Endurance Athletes at Risk for GI Issues

Stephanie Health Guide
  • The American College of Sports Medicine recently released a statement about a poster presentation at their Health and Fitness Exposition. In this release they discuss that findings suggest 30-81% of endurance athletes have gastrointestinal disturbances including reflux, exercise induced GI bleeding and diarrhea.


    They go on to say that it's important that it be addressed if it interferes with the athlete's exercise plan. Also, they suggest the following in order to reduce the risk of GI issues:


    • 1) If you are experiencing GI disturbance - lower the intensity (this could be time, speed, etc.) until you get to the point that you are free of GI issues. Then slowly go back up.
    • 2) Always use the bathroom before you exercise
    • 3) Allow 3 hours after eating a meal before doing intense exercise. - the key here though is that you will need food before you exercise - just avoid a large meal. A high protein snack may be just enough. You may want to play with it though - see what works best for you.
    • 4) Caffeine - avoiding or limiting it for a couple of hours before you exercise. Many lists include caffeine as a trigger for reflux - it is also known to contribute to irritable bowel syndrome. If you can cut it down it may help with both the reflux and diarrhea.
    • 5) Stay hydrated - I'm not sure what this has to do specifically with reflux or the other GI symptoms but it's a good idea nonetheless.


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    Before reading this I knew reflux and diarrhea were common with runners. I did not know about the increased risk of GI bleeding. It's important for the endurance athletes to be aware of the symptoms of GI bleeding such as lightheadedness, fatigue, fainting, and shortness of breath. Blood in the stool or vomit from GI bleeding tends to look like wet coffee grinds as the blood blackens as it is digested. Any athlete who experiences new GI symptoms or the symptoms of GI bleeding should see their doctor for a full evaluation - especially if there's a big run coming up!

Published On: April 29, 2011