The GI Issue Cursed Runner: Tackling those great, poopy disasters

This runner has had burritos on the brain. That being said, tucking into a 5lb burrito bomb and taking off on a 5 mile tempo isn’t such a hot idea. Actually, going for any run after that may be iffy…
burrito pooping beans
I’m more than open in sharing my runner stories of GI distress, gut woes, and tales from the poopy trails. HERE is a previous post and with lots of tips to tackling your own GI issues. Though I happened upon an interesting interview with Dr. Barry Schlansky, specializing in gastroenterology and hepatology, over at FloTrack.

Go read the article yourself, but here are some settling, and not-so-settling things I took away from it:

* Blood Flow Bottom Line: The root of many GI issues is how the body is delegating blood flow through the body during and after exercise. When we’re running our butts off the body’s first priority is to send blood to the muscles in order to fuel our exertion. The intestines are the low-men on the totem pole here and when they are deprived of adequate blood flow there is a bit of damage being caused. Without the adequate oxygen from the blood flow the intestines start to stage their revolt.

* Post-Run Gut Revolt: Sometimes the worst pains and episodes happen AFTER a hard or long run…talk about being chained to the lou for the rest of the day. I’m sure many runners can relate to this feeling, and Dr. Schlansky states it as much, “Right, the longer or more intense the workout is, it will increase the symptoms during and after the workout.” In short it comes back to the intestines not having adequate oxygen/blood-flow WHILE we are working out; then, once we stop working out and blood begins to get shunted back to these organs it’s almost like opening a flood-gate and the intestines aren’t prepared to handle such a quick supply of blood/oxygen. So, they then stage their revolt. “The influx of oxygen to the vulnerable ischemic (damaged from earlier lack of blood supply) tissues can result in a chemical reaction called “oxidation,” which is thought to be the basis for additional injury to tissues after exercise has stopped.”
running after burrito
* Endurance and Effort: Not surprising is that over 80% of elite marathon runners complain of some GI issues; this is both the upward and the downward. Unfortunately Dr. Schlansky is blunt, “I wish I could tell you “why,” but to be honest, at this point the associations are unknown.” (unsettling) Most likely the fact that running puts our guts through quite a POUNDING has a strong link, and “Additionally, researchers have hypothesized that friction between the organs and the lining of the abdominal wall with pounding exercise may cause irritation that causes symptoms.” As for effort, I’m no doctor but I’m willing to go out on a limb and say that the fact that the harder we run, there’s got to be an extra level of ‘pounding/driving’ force shaking that sh*t up. ;)

* Females: This really stinks, Runnerchicks, but woman are more apt to GI issues than the runnerdudes. He’s not able to give us a reason, but it’s probably due to differing hormones.

* Eating and Food: Burrito bombs aren’t recommended (duh) and it’s wise to seek out ‘blander’ foods, not too high in fat, not too spicy, not too beany or cheesy, nix the dairy, and so forth. Learn your ‘tummy trigger foods’ and avoid them. Also, timing your last meal is just as important so you can revisit my post on that.

* Iron and Anemia: Any extra blood loss from diarrhea, especially if it’s on a continual basis, can lead to iron deficiency/anemia. “Yes, because it is also possible to lose small amounts of blood in the gastrointestinal tract that is invisible to the naked eye but can result in iron deficiency,” says Dr. Schlansky. If you’re having a lot of GI issues it’s important to keep tabs on your iron levels, I know that runners who later find out they have celiac disease and are gluten intolerant, that because of all of their GI problems they are then anemic.
runner eating
* Dehydration: Any kind of increased vomiting or diarrhea leads to fluid loss and dehydration, that’s why it’s so important to rehydrate yourself. (The issue there is if you’re running a marathon but aren’t able to take in any more fluids or gels…sadly, you’re kind of screwed at that point, that’s why it’s important to test out and try a bunch of different foods/supplements BEFORE your race to find one that works.) So with any kind of GI issue run make sure you’re extra mindful to replenish those fluid and electrolyte stores.

