 minutes before a meal can help you avoid gas, bloating, and diarrhea.
“Always keep antacids and ginger tea or candies on you since they’re your best friends if you have digestive issues,” advises Chusid.
Robbins chimes in with something similar, saying that since many places don’t offer wipes in public, he usually carries his own packets around with him.
Knowing when or even if to bring up your digestive problems with a date can be one of the most confusing parts.
You might worry that mentioning it too early would be too personal or even send them running. But, you also don’t want to ignore it and leave them wondering why you aren’t indulging in that shared appetizer or why you’re heading to the bathroom more than the average person.
Let’s face it—bringing up health conditions on a date is always going to be slightly uncomfortable, but everybody we connected with agreed that it’s usually better to address it head-on.
“For me, it helps to be as open as possible—without too much detail,” shares Laura. “For example, ‘I have a really sensitive stomach’ or ‘I have GI issues that I’m working on getting diagnosed.’”
“Talk as openly as you wish to when it’s the right time,” adds another sufferer, who says he liked to add some levity with a lighthearted remark about what he was dealing with. “My approach was humor. Yours may or may not be. As with all dating weirdness and issues, there isn’t a magic formula to bring it up, but I would discuss it before a situation happened twice.”
When it comes to dating with GI problems, it can be difficult to find the silver lining. But, there is one major positive: It can help you rule out people who aren’t a good match for you.
“If the person balks at something like that,” says Laura about discussing her own stomach problems, “You probably don’t want to date them anyway.”
“People are more understanding than you think, so it’s better to be honest and upfront,” adds Chusid. “If they’re not, don’t waste your time.”
Dating can be a little bit uncomfortable, and it’s perfectly normal to feel a little nervous.
But, in an ideal world, your nerves would be about whether or not you and your date will feel a spark—and not about whether your digestive issues will swoop in and add to the awkwardness.
The good news is that it’s totally possible to lead a full dating life even when you have GI problems. Remember: Everybody has personal things they’re dealing with and being transparent gets you one step closer to finding somebody who values you for exactly who you are.
The information provided in this article is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely upon the content provided in this article for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.
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