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Runners: Let’s Talk Gastric Distress

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I say that it’s time for an honest talk about a slight running embarrassment that we’ve all suffered. If you run regularly, you already know what I’m talking about. You run. I run. Sometimes we all get the runs when we run. There I said it.

Gastric distress is common during runs and races. Oftentimes, the digestive upset, stomach cramps, and urge to go has us clenching and high-tailing it for a public washroom, port-o-john, or a secluded spot in the woods if we’re really desperate. But why do runners suffer these intestinal embarrassments, and more importantly, how can they be avoided…

 

1. What Causes Gastric Upset?

Let’s start with a simple question—what do you eat before you run? I never really gave this much thought. I’d scarf an apple with some almond butter, lace up my sneakers, and away I’d go. However, the trouble was my recently masticated meal was still breaking down in my stomach and small intestine.

While some carbohydrate- or fat-rich snacks are broken down quickly—my nut butter was lingering in my digestive tract. Blood flow and digestive enzymes circulating and swirling were called to aid the movement of food through my intestines. Nutrients were absorbed, but all of that undigested fiber needed somewhere to go and the gravity of my running steps ensure it was expelled with a rather explosive bowel movement. Oops!

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