Running and Stomach Problems

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If you're having problems in your stomach, consider these options.

  • If you normally run on an empty stomach, try a little carbohydrate just before you run. I've found that one or two Gu Chomps (or similar) can help settle my stomach if it's feeling particularly empty. Take it within 5 minutes of starting your run to avoid a blood sugar crash.
  • If you normally run after eating, try eating less, or leaving a longer gap between eating and running.
  • Record what you eat for your previous meal, which might be the night before, and see if different things make things better or worse. Foods that cause digestive gas can cause problems for some time as can some carb-loading approaches like pasta. I had an intolerance for soy Protein that took me months to track down.
  • Try taking a Gas-x before running. It removes the bubbles in your stomach (anti-foaming) and is not absorbed into the blood stream, so there should be no downsides.
  • Many people find a little ginger can help settle the stomach, so a little ginger ale or ginger beer could help. Ginger chews also help, or some crystallized ginger. Like the chomps, take it within 5 minutes of starting your run to avoid a blood sugar crash.
  • Caffeine can irritate the stomach, so check if that is causing a problem.
  • Dairy can cause upsets even if you're not normally lactose intolerant. On the other hand, some live yoghurt can help keep your digestive system healthy.
  • NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen and aspirin irritate the stomach and should be avoided. They prevent healing as well – NSAIDs and Running
  • If you take a drink with too much salt, it can upset your stomach. However, in my experience, the drink becomes unpalatable well before it upsets the stomach.
  • If you're taking Electrolyte Capsules, these can take time to dissolve, and build up in your stomach. See Electrolyte Capsules for more details.
  • On ultramarathons, eating what you believe you should eat, rather than being guided by your appetite and eating what appeals can cause stomach problems.
  • Anti-acids can settle your stomach, but too much can prevent digestion. Taking regular anti-acids also tends to cause your stomach to produce more acid over time (up regulation).
  • I have found that some types of soda, mainly cola, makes my stomach overly acidic.
  • Running at too hard can cause nausea and stomach problems. This is believed to be because of insufficient blood flowing to the stomach. Running on a completely empty stomach can help if you have this problem when performing. See Introduction to Interval Training
  • If you suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a condition in which backward flow of acid from the stomach causes heartburn and possible injury of the esophagus, you should talk to your doctor. Prilosec OTC works for some.
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