Why does running make you poop?


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If you’re new to running and you’re reading this, you’re probably horrified. “What did I sign up for?” you may be asking yourself.

It’s true: “Runner's trots” is a thing, and it happens to a lot of runners.

According to a 2005 review in the International SportMed Journal, gastrointestinal problems — especially in the lower GI — affect between 30% and 83% of runners. No wonder there are so many Port-A-Potties lined up during races. Symptoms include lower abdominal cramping, the urge to poo, increased bowel frequency and diarrhea. Not good when you’re hitting your stride.

Women are more affected by GI problems when running than men are. Lindsay Patton-Carson wrote about her embarrassing marathon experience in a post on XOJane.com. Her vivid account sums up the agony and panic felt by runners all over.

“I was probably 100 or 200 feet away from the Port-A-Potty when I lost all control and all dignity. I wanted to cry. I wanted to stop. I wanted to go back in time and tell past Lindsay not to sign up for this.
The short walk to the Port-A-Potty was the ultimate walk of shame. I was even more uncomfortable and I was so self-conscious that the other runners would be able to see a butt bulge or even smell what was happening in my pants.
I shamefully stepped into the Port-A-Potty and tried to salvage my underwear, because they were Victoria’s Secret, dammit.
It didn't take long to realize there was no chance of saving them. So I undressed my bottom half, tossed my fancy underwear, cleaned myself up and went back out trying to reclaim whatever dignity I had left in my depleted gas tank.
Oh, and I still had 6.2 miles left.”


Reason for the runs

Jostling of the intestines; reduced blood flow to the intestines as the body diverts blood flow to the working muscles; changes in intestinal hormones; altered absorption; and dehydration all contribute to GI problems mid-run, says Active.com. Rapid fluid shifts into the colon may cause irritability and cramping. Not fun!

Up to 29% believed that their GI problems negatively affected their performance, according to the International SportMed Journal. While everyone is different and it will take a bit of trial and error to find the right plan for you, there are some ways to avoid being sidelined during a run:

  • Empty your bowels before you head out for a run — especially on a race day.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Watch what you eat the day before a long run: Limit or cut out high-fiber, gassy foods. Avoid greasy foods high in fat and caffeine.
  • Keep a food log so you know what your trigger foods are.
  • Talk to your doctor. She may recommend a good over-the counter anti-diarrhea medicine.