Injury Archives: Runner's Trots
Don't eat anything in the morning before the race or run.
Drink water only no other beverages.
Cut down on eating from 4 p.m. on the night before the race or
run. Normal portions may be too much. It's okay to snack on toast
or a PowerBar. No fat or roughage (PowerBar okay HarvestBar probably
Heat can also affect you.
If these things don't work, try an anti-diarrheal one hour before
the run. Jeff has a lot of people tell him that if the above doesn't
work, the anti-diarrheal usually does.
Both upper and lower gastrointestinal disorders are common in distance
runners. Although upper GI complaints are common and sometimes predominate
in many surveys, lower GI complaints seem to occur more frequently
in women and younger runners. Commonly known as "runner's trots,"
many surveys suggest that one-fourth to one-third of recreational
marathoners and triathletes have experienced diarrhea during or
after distance events.
Many of these symptoms correlate with the degree of exertion. The
cause of runner's diarrhea is thought to be probably ischemic or
lack of blood flow to the bowel as the body diverts blood from the
GI tract to the working muscles. Normally, the gut tolerates this
diversion of blood flow, however, in many athletes the lining of
the gut becomes irritated and diarrhea ensues. The severity of diarrhea
is dependent on the level of effort, the neurogenic response of
the gut in particular patients, the level of conditioning and degree
A few things that may help combat some of these symptoms: First,
keep yourself well hydrated by consuming five to eight ounces of
water every 15-20 minutes. Dehydration slows the body's ability
to digest foods and sets the stage for intestinal trouble. Next,
avoid eating within two to three hours of your race, especially
foods that are high in fat. Do not use aspirin or non-steroid agents
such as Ibuprofen since they may cause GI irritation. Avoid drinks
that contain more that 10% carbohydrate (sugar) content. Make sure
you drink water or sports drinks that are low in carbohydrates (5
to 8%). You may take limited antacids since they may help the nausea
but use them sparingly since they may cause abdominal cramping during
Establish some time of "prerun" elimination routine including getting
up early and eating (possibly coffee and a light meal), since this
may get your system running before you run. Also, cut back on the
consumption of dairy products and sugary foods and avoid excess
coffee since this over stimulates the gut. Additionally, try training
at different times of the day especially if the morning running
tends to cause diarrhea. As a final tip, avoid sorbitol breath mints
or gum as well as large doses of vitamin C since this may cause
Frederick W. Parker, III, M.D.
American Running and Fitness Association Newsletter
July 1998, Volume 16 Number 7
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