I still remember my first long, to me, run. It was a nice summer day and I went 8 miles. It was awesome, except for when I swallowed a bug, and the hacking on the side of the road that ensued. But it was after that run that I experienced one of my first runner’s highs. I felt amazing. And then….I felt like my stomach was turning into knots.
(This is actually a picture my niece took of me and she asked me to pose in a sad face. But I am pretty certain this is what I looked like after that first long run. Despite the fact that I have no future as a model, we may have a future photographer in the family!)
When I got back from my run I took a quick shower and as soon as I left the warm water a horrible sensation overcame me. I felt suddenly weak with chills and I feared that I might throw up. I curled up on the couch as waves of nausea overcame me. A few hours later I felt like myself, but the memory stayed with me for a long time. It wasn’t the last time it happened either. It probably will happen again too. This usually happens unexpectedly and without warning after a run.
Many runners experience stomach issues and they come in all different forms. We have all heard of runner’s trots and if you run long enough you realize they are not a fable, this is real stuff we deal with! Another form of stomach issue is also called sour stomach or runner’s stomach. While each person has different symptoms or issues there are a few that seem to be the most common.
These stomach issues tend to come in the form of general upset stomach, nausea, acid reflex, diarrhea, or even throwing up. Not all runner’s experience this and many only experience these issues on occasion. Whether it happens often or not doesn’t matter. It stinks! So here are a few things to keep in mind to help ward off or ease your symptoms.
First, I have noticed that after I do have these stomach issues and look back at what I have had to eat or drink in the past few days, I tend to have missed out on hydration. I always have a large glass of water every morning so I thought that I was hydrated. But generally I get nausea on runs when I didn’t hydrate enough the night or even day before a run. For all runners it is important to hydrate pretty much all of the time; before you run, after you run, and throughout the day.
Try a few mint flavored Tums or Rolaids before a run. Not only are these great at settling your stomach but they can actually help you at the end of your run. When you run for long periods of time your blood flows to organs that are directly involved with your running. Therefore blood flows away from your stomach and there is a lot of acid on the stomach lining and it can’t handle this overload. This is often what causes runners to become sick. Antacids work as buffers to balance that out and in turn keep you from getting sick!
After your run try sipping on a nice sparkling water. Avoid waters that are artificially sweetened and stick to something like Perrier, Pelligrino, and LaCroix. I am a big fan of LaCroix. They have several flavored sparkling waters that are not sweet and yet delicious. This water can help to settle your stomach and I find that I can sometimes get one of these down easier and faster after a run than plain tap water.
Take a look at what you are eating in the morning. Some runners prefer to avoid eating anything and if that works for you that is fine. I personally need a little something in my stomach and have found over the years that a piece of toast or a bowl of cereal works best for me. I know that eggs make me sick and certain cereals make my stomach do bad things half way through my runs. Knowing what to avoid will work wonders. If you need a little something that sticks with you try bland foods like plain toast, bananas, or even plain rice.
Consider your dairy. I hate to admit it but dairy and I have issues. I have said goodbye to ice cream, milk and most cheeses. I actually don’t miss it at all because I discovered how awesome almond milk is. It has twice the calcium of cow’s milk and far fewer calories. Try the unsweetened vanilla and you might never go back. When I need my cheese fix I go for goat’s milk. I have also found that I can have small amounts of frozen yogurt so I certainly can’t complain.
Many adults find that dairy causes all sorts of issues for them from stomach issues to skin ailments. If you think this might be the culprit try using alternatives for a while and see how they work.
Running and your diet is a constant experiment to find the right combination of what works. Be patient with yourself and your body. Try to be aware of what you are eating and drinking and you will find the perfect combination along the way. Remember that this happens to all sorts of runners and it is ok to discuss and seek out answers. Odds are you aren’t alone.