Tips for Preventing Runner’s Diarrhea Before a Marathon
Conversations regarding bodily fluids or excretions are not fun to have at any time. Most people feel uncomfortable discussing their bathroom activity, regardless of whether it is with their spouse, family, or friends.
However, it is a topic that needs to be addressed, especially when it affects your normal life.
The issue of diarrhea is one that most people don’t feel right discussing in public, yet it is a common occurrence and can attack at any time. It can strike when you least expect it, even when exercising or going for a run.
What are runner’s trots?
Runner’s diarrhea, or runner’s trots, refers to a runner’s need to rush to the bathroom during race day or even while training. It is so common that it affects up to a third of runners. Racers appreciate seeing portable toilets along the track where they can go whenever the need arises.
What causes this form of diarrhea still eludes the experts, although several factors can increase the likelihood of an attack. The physical exertion, combined with reduced blood circulation to the intestines and food sensitivities experienced during the run, could cause the food to pass through the bowels. Anxiety, stress, and even specific types of food are other potential factors.
How do you stop runner’s diarrhea in its tracks?
Prevention is the key to avoid running into a tough situation. You wouldn’t want to find yourself badly needing to go, and there’s not a portable toilet in sight. Here are a few tips for settling your stomach on training or race day.
1. Keep a food journal
Food sensitivities vary from one person to another, although there are food types that can cause the GI tract to fire up more than others. Use a food journal to see which of the following foods triggers a bout of diarrhea:
- Fiber-rich foods such as grains, fruits, and vegetables
- Fatty foods
- Foods containing wheat
- Dairy products
- Sugar-free candies and artificial sweeteners
Once you discover which foods trigger the diarrhea episodes, it is important to steer clear of them on race day. Avoid eating any of the triggers for as much as four hours before the race to prevent any discomfort while running.
While on the topic of food and eating, give your body enough time to digest and absorb your meal before you run. If you are prone to runner’s trots, eat smaller meals spaced throughout the day rather than bigger ones. The smaller portions should be gentler on your digestive system.
2. Drink lots of water
Keeping yourself hydrated before or during the race may sound counterintuitive, but studies show that dehydration causes diarrhea. When you’re dehydrated, the food gets stuck in your intestines. Being sufficiently hydrated will keep the food moving along.
As much as possible, drink cold water. Warm water speeds up the digestion process, which in turn gets your food to start running as well.
How much you drink before or during the race itself can make an impact on your performance. Before the run, drink between 12 to 16 ounces of cold H2O every hour to an hour and a half. This will give the fluid adequate time to get absorbed in the body.
To keep your body hydrated during the race, experts advise taking in eight ounces every 15 to 20 minutes. Urinating is normal due to the additional liquids you are consuming.
Whenever you go to the bathroom to pee, check the color of your urine. Ideally, urine should have a very light yellow hue. Drink more if the secreted liquid appears dark, as it’s an indication that your body is dehydrated.
3. Consume probiotics
Research indicates gastrointestinal issues are more common in long-distance runners. Taking anti-diarrhea medicines for adults on race day may not completely eliminate the urge, but it can help relieve some of the symptoms.
An alternative is to include probiotics in your diet. Eat yogurt, sauerkraut, or kimchi, among others, to improve the GI symptoms and help you feel more comfortable during the event.
Probiotics don’t last long in the gut. As such, aim to include probiotics in your daily diet. Making probiotics a part of your daily diet is especially necessary if you are starting to feel tired or if you have an upcoming race.
There are many places where you can buy probiotics, but not all will be beneficial to your racing needs. If you decide to add a supplement, make sure to scrutinize the label carefully. Check that the probiotic contains a minimum of 1 billion colony-forming units or CFUs to ensure that you have enough of the good bacteria to keep your gut healthy.
Running long distances is a great way to stay fit, but it can make you susceptible to bouts of runner’s diarrhea. Follow these tips if you do experience GI stress during your runs to avoid getting into uncomfortable situations and run in peace.