Thursday, August 2, 2012

Nutrition to Improve Runner's Gut


In certain groups of athletes,particularly runners and triathletes, loose bowels and therefore a sense of urgency to find a bathroom (also known as “runner’strots”) can ruin a perfectly good run.

Due to altered motility from the redistribution of blood away from the gastrointestinal tract (GIT) to working muscles (gut ischaemia), the mechanical factor of running (i.e. organs jarring in the abdominal cavity) and/or altered neurological and hormonal functions1. In addition, females and those with high levels of nervous anxiety are more commonly affected.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Lactose Intolerance and Fructose Malabsorption have been suggested to be associated with the development of GIT symptoms of a chronic nature in both athletes and non-athletes.

  • Caffeine intake may be associated with the development of GIT symptoms during exercise. 
  • Some athletes report GIT symptoms the night after consuming several drinks of alcohol or with vitamin C supplementation. 
  • High fibre,fat and protein meals pre-exercise have been shown to cause an increase in GIT symptoms, as has the timing of the last meal prior to an event. This makes logical sense as fibre, fat and protein are slow to empty from the stomach, and planning to eat the pre-event meal well before the whistle provides ample time to allow complete gastric emptying
  • Symptoms can also be triggered by other poorly absorbed carbohydrates such as fructans (chains of fructose sugars joined together), galacto-oligosaccharides and polyols. These are found in everyday foods such as wheat, apples, pears, onions, garlic,and more importantly for runners, in many drinks, gels and powders.
  • Disturbed bowel function is more likely to occur in runners than other athletes.
  • Elite athletes, younger athletes, those prone to anxiety, and females are more likely to be affected.
  • Dietary factors such as dehydration, having a high fibre intake,caffeine, the intake of fructose and lactose, gluten (if coeliac),and possibly vitamin C and alcohol may all impact on normal GIT function.
  • Athletes should enjoy their pre-event meal two to four hours before running, and only a light snack (or fluids) in the hour before if prone to runner’s gut.
  • Make sure the meal or snack is low in fibre (ie. white bread rather than wholemeal or wholegrain), low in fat (ie. low fat dairy if consuming this rather than full cream), and contains minimal protein (ie. very little or no meat, chicken or fish).
  • Athletes should be careful not to self-prescribe anti-diarrhoeal medication as a prophylactic measure. These should only be taken under advice from a general practitioner or sports
    medicine professional.
  • If you are athletes are concerned about adverse gut symptoms, they should consult with a sports dietitian

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