Ever heard of runner’s diarrhea? You laugh, but it’s real, especially for Gutsy runners.

I had been running for a very long (non-consecutive) time while living with SIBO (which I didn’t know back when I first started running).

8+ years later and I have learned so many things.

Runner’s Diarrhea {and 10 tips for runners with IBS or IBD}

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Runner’s diarrhea comes from all the continuous pounding of pavement, jumbling the stomach. It’s when you run and then (literally) run to the bathroom due to an upset stomach.

And runner’s diarrhea very common, even with the non-Gutsy population.

But for you, my friend, runner’s diarrhea is likely very common. In an effort to still run, if you must, then here are 10 tips for runners with IBS or IBD.

  1. Time of day.

    I have experimented with this over-and-over again. I know that everyone has their time of day that they love to run, but what I have learned over the years is that my best chance for a successful run is when I run first thing in the morning. And this probably has more to do with number 2 (on this list, no pun intended) than anything else.

  2. Running after Eating.

    Just don’t do it. Even with a great stomach, you’re likely to find discomfort. When I run first thing in the morning, here is exactly what I eat before any length of run: a banana (monosaccharide), 1/4-1/2 cup of coffee with a little (like 1/2 tsp little) honey and coconut milk. If I have a long run, I’ll eat a whole banana, otherwise, usually just a half. Once I get into higher mileage, 13+ miles, I play around with eating a little more than this, but for now, this is what is perfect.

    All of these things settle in my stomach perfectly. If I wait any later in the day for my run, I’ll always eat a lot more, but then typically more problems arise. If you run first thing in the morning, you shouldn’t need to eat a ton, as your body is still working off the previous day’s stores (which makes number 3 on this list very important).

  3. Food in general.

    Food will always be subjective, but if you have IBS and/or IBD, you must dial in food (for your body) in order to ensure running with ease. On Saturday night before a long Sunday morning run, I am careful with my food options. For me, I know exactly what I can and can’t eat if I want to be serious about running.

    Depending on your condition(s) what you can tolerate will be different from what I can. Make no mistake, when you have IBS or IBD, food will be your medicine or poison, and I will argue that point until the day I die. If you want to run, and you want to run well, you’ll need to do the very best you can to determine what foods in general need to fuel your life before, during, and after your runs. Want to know for sure?! Get the 90-day gut healing journal (instant PDF download HERE) to start tracking food, workouts, and more.


  4. Pants.

    I like to run in super tight running pants(Under Armour, Reebok, Nike, Lululemon, and Lucy are my current favorites). However, that is not idea for those with IBS and/or IBD. The best choice would be sweatpants of sorts. But that’s not realistic for runners. So here’s my hack. I wear the tight pants, but then I tuck a tank top into my pants so that there is a little extra comfortable “padding.” It sounds weird but totally helps. You have to feel comfortable, from all angles, on your stomach or a disaster could be pending.

  5. Alcohol.

    If I want to run, skipping alcohol is the best decision I can make. For my drinking running friends who don’t want to hear this, just skip what I’m about to say. NEVER did I have a drink then go on a run the next day without feeling miserable. Will I ever drink while running again? Um, of course. But very carefully and selectively. For me, it’s just not worth it because even if I’m not running, alcohol still affects me far too much.

  6. Monthly cycle.

    Most gastrointestinal problems cycle with the female monthly cycle. This is, by far, my greatest struggle. On some days of my cycle, this is how it plays out. At mile 1, the horrific cramps set in. It’s a super bizarre thing I have going on (one in which no doctor can figure out) but regardless, I have learned to work with my cycle. Track it for awhile to see. If you find your IBS and IBD symptoms cycle with your monthly cycle, write your workouts and runs to minimize the complications. You will obviously not be able to do this for race day, though, which is a lasting concern for me. (For the record, this has taken years to figure out – and I have over half a month each month when I am affected by it.)

  7. Flaring?

    Just skip the run. Gasp! Skip a run? Yeah, I know….I am Type A, and even cutting a run down by .30 miles gives me anxiety. I met a girl recently who has severe Colitis but is a serious runner, running races all the time. She told me about all the things she has done, even while flaring, just to run. In fact, many times she didn’t make the bathroom, and many other times always ended up even sicker (think hospitalized). I listened to her, but I could never agree that that’s okay for someone with IBD because I believe if you’re really flaring, you must heed what your body is saying and skip the run altogether. I haven’t had a flare like that in years, and I wish back then I would have read these words and then listened.

  8. Routes.

    Know your route. Know where any and all bathrooms are. For me, where we live, there are barely any bathrooms on long routes so if I feel even a little off, I”ll just run circles, if need be, or out-n-backs until my mileage is complete. Like yesterday, for example. After that pain at mile 1.36, when I left my house again, I just did an out and back just in case. And even though I felt perfect, I also knew that I was never too far from home if I needed it. Rarely will I set out for a long run without knowing that a bathroom is nearby if I need it (or my husband is home to call).

  9. Treadmill “Safety.”

    The safest place to run, run, run would be at home, on a treadmill. I think a treadmill is a dreadmill, but because I love running so much, we have one at home for the days I want to do certain interval workouts, hill workouts, but also so that I have one just in case I don’t feel like wandering far from home. This could be an expensive option, so make sure you love to run before investing here!

  10. Race food and beverage.

    My friend just PR’d another marathon, like super fast. I asked her what she ate and drank while running it, and she said she drank at each aid station, gu’s, etc. I hear “gu” and I want to barf. She doesn’t have IBS or IBD, so I legitimately want to ask those who do, “Does gu actually sit well in your gut when you are running your heart out?”

    I think that the in-race food and beverage is something you absolutely must practice and perfect if you have IBS or IBD. Funky ingredients and sugars, while running hard, have never sat well in my stomach. I’d gather they won’t sit well in yours, either. 

Now here’s the deal, if you want to run, and you’re desperate to run, then run.

But what I truly believe is that you should skip it all if you’re trying to heal your gut. Workouts and gut healing are conflicting almost always – especially when it involves intense training. 

I relapsed time and again until I finally listened to my body and just chose nothing or walking over anything else.

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy:

  1. Workouts While Gut Healing
  2. Video on working out and healing your gut
  3. The Gutsy Girl’s Bible


10 Tips for Runners with IBS or IBD www.sarahkayhoffman.com #ibs #ibd #running #run #guthealth #healthyliving

10 Tips for Runners with IBS or IBD sarahkayhoffman.com #ibs #ibd #running #run #guthealth #healthyliving

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  1. Thank you!!!! This info is so helpful. Have you always been able to eat bananas? My doctor had me give up all sweeteners and fruit during one of my Sibo treatments. I have never been able to add them back in. I used to eat them all the time when I was running a lot. I have been feeling really good and I have been able to add quite a few things back in. I was thinking I will try bananas.

    1. Yes! Bananas have been my go-to forever. I never gave them up, and even at my worst, I had them while I was getting better – sometimes 3-4 a day if I was running a lot:) I just make sure they are ripe!

  2. I just came across your article today. I want to thank you for putting this out there. I have been struggling the last 2 years with this. Sometimes you feel alone in this and it was a great read and reassuring that I can get past this. Especially these last couple weeks even the heat seems to be a trigger for a flare up. I’m trying to run a 50k in November and training has been rough.

    I know this article was written years ago, but I find that the SIS electrolyte gels are the easiest on my system.

    Again thank you for your article. It was a help and inspiration to keep trucking along.

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