Does Exercise Help Diarrhea?

Diarrhea is the unpleasant occurrence of frequent, watery bowel movements. The stools are attributed to a number of causes, including poor diet and dehydration. Exercise is also imperative to a healthy lifestyle, but is not appropriate for treating diarrhea. In fact, working out can worsen diarrhea problems. Occasional watery stools can be treated with over-the-counter medications, while more frequent episodes require treatment from a physician.

Proper hydration during exercise is one way to prevent diarrhea. (Image: Terry Vine/Blend Images/Getty Images)

Effects

The greatest risk associated with diarrhea is dehydration. Diarrhea causes your body to lose a great amount of fluid, which Medline Plus says is one of the most common causes of dehydration. Your body also loses electrolytes, such as salt, during the process. Exercise is another common cause of dehydration, as your body loses fluids and electrolytes through sweating. Combining two scenarios that cause fluid loss will likely lead to further complications.

Treatment

Occasional bouts of diarrhea can be treated with over-the-counter medications. Allow yourself a few hours before exercising to ensure that the diarrhea has been treated. Working out right after taking medications can worsen your symptoms. Ensure that you drink water or an electrolyte-containing beverage to prevent dehydration. Diarrhea related to an illness from a bacterial or viral infection may require an antibiotic. Ask your doctor how long you have to wait to exercise following treatment.

Prevention

Exercise shouldn't be ruled out of your daily routine out of fear for fluid loss. When you do work out, ensure that you stay properly hydrated by drinking ample amounts of water before, during and after exercise. Take care not to drink too much water at once or else you might vomit and lose body fluids. Don't exercise if you experience diarrhea, as this can worsen the risk of dehydration. Call a doctor right away if you experience serious symptoms of dehydration. These include rapid heart rate, dizziness, fainting and bloody diarrhea. Medline Plus recommends that you see a doctor if diarrhea persists longer than five days at a time.

Considerations

Kegel exercises are the only exception to the rule. These exercises may help women with frequent diarrhea. Kegel exercises can help strengthen the rectum. Weak muscles around the rectum increase the risk of leaking bowel movements. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that women perform kegels up to 20 times in a row by squeezing the pelvic muscles for 10 seconds at a time. Talk to your doctor about these exercises, as they aren't appropriate for all women with frequent diarrhea problems.

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