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Christine Luff

Pit Stops on the Run

By November 3, 2010

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Ever find yourself in the middle of a run when you realize you need to find a bathroom...immediately?  Or start a race wondering if you'll get hit with another bout of runner's trots in the middle of the race? You're definitely not alone. Many runners shy away from bathroom topics and assume no one else is dealing with these issues. But talk to other runners and you'll probably have a good laugh sharing stories about emergency pit stops and other "You Know You're a Runner When" moments.

If you've had problems with diarrhea during runs and worry about having to stop and find a bathroom, here are some tips to try (and talk about with your fellow runners):

  • Try to avoid eating for at least two hours before you exercise -- the presence of food in the stomach will make things worse or contribute to the problem.
  • Avoid high-fiber foods (fruit, vegetables, legumes, whole grains) and coffee/tea before working out, stay hydrated, and consume a sports drink (like Gatorade) during long runs to maintain electrolyte levels.
  • Before running, try to stick to foods that are more binding, such as white rice or bananas.
  • Limit your intake of dairy products, particularly if susceptible to diarrhea.
  • Be aware of your bowel habits and try to time your runs for after such movement times.
  • Pack some toilet paper and wipes in your shorts or race belt - just in case.
  • If you've tried many different strategies with no luck, you may want to try an over-the-counter anti-diarrhea product such as Imodium. It's safe to use for exercise-induced diarrhea, but you shouldn't make a habit of using it. Save it for races or special events where you know there won't be any port-a-johns available.
  • Consider a medical check-up for irritable bowel syndrome and be open in discussing your problem with your health care provider.

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This post is a part of the About.com Health Channel's blog carnival on bowel shame hosted by About.com Guide to IBS, Barbara Bradley Bolen, Ph.D.

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