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Marathon's Gastrointestinal Symptoms And How to Avoid Them

Gastrointestinal symptoms have long been known to be a common occurrence in endurance sports. “Runner’s trots” is something most runners will be all too familiar with, while other symptoms including bloating, nausea, stomach cramps, and vomiting are also regularly reported. Symptoms occur for a number of reasons including; the up-and-down jostling from running, a reduction in blood flow to the gut during exercise, and, during races, an increase in stress hormones that can speed up gut motility and transit.


How Common Is This Problem?

In a small number of marathon runners, research has previously shown that 4% had serious gastrointestinal symptoms [1]. This is much lower than longer endurance events such as Ironman Triathlon and ultra-marathon events, where up 96% of participants have reported symptoms [2]. In a new study, marathon runners from both the Liverpool Marathon and SSE Airtricity Dublin marathon were recruited to see how prevalent symptoms were, which were the most common, and if they were related to food intake [3]. Runners filled in food diaries to record what they ate the day before the race, on the morning of the race, and during the race. After the race, they filled in a questionnaire about their GI symptoms.


In total, 27% of marathon runners reported moderate or worse symptoms. The most common were nausea, gas, and burping. However, there was no relationship between food intake and symptoms. However, of the runners surveyed, food intake was not that high before or during the race. During the race, even though many recommendations are to consume ~60g of carbohydrate per hour to optimise performance, runners consumed an average of ~20g. Carbohydrate intake in the day before the race was also lower than recommended levels for endurance performance. This may mean that runners are under-fuelling for performance. Is this to reduce the risk of stomach upsets, lack of education, or other reasons?

Can You Do Anything To Help This?

The only predictor from the study for GI symptoms, were symptoms during training. This supports previous data that has shown that certain individuals are more predisposed to suffer from GI symptoms than others. These individuals should consider some of the following which have been shown to link to GI symptoms during running:

- Avoid dehydration during exercise

- Avoid the use of NSAIDs such as aspirin and ibuprofen

- Never try foods or drinks during a race that you have never tried in training

- If you are going to consume carbohydrates during a race, train your gut and practice this strategy during your long runs in training

- For some individuals, fructose can trigger symptoms. Try avoiding carbohydrate products that contain fructose as a carbohydrate source


What Products Can help?

Our lab4 probiotics have been shown recently in Jamie's studies to help marathon gastrointestinal symptoms.

Follow the link below to view our probiotics range.