Love and GI issues: IBS and Dating
By Melody Khorrami, PharmD, RPh, INHC
Dating in the modern world is incredibly difficult. It is hard to find the right person, but it is even harder when you have a lot of gas and pain in the abdomen. People with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may also face challenges in feeling comfortable in a romantic relationship.
What is IBS?
IBS is a chronic gastrointestinal disorder. It affects up to 23% of people. 80% of affected people are female. It impacts a person’s quality of life and affects health care costs. The condition can also include many environmental and genetic factors.
How can I help my IBS?
While the symptoms of IBS can affect the quality of life, making intentional life choices can be helpful for people with IBS. You could try to:
- Eat small meals several times a day
- Stay hydrated
- Manage stress
- Regulate or avoid negative emotions
- Move mindfully, being aware of your condition
Dietary adjustments with the above lifestyle modifications can also be helpful in managing the symptoms of IBS. Following the low FODMAP diet for a short time can help to identify foods that may trigger symptom flare-ups in IBS. The low FODMAP diet is designed to eliminate the key trigger foods for a couple of weeks before slowly introducing them back into the diet. This can help a person identify which foods are most triggering to them. Adding the right probiotics may also help with the bloating, flatulence, and abdominal pain associated with your IBS symptoms.
It may be helpful to work with a licensed therapist or to consider gut-directed hypnotherapy. Gut-directed hypnotherapy is a fairly new technique used for managing irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It is a form of deep relaxation that sets the mind up to certain prompts and suggestions. This form of hypnotherapy trains the areas of the brain that we don’t typically have conscious control over. The gut and brain are more connected than most people think. When the brain enters a deeply relaxed state, it is open to the suggestions that are made to improve the IBS symptoms. This form of therapy can also help to relieve stress. Stress can be a trigger for IBS and can make a person’s symptoms worse than they are.
How do you live a normal life with IBS?
Social activities and dating can be challenging when a person suffers from IBS. Having a plan for the unexpected is important to avoid awkward situations in social outings. Here are a couple of helpful tips:
- Always know where the restrooms are when you are at a social event or on a date.
- Avoid your trigger foods for meals. Some dairy products, foods in the broccoli family, and beans can cause gas and discomfort.
- Avoid sugary, fried, or unhealthy fatty foods.
- Don’t consume alcohol, caffeine, or soda. Stay away from artificial sweeteners in general.
- Try to make your outings and dates at times when you will be feeling your best.
How do I talk about IBS with my partner?
Bringing up your IBS diagnosis with a new romantic partner may be difficult initially. It may take some time to share that with someone you are dating and that is perfectly fine. Take some time to process and decide for yourself when the right time is to have the conversation. Working to remove the shame you may have associated with your IBS condition is important. Move through it with grace and compassion for yourself.
You will have good days and bad days with your IBS flare-ups. Plan dates and outings around your IBS triggers. If you are more prone to flare-ups in the evening after dinner, then you may want to consider an earlier date. Sometimes IBS symptoms can occur earlier in the day. If you notice symptoms earlier, plan to meet later in the day. If your IBS symptoms occur after eating food, suggest activities to your partner instead of a romantic dinner. However, don’t suggest a long hike through the woods or any other place without easy bathroom access.
Stay calm! Dating can be stressful. Stress can also cause IBS symptoms. Do some calm breathing exercises. Find an exercise regimen or mindfulness practice that works for you. These general healthy practices can be good for managing the stress associated with this process.
Learn to put yourself first when it comes to your health and wellness. We all have busy lives and many responsibilities, but taking care of ourselves is often neglected. Being mindful of ways to improve wellness and feeling better is an important part of living a healthy life. Listen to your body. Think about why you feel ashamed of your IBS diagnosis and symptoms. You don’t have to be! There are many resources available for people who struggle with managing their IBS. Create a supportive environment where you can manage your condition and live a fulfilling life.
Please note: This article is for informational purposes only. Please talk to your healthcare provider before making any changes to your diet or health regimen.