Running with IBS

When I first started running, my IBS wasn’t particularly happy. As I was running my stomach would feel knotted, tight, and uncomfortable. For the rest of the day I would become more bloated than normal. Thankfully, after taking things slowly, running only once a week and building to three times  over the course of a few months, running has actually now improved my IBS.

This isn’t an uncommon story. A quick search through google will tell you all about the runners trots and how others with IBS struggle with an impact activity such as running.

Symptoms induced by running can vary depending on multiple factors, including the type of IBS you have. If you have diarrhoea predominant IBS running could initially be a struggle for you. Other factors can include: the time of day you run, what you have eaten that day, how stressed or anxious you are.

But, there are positives to running for your IBS. Running can reduce stress, which is a known IBS trigger  and if you have IBS-C running can encourage more regular bowel movements. Running isn’t just good for IBS either, it has a whole host of positives ranging from improved cardiovascular health to mental health benefits.

Stress and Running

This is a bit of tough one. On the one hand if you are stressed, participating in exercise can be a great way to reduce your stress and control your IBS symptoms. Once my body got used to running, I found running a great way to relieve stress and also enables me to cope better with stressors through out the day.

On the flip side, if you are stressed about running because of the symptoms that may occur, or you are anxious before a race your symptoms may get worse. This is particularly true of those with IBS – D.  Deep breathing and stress management pre your run can be very helpful.

Running Tips and Tricks

Fear not though, if you want to start running or are already a runner but your IBS is being a pain, follow these tips and tricks to improve your running.

– If you are worried about needing to hit a bathroom during your run – plan a route that includes a few bathroom stops. There is no shame in needing to break up your runs with bathroom breaks and this won’t effect your fitness. Planning a route around bathrooms reduces your anxiety which can also help

  • Don’t eat for two hours before your run
  • Avoid caffeine before you run
  • Reduce your fibre a little to reduce the likelihood of diarrhoea, the same for fat as well. Don’t cut it out completely but high fat foods such as cakes or cheeses can make symptoms worse for some.
  • Before a big race such as a marathon, have a few tried and true glucose gels and drinks, for some people the high levels of glucose can trigger diarrhoea. Making sure you know what works with your body before a race will make the whole thing a lot more enjoyable. If you can’t tolerate any form of gels or drinks alternatives include:
    • jelly sweets
    • chia seed gels
    • bananas
    • raisins/ dates
    • power balls
    • nut butter

  • As with gels, before any big race have a few tried and true foods, which you know keep you full of energy and don’t trigger your IBS.
  • If you are on medication for your IBS-D, some people suggest taking an anti-diarrheas before long runs. If you do want to medicate, please talk to a doctor or pharmacist first.
  • Stay hydrated

With the above tricks and tips, you should be running in no time. If you are new to the sport, try starting slow. I used the BBC Couch To 5k when I first started running. You start with 90 seconds of walking and 1 minute of running and over the weeks gradually build from there. And you get to pick a trainer to talk you through each step!  This was great, as not only does it mean you gradually improve your fitness but also gave my IBS time to get used to the movement of running.

Let me know if you have any tips for making running a bit easier.

Photo by Andrea Leopardi on Unsplash

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