How to prevent IBS from ruining the first date

When it comes to finding that first date, it seems like the “app culture” has taken over. People swipe mindlessly without a second thought. They rely on how a person looks, what he or she says online, and leave it at that.

Is the individual funny, energetic, friendly, and social? Don’t know. Is the person shy, quiet, understanding, and introspective? No clue. If a first date does happen, there are many ways it could go wrong. People look for that “instant” connection. If they don’t feel it, they move on. The person they just met “ghosts” them, the texts are ignored, or is blocked forever on the app.

The dating scene today is stressful and anxiety driven, thanks to the app culture. Now imagine if there’s a health condition that needs to be shared, like IBS. Then what? IBSLife readers tell us that dating with a health condition can be extra challenging. When do you reveal the health issues? What happens if an IBS attack occurs in the middle of coffee or a stroll? What about sex? What if the lasagna eaten the night before suddenly decided to trigger a bloating and gas attack on the first date?

If any of these scenarios are resonating, you’re not alone. To truly get to know someone, that first date does need to happen. But sometimes, people are afraid to even take that first step because they just don’t know how their IBS will react. To help, we collected a few popular suggestions for alleviating some of the stress that comes with the first date.

Avoid coffee and foods that trigger IBS

Many first dates will start at a coffee shop or restaurant (remember to keep masks on until the food arrives!) On the day of the date, choose your meals carefully. Stay away from any “trigger foods” for at least three hours before the date. Coffee is a notorious IBS trigger, so if meeting at a coffee shop, choose herbal tea instead of other caffeinated drinks. Try eating low FODMAP foods the day before to minimize the chances of a flare up. If the first date is at a restaurant, select one that offers low FODMAP choices, which also can be considered healthier options, without having to explain what a FODMAP is.

Skip the attractive, figure-hugging outfit

That figure-forming dress or shirt in the closet often looks great and can make most individuals feel extra confident. Until IBS strikes. People with IBS-C say that when they bloat, others sometimes mistake them as being pregnant or looking heavy. They become self-conscious and lose focus on the date or the conversation. Because one never knows when the bloating begins, it’s best to avoid clothes that hug your figure on a date. Luckily, there are many fashion-forward clothing that is easy to wear and look comfortable.

Go stealth and find the washroom

Regardless of where the date takes place, look around (in stealth mode) for the washroom. Scan the room while you’re getting seated at the table. Ask the bartender or waitress quietly where the washroom is located. Another option is to call ahead and ask to be seated closer to the restroom rather than being stuck in front or back of the restaurant with no easy access. If the first date is taking place outdoors, make sure there are public restrooms nearby. Or park the car close by for a quick getaway. If all else fails and an IBS attack is brewing, reschedule the first date.

Water, Tums and exercise

Most IBS sufferers know that with bloating comes gas. The more nervous we get, the more gas we seem to produce. But when it occurs on a first date or worse — the first time you have sex with someone new — the colon acts up. It's embarrassing, inconvenient, and not at all unusual. To avoid this mood-breaker, try to not drink water before a date, which can create pockets of gas in the gut. Take an antacid beforehand and have a few tablets handy while out. Because moderate movement can help push gas along the intestinal track, exercise a few hours before the big date. Try a few restorative yoga poses, which you can read here and here.

Not every date needs food

If the thought of eating on a date causes anxiety, try coming up with ideas that don’t involve food. Beach dates are a great way to watch the sunset or see the stars at night. Bike riding enables couples to not just explore a new neighborhood or park, but also each other’s personality. There are also various activities that allow couples to create things together, like painting, pottery-making or cooking a meal together. For something with more excitement, try indoor skydiving or rock climbing. For cold weather, try watching a drive-in movie, sledding in the park, or even going to an escape room.

Go on a different dating app

Sometimes the best individuals to date are the ones who share the same experience. Less pretense leads to being more comfortable talking with each other. Less stress also means less chances of an IBS attack that comes from anxiety. Today, there are dating apps available for people with digestive health problems. One such app connects people not just with IBS, but also those who have IBD, SIBO, or other digestive conditions. Gutsy is an app designed by an entrepreneur going through the challenges of dating. Learn more about Gutsy here.

We understand that finding a first date is hard, especially today as people remain isolated because of the pandemic. But while the app culture has made it easier to connect people, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll be helpful in making that first date fun and memorable. People with IBS have to deal with bloating, gas, pain and other digestive issues, which tend to come along during the first date. To help, IBSLife editors have compiled some suggestions to help readers make it through a first date. Let us know if some of these suggestions work or if you have additional tips to share!