What Is Runner's Diarrhea?

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  • Written By: Britt Archer
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 04 October 2019
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Many runners, especially those who participate in marathons, suffer from runner’s diarrhea. The condition, also known as "runner’s trots," causes loose stools and makes a runner feel a desperate need to defecate, either during the run or just after. One estimate says the uncomfortable and embarrassing condition affects up to 50 percent of runners. Experts are uncertain of the cause, but advice is available concerning runner’s diarrhea prevention and ways to lessen incidences and keep a runner on course rather than in the bathroom.

Much of the advice concerns changes to a runner’s diet. Foods that are high in fiber should be avoided for 24 hours before a scheduled run, as should foods that cause gas. Another possible culprit that should be avoided are sugar alcohols, a kind of sweetener contained in sugar-free food products, such as ice cream, candy, and some sugar-free gums. Some experts suggest a runner should also avoid fatty foods and caffeine for about three hours preceding a race, and some runners may find they need to avoid these substances for as many as six hours. It is also advisable to completely refrain from eating for a couple of hours before a run.


Advice for runners who are trying to avoid runner’s diarrhea also includes taking precautions with lactose products, such as milk and milk products, because in certain people, lactose can cause diarrhea. Runners also should be aware that energy bars could lead to diarrhea, as can dehydration. Drinking fluids is important, but a runner should pass up any warm drinks, which can accelerate digestion.

Runners who fear a recurrence of runner’s diarrhea might want to take extra precautions with the fit of their clothing because clothing that is too tight can exacerbate the problem. Another safeguard would be to limit the length of the run until improvement is seen. If the problem continues, a visit to a physician may be in order to obtain an antidiarrheal medication. Some runners simply make sure they know the location of restrooms along their route before starting out.


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Post 3

I think this only occurs during or after long distance running. Those who go for a half hour or one hour job probably won't experience it. I've never experienced. My brother does long distance running and it does happen to him. When he gets back from the run, he has to make frequent trips to the bathroom for a while. Thankfully it hasn't happened to him during a run because I heard that it can be uncontrollable sometimes.

Post 2

I think anyone who runs a lot or runs marathons experiences this issue at some point. It's nothing to be embarrassed about.

But yes, there are ways to reduce the risks of it occurring. Avoiding unfamiliar foods is a major point. Sometimes, during marathons, they serve random snacks and drinks for the runners. But some of those can actually trigger and aggravate the problem. As a rule, I don't have anything that I'm not used to having when I'm running.

It's also not a good idea to have a large breakfast or a large cup of coffee in the morning of the run. Coffee especially causes intestinal spasms which leads to frequent visits to the bathroom.

Post 1

I think both running and walking gets the digestive system going. It might have to do with our evolution as humans. When humans were hunters and gatherers, they were waking up in the morning and going out to hunt and gather which involved a lot of running and walking. I think that physical activity signals to our body that it's morning and this somehow speeds up the function of the intestines as well.

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