IF YOU’RE LIKE most runners, you’ve probably experienced mid-run stomach trouble that forced you to cut short a workout or even a race. In fact, studies show that about 60 per cent of runners have GI problems. So what’s going on? When you run, your body diverts oxygen and blood from your GI tract to your muscles to help power your activity. This lack of resources hampers your stomach’s ability to do its job, sending improperly digested food into your intestines, drawing fluids with it, and setting the stage for bloating, wind, nausea and worse. High-intensity runs, long runs, warmer weather and dehydration all exacerbate this effect. Thankfully, there are steps you can take to help minimise running-related stomach troubles.
Gripping pain in the upper GI area plagues about 25 per cent of runners, especially newbies, according to a recent survey. The pain is likely a result of reduced blood flow to the region, as well as ligament stress.
Stick with small pre-run meals and try a slow warm-up with gentle stretching.
About 20 per cent of adults experience the burning chest pain associated with reflux. Regular sufferers often have more intense symptoms while running.
Avoid trigger foods like coffee and mints. Don’t lie down after a pre-run meal or wear clothing that’s tight on the waist. Skip core work, such as sit-ups, during warm-ups – it may aggravate reflux.
BURPS AND WIND
These symptoms are often caused by wind-forming foods (such as beans and broccoli). But pre-race nerves, which lead to swallowing air, can make the problem worse.
The day or two before a race, avoid foods that cause you to have wind. Try a pre-race meditation routine to calm your nerves, reduce air swallowing and limit stress hormones that restrict GI blood flow.
MID-RUN NAUSEA AND VOMITING
Running with a full stomach can lead to these symptoms, as can taking in mid-run fuel when you haven’t trained with it.
To give time for food to digest, many runners need at to have a meal two to four hours, or a smaller snack or fluids 1-2 hours pre-run – experiment to find your ideal timing as this is individual. Practice a fuel plan during training in order to avoid race-day issues.
The biggest culprit? Restricted GI blood flow combined with the jostling of running. Race-day nerves can stimulate the bowel, making matters worse. New research shows that diarrhoea creates intestinal inflammation that kills surface cells, but these cells quickly restore themselves.
Avoid particularly high-fibre foods, sugary drinks or big meals before a race. Practice a pre-race calming routine.
POST-RUN FEVER, SHIVERS, DIARRHOEA
Limited GI blood flow can damage the intestines, allowing pathogens to enter circulation. While not common, the condition (known as “leaky gut”) can cause post-run fever, shivers, nausea, and diarrhoea.
Back off training intensity for a few months, then slowly build up. Staying hydrated mid- and post-run is also key.