How to Date with IBS

Dating is stressful enough without having to excuse yourself to the bathroom or, worse, explain loud tummy rumblings and gas. With roughly 10 to 15 percent of the population worldwide suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), however, there are many singles out there navigating this tricky situation in the dating world. Don’t worry: your IBS symptoms don’t mean you have give up on romance.

Lauren, a freelance writer, had been dating her now-husband for a few years when she was diagnosed with IBS at the age of 30. Though he was with her when she eventually learned of her condition, she spent a couple years having to explain her “tummy troubles” on dates. The first time she told him that she suffered from a chronic gut issue, it came out naturally (no pun intended): she simply shouted “Oh my God, I have to get to a bathroom right now!”

After experiencing a “sudden emergency” a second time, Lauren confessed that it was an ongoing issue. From there, she developed strategies to cope with her IBS while keeping the romance alive. Lauren, who’s been married for nearly three years, shared with us her best tips for dating with IBS.


Get It All Out There

Don’t add to the pressure of a date by hiding your condition. Sitting on a secret is one sure way to spoil a date. Be honest!

“You can’t really secretly have explosive diarrhea,” Lauren says. “Obviously you don’t want to wait until the food comes and announce that you have IBS and that you could probably just scrape the food from your plate into the toilet and cut out the middleman. During the back-and-forth ‘getting to know you’ stage, revealing that you have IBS is a perfect way to put it all out there. Your date will either know what it means and you won’t have to do much explaining, or they’ll ask questions and you can gauge exactly how to continue the conversation.”


Avoid Food Dates

Food can trigger diarrhea, so avoid “food dates” in the beginning. When you do venture out to a dining establishment, choose a place close to home and with a bathroom with more than one stall.

“There is nothing quite like the panic of realizing someone is in the only bathroom, and you’re left there clenching your buttcheeks in silent prayer directly in your date’s eyeline,” Lauren says. “If eating is part of the date, know which foods are safe and which foods aren’t, and plan accordingly. A helpful trick is to follow a food date with a trip to the mall to ‘walk off dinner.’ My husband probably thought I had a shopping problem or wanted him to buy me stuff, but I was actually just there for the public bathrooms.”


You Gotta Laugh

Instead of being embarrassed about your condition, find the humor in it.

“Every time we arrived anywhere, it was a big joke that I had to to run straight into the bathroom and ‘mark my territory,’” Lauren says. “Keeping it light saved me from having to say the words, ‘I know we just arrived at this beach house for the weekend, but I am going to have a massive diarrhea accident in my pants if I don’t get into that bathroom right now.’”


Go to Places Where Your Bathroom Absences Won’t Be Conspicuous

Movie theaters are a great place for a date. “In case of a diarrhea emergency, you can poop in peace knowing that your date isn’t sitting there in silence with the movie paused, bored out of their mind,” Lauren says.

Bars are also a good option, even if you avoid alcohol. “Frequent bathroom trips at a bar aren’t suspicious, and, for the most part, it’s too loud to hear belly gurgles,” Lauren says.


Pack Extra Underwear

Some people with IBS feel more comfortable wearing certain clothes, but overalls are definitely not recommended. Pick an outfit that isn’t too constricting and that you can shed quickly to get on the toilet. Just in case, tuck an extra pair or undies into your bag and maybe some flushable wipes to tidy up.


Practice Poop-Free Sex

Hopefully, by the time you get to the point where you’re ready to spend the night together, your date will have fully accepted your IBS. It’s still important to plan your night (or afternoon) of passion, though.

“Always try and poop BEFORE you shower, and if you THINK you have to poop while having sex, just stop and go to the bathroom,” Lauren says. “Tis’ better to have lost that loving feeling than to have pooped upon your lover’s ugly bedspread. Also, don’t forget the flushable wipes so you can clean up before you resume your activities.”


Choose the Right Person to Date

“The most important tip: don’t date someone who is going to be weird about you having to poop all the time WHEN YOU’RE A PERSON WHO POOPS ALL THE TIME,” Lauren advises.

Listen, we all poop, just some of us more than others. So get your glamour on, choose that outfit (remember, no overalls), and get out there. Who knows? Your date might also be hiding their own IBS, and the two of you can ride off into the sunset–or the bathroom–together.

Want to know more about your own gut microbiome? You and your healthcare provider can use uBiome’s SmartGut testing to find out how your gut microbiome is functioning and to monitor changes in your gut flora over time.