Running & Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is a painful condition that affects the large intestine and can be especially pronounced among runners. Running places a certain amount of stress on the bowels and in some cases can reveal underlying symptoms caused by IBS. Fortunately, runners can use a number of preventative measures to keep IBS at bay while pounding the pavement on a regular basis.


The effect of IBS on the large intestine can produce a number of symptoms, including cramping, abdominal pain, constipation diarrhea, and bloating gas. IBS does not permanently impair the intestine like other diseases such as Crohn's or ulcerative colitis. The condition is limited to its basic symptoms and does not lead to inflammation or changes in bowel tissue.


While running can help produce regular bowel movements and contribute to lower risks of colon cancer, it can also unmask IBS. IBS is not caused by running, but a pre-existing condition can be revealed. IBS and its accompanying symptoms typically occur during or after running. Up to half of all runners suffer from general abdominal discomfort, including IBS. The up-and-down motion of running naturally stirs the bowels, while blood flow during running is diverted from the intestines to the legs, thereby opening the possibility of cramping or diarrhea.

Dietary Help

Avoiding certain kinds of food is important to IBS sufferers. For runners, choosing other kinds of food is just as critical. Most runners agree that loading up on carbohydrates can provide the energy needed to complete a run. High-carb foods such as rice, pasta, oatmeal, potatoes and white bread contain high soluble fiber content that is easy on the intestines. Caffeine, dairy products, and high-fiber foods can enhance IBS and should be avoided by frequent sufferers.

Medicinal Treatment

While there is no cure for IBS, runners can learn to minimize the symptoms with certain types of medicine. Fiber supplements or laxatives have been found to help those who particularly suffer from constipation. Many over-the-counter medications can alleviate diarrhea. Antispasmodics are commonly prescribed for dealing with colon muscle spasms and abdominal pain. It is important to carefully consider a medication, since a product prescribed to treat one symptom can actually spur a different one.


Runners who suffer from IBS can try a number of preventative measures to make the experience of running a pain-free, pleasurable one. Avoiding food at least two hours before running will help minimize the risk of a full stomach triggering the condition during a run. Staying well-hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids before and after running is an effective approach to staving off symptoms. Run routes that include close proximity to public restrooms in case of emergency; for races or special events that do not include toilets, taking a pre-run antidiarrhea medication can be helpful as well.

Load comments

Copyright © 2019 Leaf Group Ltd. Use of this web site constitutes acceptance of the LIVESTRONG.COM Terms of Use , Privacy Policy and Copyright Policy . The material appearing on LIVESTRONG.COM is for educational use only. It should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. LIVESTRONG is a registered trademark of the LIVESTRONG Foundation. The LIVESTRONG Foundation and LIVESTRONG.COM do not endorse any of the products or services that are advertised on the web site. Moreover, we do not select every advertiser or advertisement that appears on the web site-many of the advertisements are served by third party advertising companies.