Gastrointestinal Issues (GI) are not new but this topic has surfaced in a few tweets and email messages recently and so I thought to myself what does cause this for people and how can it be prevented or at least controlled?
I have had GI issues during training and had my first experience with it at the Dallas White Rock Marathon. You can read how I handled my situation by reading my race report [HERE]
GI issues are something that at some point or another you are going to face and you are going to want to know what caused the issue. I found this article on Active.com that addresses the issue. I wanted to share it with you along with my thoughts on their points:
By Nancy Clark, MS RD CSSD
Solutions for Intestinal Rebellion
To help alleviate undesired pit stops, try exercising lightly before a harder workout to help empty your bowels. Also experiment with training at different times of the day. If you are a morning runner, drink a warm beverage (tea, coffee, water) to stimulate a bowel movement; then allow time to sit on the toilet to do your business prior to exercising. When exercising, visualize yourself having no intestinal problems. A positive mindset (as opposed to useless fretting) may control the problem.
The following nutrition tips might help you fuel wisely and reduce the symptoms:
1) Eat less high fiber cereal. Fiber increases fecal bulk and movement, thereby reducing transit time. High fiber = High risk of distress. Triathletes with a high fiber intake reported more GI complaints than those with a lower fiber intake.
Obviously this is an individual item because every morning I eat a slice of whole wheat toast with nut butter and sliced banana over top of that. Sometimes I add honey and pumpkin spice. On a day when I am going long I will also add in a bowl of granola with soy milk. I’m not sure I can have less fiber since that is what I eat and you should not change routine the day of the race. For me this rule would not apply.
2) Limit “sugar-free” gum, candies and foods that contain sorbitol, a type of sugar that can cause diarrhea.
I have never heard of this before and I don’t typically chew gum or sugar-free gum so maybe that is why I don’t have this as a pinpoint for GI issues.
3) Keep a food & diarrhea chart to pinpoint food triggers. For a week, eliminate any suspicious foods–excessive intakes of juice, coffee, fresh or dried fruits, beans, lentils, milk, high fiber breads and cereals, gels, commercial sports foods. Next, eat a big dose of the suspected food and observe changes in bowel movements. If you stop having diarrhea when you cut out bran cereal, but have a worrisome situation when you eat an extra-large portion, the answer becomes obvious: eat less bran cereal.
This makes complete and total sense to me, but since I am tracking all kinds of other things I’m not sure I can start tracking my bowel movements as well. That being said I did notice that recently I have begun having regular timed movements as I did prior to IMCA but not since. I believe it’s because I was out of my routine and my eating habits were slightly thrown off with the lull in training hours. Now that I am back to training 12-15 hours per week and my caloric intake is back along with my timing all is right in the world.
4) Learn your personal transit time by eating sesame seeds, corn or beets–foods that can be seen in feces. Because food moves through most people’s intestines in 1 to 3 days, the trigger may be a food you ate a few days ago.
Even for an intense person, like me, this goes way over the top. Looking into the bowl after I’m done to try and see if I can actually see seeds, corn or beets just strikes me as odd. And I say this because I am typically moved to the bathroom about 15 minutes into my swim training and at that point I want to get out of the pool, do my job and get back in as quickly as possible without taking notes of what was in the feces. Sorry but this is never happening.
5) Stay well-hydrated. GI complaints are common in runners who have lost more than 4 percent of their body weight in sweat. (That’s 6 lb. for a 150 lb. athlete.) Runners may think they got diarrhea because of the sports drink they consumed, but the diarrhea might have been related to dehydration.
I stay hydrated, and sometimes, over-hydrated because I am always going to be found with a glass (jug) of water by my side. I wake up in the middle of the night to relieve myself so I don’t think this is an issue for me. As a matter of fact on Sunday I ran 8 miles in just over an hour and lost close to 6lbs (I weight less than 150 lbs) and had no GI issues.
6) When all else fails, you might want to consult with your doctor about timely use of anti-diarrhea medicine, such as Immodium. Perhaps that will be your saving grace.
I don’t go to the Doctor for any reason other than my yearly visit, which is never done exactly on its anniversary but only when Karen reminds me. Since I don’t have many issues I don’t think this pertains to me.
The Bottom Line
You are not alone with your concerns. Yet, your body is unique and you need to experiment with different food and exercise patterns to find a solution that brings peacefulness to your exercise program.
So do you have GI issues often? What have you done about it? And isn’t being an endurance athlete great? You can talk about GI issues and peeing on the bike and/or run and think nothing of it. So let me hear how you have battled your GI issues. Share a success story with my readers.