Q Please help. After every race I complete, I experience an excruciating urge to go to the toilet – and I don’t mean a quick pee! This really does ruin my enjoyment of most events. What’s my problem?
A You are experiencing what is commonly (and rather unceremoniously) known as ‘runner’s trots’. This is very common – somewhere between 20 per cent and 40 per cent of runners experience the condition during or after running. Count yourself among the lucky ones, though – you don’t experience severe symptoms until after the race!
Although the precise cause is unknown, current thinking favours a mechanism linked to the mechanical ‘insult’ of running, rather than the exercise itself. The bouncing up and down, combined with increased levels of some of the hormones that stimulate bowel mobility, are thought to produce the symptoms. This is supported by the observation that the ‘trots’ are much less common in cyclists or swimmers.
The fact that not all runners experience the symptoms suggests that some people are more susceptible than others, and one factor that has been suggested to contribute to susceptibility is food intolerance. For example, some runners have systematically excluded certain foods from their diets and found that their symptoms disappear completely. A frequent ‘culprit’ is dairy produce, which can be excluded from the diet for as little as 24 hours before racing.
When doing this, though, it’s important to remember that food groups can include unexpected products. For instance, dairy products include not only milk and cheese, but also chocolate – a favourite source of convenient pre-race energy.
What can be done? The symptoms are more common in runners who become dehydrated during competition, so maintaining your fluid intake during exercise is essential. You could also try cutting out dairy produce for 24-48 hours before a long run. Finally, if you can’t find any dietary resolution, using an anti-diarrhoea treatment before exercise is a safe strategy that works for most people.
Alison McConnell, exercise scientist and sports physiologist
I agree with Burnt Out! Taking Immodium is not something I would recommend for runner's trots. It can make you feel tired, nauseous and dizzy, which it certainly did with me.
I don't suffer with the trots, as such, as I am constantly flying to the loo before a run. My problem is that I am an IBS sufferer, and sometimes after a long run (perhaps when the body is stressed), within a few minutes of finishing a run, I end up going through hell, until the episode passes. I've tried every possible course of action, ie, avoiding wheat and dairy, being fully hydrated, taking Kaolin and morphine, then Immodium. Just think that it's something I've to live with. Glad it doesn't happen with every run, or I'd hang up my trainers for good!
Posted: 23/10/2005 at 21:27
Hoosey, I didn't know your poo thread was still going, I thought the killjoys took it off! The bit about the Abba poo songs was hilarious!
Luan, I trained my bowels to go at the same time, same as Burnt Out did, that really helped. Apart from that, the only thing you can do is the same as I have to do on a long run - plan your route around secluded bushes and take a handy pack of antibacterial wipes. Sorry, but it's that simple, not exactly nice, but welcome to the world of running. A good trade off for dropping two sizes in clothes methinks! My hubby, a non-runner thinks it's all rather disgusting, but who cares?!
Posted: 28/03/2007 at 17:08