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Runner's Diarrhea: How Can I Prevent It?



What causes rune diarrhea? And what can I do about it?

Answer by Edward R. Laskowski, MD.

Runner's diarrhea is characterized by frequent, loose bowel movements during or immediately after a run. Runner diarrhea is most common in long-distance runners.

The cause of runner diarrhea is not clear. Factors likely to contribute include bodily shaking of the organs, decreased blood flow to the gut, changes in gut hormone secretion, an increased amount or introduction of new food, and pre-race anxiety and stress. It is clear that the food moves faster through the guts of athletes in training.

Often, simple dietary changes can help prevent diarrheal diseases of the runner:

  • At least a day before running should have fiber and making food such as beans, bran, fruit and lettuce. If you run every day, experiment to find a tolerable level of fiber. Otherwise, just eat these foods after running.
  • At least one day before running, limit or avoid sweeteners called sugar alcohols (isomalt, sorbitol, etc.) – mostly in sugar-free candies, gums and ice cream.
  • Restrict or avoid caffeine and high-fat foods for three to six hours before running.
  • Do not eat for at least two hours before running.
  • Before, during and after running, drink enough liquid. Dehydration can lead to diarrhea. However, avoid warm liquids that can carry food through the digestive tract.
  • Take care when handling energy gels and energy bars. In some people, these products can contribute to diarrhea. And especially on race day, avoid introducing a new gel or bar.
  • If you are lactose intolerant, switch to lactose-free or lactose-free milk and dairy products.
  • Avoid non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) or naproxen (Aleve). Both have been shown to increase the incidence of gastrointestinal distress.

Also, wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing when walking. Clothes that are too tight at the waist can increase diarrhea. You can also reduce the intensity or distance of your runs until the diarrhea improves. Gradually increase your activity according to your signs and symptoms. If these tips do not seem to help, contact your doctor for more suggestions.

Updated: 2017-06-03

Release date: 2017-06-03


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