I’m a sucker for a good poop read, so you should read the full interview done by Danny Mackey. Who is actually a super cool guy in addition to being smart. He’s also married to one smoking fast runnerchick, Katie Mackey, so he gets extra cool points. ;)

1) What was your last GI disaster run? Can you link it back to one food in particular?

2) Do you have more GI issues going the up route or the down?
Down. I’ve never thrown-up actually during or after a run.

3) What foods have you learned are GI suicide for you? What is a ‘winning’ combo that’s worked?

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24 thoughts on “The GI Issue Cursed Runner: Tackling those great, poopy disasters

  1. So funny – poop is as common a theme with runners as with new moms!!!
    I’m with you – I never throw-up but often long runs mess with my system the rest of the day. I’ve always thought it was the whole pounding and shaking! Oh well, we just keep on running (and pooping!).

  2. I learned many years ago to get up about an hour before I plan to run in the morning, so I can take care of any issues that might sneak up on me. If i’m racing (especially a marathon), I get up about two hours early to be absolutely certain. haha. I always make sure my system is clean when a PR is possible! Also, i’d rather be hungry than feel heavy at the start line…my coach always told me, “a hungry dog runs faster than a fat one.”

  3. HAHAH this is so great – i think any runner can relate to the GI issues. I’m usually pretty careful but my most recent disaster involved a 10 miler after several helpings of Chinese takeout leftovers. Yeah – that didn’t go so well.

  4. I love that you are not afraid to tackle any runner issue!!! The famous images of runners running/crossing the line with poo running down their leg will never leave me. I had such an issue in my first (& only) marathon – but honestly after 4+ hours I wouldn’t have cared if I were that runner crossing the line with poo down my leg – at that stage I wasn’t stopping. Apart from that I have been very lucky and rarely had any issues. That said I stay away from overly fibery stuff pre long run to be sure! :=)

  5. I only have GI distress on the morning of races. It hits me fast and you know how the lines are at the porta-potties!! Not a good mix!! It always stresses me out! I am trying hard to work on that so I can enjoy my races more.

  6. I’m definitely a “down” girl, myself. Good thing, too, because I HATE to throw up. When I first started running, I proclaimed, “I will NEVER run so hard that I puke.” 12 years later, so far, so good.

    I’m also usually a “later in the day” girl. This is quite convenient while running and racing, not always convenient for whoever I’m hanging out with for the rest of the day [or, more often, for the restroom at work]. ;-)

    Thankfully, I haven’t really had any super-embarrassing potty stories (either that or I have no shame) – but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time.

    For me, oranges are suicide. And some of my worst post-run issues were after runs that I followed up with Gatorade. This might be correlation, not causation – but I’m much more of a Nuun girl these days. :)

  7. For some reason, your posts never appear in my reader for a few days, so I’m just now seeing like 3 posts, anyway… I really like this one! It’s neat that you got to talk with him about GI issues because I think every female runner deals with that. And you’re so right, the faster and further you go, the worse it can be.

    My worst was a 10 miler back in August. As if running 10 miles in the SC heat and humidity of August isn’t already bad, I had to go twice in nasty portajohns and make my new running friend (who I met that morning, hehe, as it was a group run) wait on me. Then I drank some chocolate milk after the run, because the rest of the group was and i figured I needed to rehydrate and replenish my nutrition from 10 miles and two “trips”. Well… just made me sicker when I got home. No more refueling with chocolate milk for me.

    I really advice getting up early the day of… extra early, drinking a cup of coffee, so you can go before ever leaving the house for a race. That’s what i try to do :).

    • Amy – I’m having the same problem! (Delayed appearance in reader.) After a few days, I’ll click over to the site, then suddenly the last three posts pop up in my reader. Weird…

    • oh no, i dunno wat’s wrong with the reader, maybe try refreshing the link?? let me know!

      i also have to agree that personally the heat will also make my GI problems worse…not fun!

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