Shit happens, and it sometimes happens at the worst possible moment, like, for instance - during a run! While you can't fight Mother Nature, there are things you can do to help delay the onset of diahrrea.

 

Avoiding the Runs

By Edmund Arellano

 

The Federal University of Uberlandia School of Medicine in Minas Gerais, Brazil, recently published a study on exercise induced diarrhea.  The study, "Runner's Diarrhea: What is it, what causes it, and how can it be prevented?" describes a common problem among runners that tends to go bad.

1outof100The urge to want to poop during a run happens to all of us.  We've experienced the dreaded stomach-drop, and it usually happens when we carb-load a little too much.  It doesn't help if you drink coffee or other caffeinated beverages.  In fact, you could be eating right and doing everything you're supposed to be doing, and STILL have stomach issues.  But, for most of us, we can hold it until we finish the run and find a bathroom. For other, unfortunate runners, holding it isn't as easy.

True Stories

During the 2005 London Marathon, gold-medalist and current female marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe was gaining strides well ahead of her competition, when suddenly her stomach began acting up and slowing her down.  Rather than risk losing the marathon to second place, she pulled over to the side of the road and in front of hundreds of thousands of spectators, squatted and pooped.  She got right back on the road and finished in first place.

marathonutaIn a similar incident, Uta Pippig, legendary three time winner of the Boston Marathon, began having severe intestinal issues five miles into her 26.2 mile run.  She thought about quitting, but rather than throwing her towel, she let it all go.  Her accident turned out to be more serious than Radcliffe's in that she not only had symptoms of diarrhea but she also noticed blood running down her legs.  Ischemic Colitis - a medical condition that causes inflammation and injury to the large intestine.  She still finished the marathon.  (while we encourage everyone to accept a challenge and face their fears, we do NOT condone anyone to continue an event when medical symptoms persist - e.g. blood running down your legs!).

Let's get back to the Uberlandia study.

Poop is going to happen and Mother Nature doesn't care where you are.  However, if you're one of those that have an especially sensitive stomach, there might be something you're eating that you shouldn't be.  According to the study, for the prevention of diarrhea, it has been recommended that dehydration and the ingestion of fiber, fat, protein, high concentrated carbohydrate beverages, FODMAPs, caffeine, bicarbonate, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs be avoided.  Additionally, they noted that gluten-free diets has no impact on exercise-induced intestinal damage.

What the heck are FODMAPS? FODMAPs is an acronym (abbreviation) referring to Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols. These are complex names for a collection of molecules found in food, that can be poorly absorbed by some people.  You can find more information on FODMAPS here, which includes a list of foods you should and shouldn't eat.

So, what exactly can you eat to avoid the runs?  This isn't a question that's easy to answer.  It's really a "trial and error" sort of process.  If you know you're sensitive to certain things - stay away from them, and keep to the general rule of the runner: Don't drink alcohol in excess.  Eat fresh fruits and vegetables.  Avoid processed foods.  Stay hydrated and keep an eye on your sodium intake.

Reference: de Oliveira, E.P. (2017). Runner's Diarrhea: What is it, what causes it, and how can it be prevented? Current Opinion in Gastroenterology. 33(1). 41-46.


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