Feb 25, 2013

Do you ever get the "runs" from running?

I don't know why I would chose this topic as my first real post. It is a bit private, gross and uncomfortable for most people to discuss. Like most of my ideas, this topic just came to mind the other day while randomly sipping on some coffee.

Gastrointestinal (GI) disturbances or more specifically "Runner's Trots" is an often ignored episode associated with running unlike shin splints, foot and knee pain, or a poor pace. Not many like to discuss it because of the sensitivity but unfortunately many experience it during or after a run.

According to Schommer et al, 20%-50% of distance runner's suffer from an experience like this during or after a run. Besides just diarrhea the Schommer et al report that these disturbances can also include, "...vomiting, nausea, bloating, heartburn and flatulence as well as watery and bloody diarrhea and anal incontinence."

Don't be this guy.

If a quarter to half of all distance runners encounter issues like this then I would consider it a significant problem. The high prevelance rate and wide ranging symptoms of gastrointestinal disturbances associated with running could be due to the fact it is related to a variety of causes.

Some of the mechanisms suspected to be related to these GI disturbances and my thoughts related to them:
  • Visceral Ischemia related to the sympathetic nervous system's response to the need for increased cardiac output .
    • This is a physiological response to any type of exercise that all of us must face. If most athletes undergo this physiological response but the GI disturbances related to running are not the same for all then I have a hard time believing this is the reason. Another reason to ignore this issue is that it is a natural response that none of us can change other than increasing physical conditioning and therefore decreasing cardiac output demands at "x" pace.

  • Changes in motility or bowel movement by mechanical factors. (Think of the potential jostling and vibration of the organs) This mechanism is also related to Gastroesophageal reflux disorder(GERD) episodes experienced by 60% of athletes.
    • This is another unavoidable factor experienced by all runners. This factor could potentially be changed by the individual amount of vertical vs. horizontal movement as well as joint stiffness changes related with surface, motor control/program(ex. running form) and footwear choices. It would seem logical that a change in these factors could influence the mechanical forces experienced by the visceral organs let alone the neuromusculoskeletal system. (Think over-striding weekend marathoner vs. an efficient Kenyan runner)

  • High Dietary Fiber Intake
    • The previous point (#2) mentioned GERD. If we look at some of literature related to GERD we can see there is a relationship with GERD and grains. Tuck, the author of the blog Yelling Stop, does a great job of discussing this here.
    • The Standard American Diet or SAD is often rich in high fiber foods. Fiber is highly touted by most modern dietitians and doctors, especially from sources such as whole grains and legumes. The problem with this is that these foods are often high in natural food toxins that influence the gut's health. Paul Jaminet, co-author of the book and blog The Perfect Health Diet, is a great source on diet and its relation to the function of the gut and health of the gut biota. His post here goes into more detail about these toxins and their negative effects on the gut.

  • Spicy Foods
    • If you find yourself preparing for a long run or a marathon and you eat spicy foods to fuel your system before your run you should probably expect to have a related GI disturbance. I shouldn't have to explain how to fix this issue.
    • This isn't meant to mean that you shouldn't eat and enjoy spicy foods but you should probably time the consumption of them appropriately. You might want to consider avoiding consuming certain spicy foods if they have extreme effects on your system. You will know best on how you will react to foods by trial and error. Just don't experiment before races or long runs.

  • Caffeine
    • Its known that stimulants such as caffeine increase peristalsis or the speed in which your GI tract works. If you want to use caffeine as an ergogenic aid for performance and are sensitive to its effects on your GI then this might not be the aid for you. However, it may not be an issue for yourself. Caffeine intake with a pre-race meal or during an event with food may assist in sensitivity to caffeine as well.

  • Sugar Alcohols
    • High doses of sugar replacements or sugar alcohols such as xylitol, sorbitol, etc can cause GI issues in large doses, if you have pre-existing gut issues or if you are unaccustomed to ingesting them. Experimentation is key here, and possible avoidance may be desirable.

  • Unaccustomed food intake.
    • I always recommend to my patients/athletes that they never experiment with new foods the day before or the day of competition or events. This is not the time to try a new recipe, ingredient or foreign food.
    • Experimentation is better left for practices or training runs/events. This way when the big day rolls around you will know what powers your mind and body the best without unwanted side effects.
  • Novice Runners
    • This category seems to be a combination of multiple above categories. Poor conditioning, inadequate breathing strategies while running, inefficient running form and a lack of previous experience related to experimenting with diet and its effects on running.
    • Not all new runners experience GI disturbance and veteran runners suffer from GI disturbances as well so I don't believe being just a novice runner is the true factor but more of a combination of the above.
Now that I have finished introducing some of the factors related to GI distress in runners I want to refocus back on factor #3...High Fiber intake. More specifically cereal grains and legumes and how they have impacted my own personal GI during running. I used to suffer a lot of GI distress while running, however, just recently it dawned on me that I haven't suffered any of these issues in about a year. Around a year ago is when I started to really investigate and learn about ancestral health/paleo diet style eating. I then started to eliminate processed foods, refined sugars, and cereal grains.

In conclusion, I believe this might be the biggest factor that has eliminated this problem from my running. I am curious if others have found similar experiences or differences than that of mine. My girlfriend has changed her diet along with me and she also admits to have experienced a severe decrease in GI distress related to running as well. What has your experience been?

First Post.

Howdy potential future readers. I am not sure if I will ever get any future readers but hello if I somehow do garner your attention. I am starting my first blog, this blog, because I would like to create a source or forum where I can communicate ideas with others who may or may not have similar ideas with myself. This type of atmosphere can help me learn from others, help others or debate with others.

The fact that nobody agrees on anything is great. It is a good thing in the world of science and it keeps the regular world from becoming too boring. I would like to write about topics that interest me and as a 23 year old graduate student and Certified Athletic Trainer (not trainer) I have interests in diet, running, health, science, cycling and health care. Some may feel like the future posts will be too far ranging at times but I see all of these topics as inter-related and integrated with each other.

I hope to share personal stories, stories of others, related news and articles of research related to the aforementioned topics and more. I am not promising myself or anyone that I am an English laureate. I can't even promise myself that my writing can rival the average 5th grader's writing but I will attempt to create legible posts for your sake.

My first real post will be based upon the topic of the never pleasant runner's trots and its relationship with diet. This preview to my first topic might repel some potential readers and it may catch the attention of others. Just like runner's trots, it is probably a risk that I shouldn't take.

Below is a couple of pictures of myself to help give voice to my writing.

Grizzly Adams did have a beard.
Evaluating an athlete's injury.


Disclaimer: Please note that some of the links on this blog are affiliate links and I will earn a commission if you purchase through those links. I have used all of these products listed and recommend them because they are helpful and are products from companies that I trust, not because of the commissions that I may earn from you using these products.


All content on this blog is meant as instructional and educational. The author and guest authors of this blog are not responsible for any harm or injury that may result. Always consult a physician or another proper medical professional for medical advice.
MyFreeCopyright.com Registered & Protected