A Crohn’s diagnosis is most often made between the ages of 14-24, and so the often turbulent teenage years of sufferers are complicated even further by health issues. This can make the already anxiety-laden world of dating even more stressful for some. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

When it comes to dating and relationships, the emphasis should always be on authenticity, respect and plenty of fun – whether you’re single or in a relationship, and whether you suffer from Crohn’s or another gastrointestinal condition (or not). Let’s face it, we all want our relationship experiences to be positive. The only nerves you should feel are butterflies in your tummy (the good kind!)

With this in mind, we’ve put together a few strategies to help keep romantic liaisons as carefree as possible, without compromising your health or wellbeing:

1. Put your health first
If you’re not feeling your best it’s unlikely that you’re going to be sparkling company. It’s ok to postpone things if your health or stress gets in the way – just be open and honest about the situation. Oh, and if you take a raincheck because you’re unwell don’t forget to reassure your date that you want to pick up where you left off as soon as you feel better. If they’re right for you, they’ll be empathetic and understanding.

2. Don’t fret
Stress is a well-known aggravator of Crohn’s and colitis flare ups, as well as many other physical and mental conditions. At best stress and anxiety can be distracting and worrying, at worst it can set off a full-blown medical problem. So, take the stress out of your love life as best you can. This means deep breaths, positive self-talk and communicating honestly and authentically with your date/partner about issues that concern you. You need to make sure you feel as comfortable and relaxed as possible when you’re out on a date or spending quality time together.

3. Be prepared
Just like taking an umbrella and a hat on a picnic, it’s important to be prepared health-wise on a date. This can mean no kissing if you’ve got a cold, packing protection for the possibility of sexy times, or flagging anything you’re allergic to before a dinner party. For people with a gastro illness, this means planning the location and time around your condition. Make sure you’ve allowed enough time to prep for your date comfortably, that the venue has adequate bathroom facilities and that you avoid any cuisine that might aggravate your symptoms. If your condition is worse at certain times of day, consider planning your dates around your body’s schedule or avoiding sleepovers early on.

4. Keep your sense of humour
Like any discussions about unpleasant topics it’s important to keep it light and maintain a good sense of humour. Bringing up your illness is up to you but there’s absolutely no shame in admitting that you have a digestive health issue. Keep the details light early on, but explain that you have a gastrointestinal disease which can make some things difficult. Being honest about your health can help set expectations and establish transparency and intimacy, great foundations for a good relationship.

In the end, we all have our quirks and issues and baggage – and no matter what forms these take, there’s someone the right fit for us out there. When it comes to dating, a little patience, plenty of respect and a good sense of humour are the best strategies for navigating complicated or awkward situations.

Young couple in love walking in the autumn park holding hands lo