How to Prevent Runner’s Diarrhea

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Runner’s diarrhea, also called runner’s trot, is a diarrhea that is specific for runners or other athletes that involve a lot of running. It is characterized by a sudden increase in the number and sense of urgency for fecal discharge that occurs for the duration of or soon after finishing a run, albeit, it commonly happens during mid-run. Runner’s diarrhea is most frequent for long distance runners, wherein approximately 20 to 50% of all runners experience its symptoms.

Causes of Runner’s Diarrhea

The cause of runner’s diarrhea is still yet undetermined. However, the mechanism of action is somewhat known. When engaged in physical activities, such as running, there is decreased blood flow to the intestines to give way to the increased blood requirement of the muscles. As a result, the absorption rate in the intestines changes. There are a few suppositions as to what leads to runner’s diarrhea:

  • Ischemia – insufficient supply of blood
  • Mechanical trauma
  • Diet that is rich in dried fruits and/or berries

Signs and Symptoms of Runner’s Diarrhea

There is no difference between the signs and symptoms of runner’s diarrhea in comparison to other kinds of diarrhea. The only difference is with onset. Signs and symptoms can last for several hours or days. The list below provides with the signs and symptoms of runner’s diarrhea:

  • Increase in the frequency (sometimes volume) and looseness of stools
  • Blood may be present, especially if it was delayed
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Bloating
  • Loss of appetite
  • Malaise

First Aid Management for Runner’s Diarrhea

Runner’s diarrhea usually disappears on its own and does not need medical attention. However, it would be difficult to continue and finish the run with the manifesting signs and symptoms. The following first aid tips can be done to help an individual suffering from runner’s diarrhea:

  • If necessary, take anti-diarrhea medications such as Imodium and Lomotil. Although this may ease symptoms, it can prolong diarrhea.
  • Drink plenty of water, sports drinks, fruit juices and other clear liquids. Do not finish everything in one drinking instead, drink small amount but frequently. Do not drink beverages that are diuretics, such as caffeine and alcohol, because these will lead to increased urination.
  • When the runner is already able to eat, opt for foods that are low in fat and high in carbohydrates. Make sure that there is enough amount of salt in the diet to make up for the lost salt.
  • For runners that are vomiting, help them into a position of greatest comfort.

Prevention of Runner’s Diarrhea

The following are some tips that can help decrease chances of getting runner’s diarrhea:

  • Wear loose and comfortable clothes during the run.
  • Do not eat heavy foods for at least two hours before scheduled running
  • Drink plenty of water and other clear fluid before, during and after the run.
  • Limit but do not completely avoid high fiber foods leading to a run. High fiber foods are usually green leafy vegetables and whole wheat foods.

Learn more first aid tips by enrolling in First Aid Courses. Runner’s diarrhea is a condition of diarrhea that occurs during or after a run, although it most commonly occurs mid-run.

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