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How to Prevent Runner's Trots

Updated on June 30, 2012
A common sight for many desperate runners
A common sight for many desperate runners | Source

What Causes Runners Trots

Runner's 'trots;' or runner's diarrhea is a condition where one must use the bathroom during a run, because of how the run affects your body. It happens to millions of runners and can really put a downer on your training.

Normal gastro-intestinal function occurs when you have a certain amount blood supply to the intestinal area. When you run, blood is pumped to your heart and the muscles that are being used and not to the gastro-intestinal tract (GI tract). Under regular conditions blood brings oxygen to your GI tract and removes excess fluids. Without blood supply, the GI tract starves for oxygen and fluid accumulates. This results in abdominal pain and cramping, then diarrhea ("runner's trots").

Low blood sugar from running, the constant up and down shaking, and overall dehydration further aggravate the situation. During long runs when runners trots are most common, it is hard to take in the required fluid need to replace what you sweat out making these the most common times when 'trots' come about. However, the condition can be alleviated to some degree, even entirely if you are careful about your diet (solid and liquid) and take some time to really get to know your own body.

limiting your coffee intake can help prevent runners trots
limiting your coffee intake can help prevent runners trots | Source

Dietary Considerations

There are many kinds of foods that can aggravate the condition of runners trots. Make sure you hydrate! Drink water and fluids throughout the day and at night to make sure you wake up hydrated.If you run in the mornings it may be good to take some time after a cup of coffee or tea to make sure you have your bathroom business settled before going out for a run. Likewise if you run after work drinking a bottle of soda on the way home is definitely not going to make situation any better. Below is a list of foods that can trigger runners trots.

Liquids

  • Coffee and caffeinated beverages- This can be a double edged sword. Hot liquids and caffeinated beverages can get you 'moving' faster.
  • Sorbitol and drinks with sugar substitutes - These can aggravate your stomach
  • Alcoholic beverages - They will dehydrate you and can upset your stomach
  • Carbonated beverages - Carbonation can compound the situation
  • Milk - Many people have problems when drinking milk before running.

Foods

  • Caffeinated energy bars - A lot of energy bars have caffeine in them to give you a bit of a rush when you start out.
  • High fiber foods - These can 'clean you out' well, but will make your bowel movements more frequent.
  • Excessive oil and grease - Greasy foods such as fast food will also aggravate the situation

Knowing Your Body

This is always a touchy subject so lets just jump right into it You have to know your body and how to schedule your running around bowel movements if you have severe issues with runners trots. Make sure you schedule longer runs for a period of the day where you normally don't have to go the bathroom.

Drinking coffee in the morning can speed up the process and once you are done in the bathroom, you will likely be free and clear for a good run. Make sure to do the obvious things, don't eat foods that you know give you issues like say, tacos, or well any kind of Mexican food. Avoid foods that make you gassy or lead to flatulence.

You can try taking something to settle your stomach like an anti-diarrheal or pink bismuth but these are really for helping in the short term and not recommended for a long term control of runners trots.

An anti dirraheal can help to make long runs and races more comfortable.
An anti dirraheal can help to make long runs and races more comfortable. | Source

Long Runs and Race Day

As you alter your diet and running schedule the situation should begin to become under control however in long runs and races i.e., marathon runners trots can be difficult to combat just because of the amount of time you spend running. For long runs and marathons it is best to try and limit your fiber intake a few days before the race or long run to 'slow things down' a bit.

Try to schedule your pits stops accordingly, losing a few minutes for many runners is better than the alternative of an embarrassing accident. Scheduling long runs where there are bathroom stops is a good idea, and if you must go long without one, such as on a trail go prepared with anything you might need such as a bit tissue paper unless you really want to lose a sock.

Taking and anti diarrheal such as Imodium or pink bismuth is definitely a good idea if you are going long and want to get through as much of the run as possible. Try not to over drink water which can create 'sloshing' in the stomach and lead to an issue. Drink often but in small amounts during a long run or race, this will help to keep your stomach settled.

In the end it will take some changes in your diet and some time to get to know more about your body to alleviate the problems associated with runner's trots. However it is a situation that might not always be prevented but can be kept under better control.

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    • SidKemp profile image

      Sid Kemp 

      6 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach)

      I've never had runner's trots - I've probably never run long enough to get them. And, with your help, even as I start to run more, I hope I never will.

      This is an excellent article: clear, direct, straightforward, and helpful. And I laughed out loud at your "lose a sock" joke. I could picture it.

      I can vouch for all of your methods, especially knowing your own body and how it's affected by food and drink. As a trainer and road-warrior, I had to train my body to wait long hours before a pit-stop!

      One other note - after running or any other exercise, especially if you were outdoors and are now coming to a warmer or cooler environment, or just home, expect to need to use the bathroom as soon as the body adjusts after exercise mode.

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      6 years ago from San Francisco

      Hahaa, I had not heard of runner's trots before- how unfortunate it is! I'd hate to be in the middle of a foreign city and suddenly.... need to go. Bad.

      Though considering that so much of what causes runner's trots is food, I bet a lot of travelers get this as they switch up their diets and forget to avoid certain things before a run!

      Well, at least now *I* know what to avoid. Thanks for the pointers!

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