Source: Web exclusive, November 2010
Runner’s diarrhea is characterized by frequent, loose bowel movements during or immediately after a run and is most common among (but not limited to) people running long distances (e.g., marathons). Like a lot of things that happen to our bodies, the cause of runner’s diarrhea isn’t clear. One theory is that extreme exercise directs blood flow away from the intestines to our muscles, contributing to diarrhea. Another is that the up and down motion stimulates your bowels. People who have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may find that running can trigger their symptoms.
Often, simple dietary changes can help prevent runner’s diarrhea. Here are 7 small changes that could make a big difference during your next run.
1. Adjust your fibre intake
At least one day before running, limit or avoid high-fibre and gas-producing foods, such as beans, bran, fruit and salad. If you run every day, experiment to find a tolerable level of fibre. Otherwise, simply eat those foods after you run.
2. Hold the sugar
At least one day before running, limit or avoid sweeteners called sugar alcohols’most often found in sugar-free candies, gum and ice cream.
3. Skip that extra cup of coffee
For three to six hours before running, limit or avoid caffeine and high-fat foods.
4. Limit your pre-run food intake
For at least two hours before running, don’t eat anything at all.
5. Drink more fluids
Try to be well hydrated before your run. After running, drink plenty of fluids’think low-fat chocolate milk or other drinks designed for post-workout rehydration, as dehydration can contribute to diarrhea. Large volumes of water or juice can worsen diarrhea, and warm drinks may as well.
6. Be careful with energy products
While running, use caution with energy gels and energy bars. In some people, these products can contribute to diarrhea, so you should probably try them before a run where you might be at risk to see how they affect you.
7. Consider your daily diet
Something you’re consuming during the day could be contributing to an upset stomach later on. Simple dietary changes may do the trick. If you’re lactose intolerant, for example, try switching to lactose-reduced or lactose-free milk and milk products.
Above all, plan ahead. If you know you’re at risk, be prepared, Design your training routes to include a restroom. That way, if you develop the urgency while exercising, you will be able to find relief quickly, without sacrificing your workout.