Let’s face it: First dates can be tough. Add in the bloating, stomach pain, and sudden bouts of bleeding and diarrhea that come with ulcerative colitis (UC), and it’s enough to make you want to forget the hottie next door and stay home.

UC often hits in the midst of the dating years: According to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, most people are diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 35. But just because you have UC doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy time with friends or give romance a chance.

Try these tips from people who’ve been there.

Pick a place you know well, or scout out the bathroom situation ahead of time if you’re going someplace new. Dinner and a movie is usually a safe bet, but avoid crowded bars where there may be long lines for the restrooms. You may want to forgo an afternoon of hiking, biking, or kayaking and try a museum or theme park instead.

Do what you can to ease the jitters, especially if stress or nerves seem to make your symptoms worse. Wear something you feel good and confident in, and give yourself plenty of time to get ready.

And of course, be prepared for emergencies. Tuck wipes, a spare pair of underwear, and any medications in your purse or bag — just in case.

UC affects everyone differently, so it’s important to know what foods, if any, trigger your symptoms. Caffeine, carbonated drinks, alcohol, and high fiber or fatty foods can cause problems.

Plan what you’ll eat before the date. This can help prevent a surprise early attack. Also, plan ahead for what you’ll eat during the date. Many restaurants include their menus online, which can take some of the pressure off when it comes time to order your meal.

Learn more: Foods to avoid when you have UC »

Even if you’re not feeling your best during the date, you shouldn’t feel pressured to bring up your condition. You’re more than a person with UC.

Having ulcerative colitis can be annoying, frustrating, and even restrictive at times. But it doesn’t have to control your entire life or your dating life. Many people live happy, productive lives with the condition — and many are happily dating or married too!

More: Six ulcerative colitis life hacks »