Gastrointestinal Problems During Exercise

What are the Gastrointestinal Problems During Exercise

Gastrointestinal problems are problems with the stomach and intestines. It is common for athletes to experience gastrointestinal problems during exercise. This is especially true for distance runners and triathletes. Symptoms include:

  • Heartburn.
  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Bloating.
  • Flatulence.
  • Cramping.
  • Urge to go the bathroom.
  • Rectal bleeding.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Abdominal pain.

How is this treated?

Treatment depends on your symptoms. Many symptoms may be reduced or prevented by:

  • Limiting fiber intake before exercise.
  • Eating a diet that is high in carbohydrates and low in protein and fat.
  • Drinking fluids often while exercising.
  • If you were prescribed medicines to improve your symptoms, taking them only as directed by your health care provider.
  • Avoiding:
    • Solid foods at least three hours before exercise.
    • Eating a large meal before exercise.
    • Foods and drinks with fat and protein during endurance exercise.

Rectal bleeding

It is very important see your health care provider when you have rectal bleeding so that he or she can make sure the bleeding is not caused by something other than exercise. To lower the chance of rectal bleeding caused by exercise:

  • Drink enough fluid to keep your urine clear or pale yellow.
  • Wear good running shoes.
  • Have the hemoglobin and iron levels in your body checked regularly. If these levels are not within the normal range, you may need to take iron supplements.
  • Take medicines only as directed by your health care provider.


To lower the chance of diarrhea, try reducing your intake of fiber a day and a half before a competition. If you still get diarrhea, talk to your health care provider. He or she may recommend an antidiarrheal medicine.

Abdominal pain

To lower the chance of abdominal pain, try to avoid eating a large meal before you exercise.

Contact a health care provider if:

  • If your symptoms make it difficult for you to exercise.
  • If you have symptoms every day.
  • If you have unexplained weight loss.
  • If you have rectal bleeding.
  • If you have severe abdominal pain.
  • If you have night sweats.
  • If you have a fever.

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