Simple Diet Changes (And Other Fixes) Can Help You Avoid Runner’s Diarrhea

Do you suffer from runner’s diarrhea? Here’s how to deal with this common problem with just a few simple changes to your diet.

Runner’s Diarrhea, a playdoh poop emojiphoto credit: Shutterstock

Put an end to runner’s diarrhea

Would you like to avoid runner’s diarrhea on your next outing? 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.

Here’s a few simple dietary changes that could make a big difference during your next run:

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.

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.

Skip that extra cup of coffee

For three to six hours before running, limit or avoid caffeine and high-fat foods.

Limit your pre-run food intake

For at least two hours before running, don’t eat anything at all to prevent runner’s diarrhea.

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 runner’s diarrhea. Large volumes of water or juice can worsen diarrhea, and warm drinks may as well.

Be careful with energy supplements

While running, use caution with energy gels and energy bars. For some people, these products can contribute to runner’s diarrhea, so you should probably try them before a run – where you might be at risk to see how they affect you.

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.

Plan ahead to avoid runner’s diarrhea

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.