Q and A GI Distress

Brett Stickland and Laura Scott recently each had a question for me regarding an upset stomach, or vomiting after long runs. Believe it or not, this is a very common problem in long distance runners, even more so in women.

I just did a post in Runners kitchen on a similar topic based around hydration which will be up soon. But in this post, I will take a bit of a different approach to save doubling up.

Gastrointestinal (GI) distress has many and varied causes, so to say there is one approach to avoiding this would be quite negligent. Obviously I am unable to examine you one on one, but here are a few tips that may help your guts stay happy on the trails and avoid revisiting your breakfast.

Hydration is a big factor with GI distress. Do you monitor your urine output after your runs? Obviously we can only tolerate a certain amount of water per hour on a run and to finish slightly dehydrated is quite common. It’s not ideal, but as a runner, I understand it is not always possible to carry 2 liters of water and 2 liters of electrolyte drink with you on your 3-4 hour long run. It’s just not going to happen! But checking the colour of your urine after the long run is a great way of finding out if you have pushed it too far. The darker it is, the more you need to drink. Try not to get past the slightly yellow or straw colour.

I quite often do water drops on my long runs. I will carry a bit extra water and drop it off about 45 minutes from home. On my way back, I just pick up the water bottle and I can rehydrate in the last sections of my run without having to carry extra weight around all morning. I have even been known to drive out to the turn around point of a run and drop a water bottle in the bushes before we head off. Or an easier option, run where there are plenty of houses and fill up on the way, as long as you have permission from the residents of course.

You should also look at how you are fuelling. I have used gels in the past and they are a necessary evil at times as they are great for when you need that extra kick. But they really do play havoc with your insides. Have you tried Amazeballs from The Runners Kitchen as an alternative? There are a few high level Australian athletes that are starting to use them with good results. I just don’t have permission yet to name them!

Colostrum is something that may also be worth a try. As athletes, our core temperature can rise quite a bit during our long sessions which can affect the permeability of our guts leading to GI distress. Professor Raymond Playford, a gastroenterologist at Plymouth University in England has done a lot of research on this in regards to athletes. Here is what he says on the topic –

”When they are in intense periods of training, many athletes develop gut problems – runners’ trots – which can have a serious effect on their performance,”

”They’re caused by a combination of stress and by the raising of their body’s core temperature by about 2 degrees, which seems to increase the permeability of the gut wall and that in turn allows toxins into the bloodstream that wouldn’t usually be there.

”My studies show that this tendency to leakiness increases two- to three-fold during intense exercise, such as the training athletes are undergoing now to get ready for the Olympics. But, if they take bovine colostrum for two weeks prior to exercise, the change in gut leakiness is almost completely prevented.”

Also take into account what you are eating before hand, what time you are eating it and how much. Keep a food diary with notes on how you felt after your runs and you will be able to look back after a few weeks or months and possibly find a common denominator. After all, it may just be a food you are slightly intolerant to, but only shows up during times of high stress, like a long run.

Hope this helps you in some way to stop you GI issues. As I said previously, there is no one cure for this as we are all different and the causes can be many and varied, but if you can eliminate a few obvious causes, we are well on the way to sorting out your problem.

Please let me know your results

Run Well

Chris O’Driscoll


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