Prevent Marathon Runner’s Diarrhea

September 6, 2012 9:00 am 20 comments

You’ve made the commitment to run a marathon. Congratulations! This is a lofty goal which will require lots of training and dedication, but the feeling of accomplishment you’ll experience as you cross the finish line will make it all worthwhile. Before you start training, it’s important to be aware of potential problems you may encounter during the training period or the marathon itself. If you haven’t already discovered, there’s a link between marathon running and diarrhea. Marathon runner’s diarrhea is a common malady you’ll want to avoid if you want to maximize your marathon running experience.

What exactly is runner’s diarrhea?
As the name implies, this is a condition whereby a runner experiences diarrhea during a long run such as a marathon. As you can imagine, this is a problem that can not only slow you down, but make a marathon or any other long run extremely uncomfortable. The exact cause of runner’s diarrhea isn’t known, but it’s thought to be due to blood flow being channeled away from the intestines to meet the demands of the hard-working leg muscles.

How common is runner’s diarrhea?
This condition may affect anywhere from a quarter to a third of all runner’s in some capacity. So, if you experience this symptom, you’re certainly not alone. You can be certain during any marathon that a significant number of runners are making unplanned stops at the portable johns along the route to deal with this menacing problem.

What’s the best way to prevent runner’s diarrhea?
As you may have guessed diet plays an important role in managing the symptoms. Although it’s important to eat before a marathon to maintain your energy level for the long run ahead, it’s important to avoid foods that are high in fiber such as whole grains, beans, and vegetables. Although these foods are excellent energy sources, they can also draw water into the intestines and bring on the symptoms of runner’s diarrhea. It’s also best to avoid dairy products if you have any tendency towards lactose intolerance.

While hydration is important, avoid drinking caffeine containing beverages prior to a race. Caffeine can be irritating to the stomach lining and can bring on marathon runner’s diarrhea along with upper gastrointestinal symptoms such as reflux and heartburn. Fruit juice and water is a better alternative. Avoid any beverage sweetened with artificial sweeteners, particularly sugar alcohols, which are notorious for causing diarrhea.

Medications are another consideration. Some runners take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as Advil before a race. This should be avoided as they can cause irritation of the stomach lining and aggravate marathon runner’s diarrhea. Some runners carry an over-the-counter anti-diarrheal medication with them during a marathon. This is something to consider if you have recurrent problems with runner’s diarrhea.

Try to relax the night before since stress can contribute to diarrhea in many cases. Be prepared and be positive. See you at the finish line!

Powered By DT Author Box

Written by Dr. Kristie Leong M.D.

Dr. Kristie Leong M.D.

Dr. Kristie is a medical doctor with a concentration in family practice. She also has an undergraduate degree in both Biology and Psychology and a master’s in Clinical Pathology. She has been a published writer for the last two years and was named one of Associated Content’s top 100 writers.

Related posts:

Leave a Reply

× eight = 56

Other News

  • Equipment Trails Salomon’s “Door to Trail” running shoe: The XR Mission CS

    Salomon’s “Door to Trail” running shoe: The XR Mission CS

    I admit it, I am already a fan (and regular user) of Salomon shoes. I was excited when they launched their Speedcross line, with the deep-lugged treads (that I liken to snow tires) that I had desired in trail runners for years. Now, Salomon have come out with a completely different line of running shoes, their “Door to Trail” series. These shoes are basically hybrid trail/road runners, incorporating the cushioning of a road shoe with the protection and grip of [...]

    Read more →
  • Beginners Tips Training Rest Days:  Pushing Yourself Beyond Your Comfort Zone

    Rest Days: Pushing Yourself Beyond Your Comfort Zone

    It is my hope that you have been diligently practicing your running routine a few days out of the week.  I expect that you have used the tools I have provided to help combat motivational lapses including but not limited to: sleeping with a cup of coffee and a banana next to your bed, wearing appropriate gear for all weather situations, and making sure that any momentary drops in your daily drive to run are not too harshly punished (and [...]

    Read more →
  • Fitness Health Injuries Is Running Bad for Your Knees?

    Is Running Bad for Your Knees?

    Do you avoid running because it’s bad for your knees and joints? Some people believe if they run to stay fit they’ll end up with joint problems and osteoarthritis. Is there any truth to this idea? Running and Joints: Does Running Increase the Risk of Joint Problems? There’s very little evidence that running increases the risk of joint problems or osteoarthritis later in life. In a study published in JAMA in 1986, researchers found no increased risk of clinical osteoarthritis [...]

    Read more →
  • Destinations Race Report Trails Race Report: Shawnigan-Kinsol Half Marathon

    Race Report: Shawnigan-Kinsol Half Marathon

    I’m just in from running the Shawnigan-Kinsol Half Marathon – and this is not just any old half marathon. This is the 37th consecutive year it has been run, making it British Columbia’s longest running half marathon race. The course itself is unique – both because it is half on road and half along trails, and also because it passes over the historic Kinsol Trestle (more about this magnificent railway bridge below). And, its location in the tiny town of [...]

    Read more →
  • Barefoot Barefoot Races Across The Nation

    Barefoot Races Across The Nation

    If you’re one of the many runners who have discovered the joy of barefoot running, one of the best ways to share the experience is by taking part in a barefoot running race. In some areas of the country, particularly on the west coast, minimalist running shoes or going completely sans shoes is becoming common place, but in a few regions of the U.S. naked foot runners still get quite a few strange looks. Joining a race is a wonderful [...]

    Read more →
  • Health Trails Foot Care for Trail Runners

    Foot Care for Trail Runners

    The most important part of any runner’s body is our feet. If our feet are not in good condition, we may not be able to run at all. While trail running is easier on the joints than road running, running on trails can present some specific hazards. Here are some foot care tips, so your feet will be up to encountering whatever the trails may bring. Foot Care at Home Whether you are a road runner or a trail runner, [...]

    Read more →
  • Health What to Drink When Running:  A Quick Primer

    What to Drink When Running: A Quick Primer

    If you’re a runner, you understand the importance of good hydration, particularly if you run outdoors in warm weather. Warm temperatures combined with high humidity can cause rapid overheating unless you regularly replace fluids lost through sweating. When it comes to drink options for re-hydration, the modern runner has a bewildering array of choices ranging from sports drinks to high powered energy drinks. How do you choose among  the many options? What are the best drinks for runners? The type [...]

    Read more →
  • Beginners Training Eating is NOT a Form of Cross Training

    Eating is NOT a Form of Cross Training

    You’ve been training for a few months, and despite all the motivating words of wisdom you’ve been voraciously reading on, the excitement that comes with beginning a new discipline and becoming a runner has lost its initial glow. You find yourself hitting the snooze button more frequently (multiple times in a row), and find yourself looking for excuses as to why you should take yet another day off from running.  Maybe you’ve had some rough days at work and [...]

    Read more →