Sunday, May 27, 2012

Bye bye gluten

I have not written much about my stomach troubles while running. I have always included the number of stops I have had to make at portapotties in my race reports, but besides that, it isn't a topic I have brought up much, mostly because it is a little embarrassing and a lot frustrating.

But I have had major struggles with my stomach/cramping/digestion/diarrhea since I started running longer distances. Basically, during almost every run over six miles or so -whether I fuel or not- whether I eat first or not (I am better when I don't) - even though I "go" before I run - I have to stop and go to the bathroom. It is always an emergency situation, as in my only choices are to find somewhere to go, stop running, or have an accident. It's miserable, although I have learned to just deal with it (and plan routes so that I know I will have somewhere to stop if/when necessary).

I have tried over the counter meds, herbal remedies, prescription meds, and diet changes. Some things have helped a little. Some things didn't help at all. I saw a doctor last year who wasn't concerned. 

A few weeks ago I decided that I really need to get this figured out. To perform at the level that I want to I can't be giving up minutes on the clock in marathons, plus I am just so sick and tired of dealing with it. I went into our doctor and gave him the full story. He took it very seriously, and knows how important my running is to me and that I have set big goals. He promised to do all that he could to help (and said that when I make it to the Olympic Trials he will be able to say he helped get me there. Ha!) He ran a battery of tests. Everything came back perfect, with the exception of something very minor (that could have even been normal) that they treated with Penicillin just to be sure.

I started reading about gluten and Celiac's, and realized that I have many of the symptoms. I also read about a lot of endurance athletes with and without Celiac's who choose to go gluten-free. My doctor wanted me to eat lots of gluten so that they could do an endoscope and colonoscopy and biopsy for Celiac's, however, since I was just a few weeks out from a big race (and since there was no harm I could see in trying a gluten free diet), I decided instead to just go gluten-free, at least until Utah Valley Marathon, and see if it makes any difference. I figure that after UVM, if several weeks of being gluten-free hasn't made a difference, then I can go back to a normal diet for a period of time and then have the scopes done (as very un-fun as that sounds).

I am not the kind of person to self-diagnose, but I didn't see a downside to trying the gluten free diet and I am desperate to find something that fixes this. If my race wasn't so close I would have just had the scopes done first, but since I knew I wouldn't be doing those until after this race anyway,  it just made sense to me to try this now. So after lots of research, reading, and educating myself, I have been completely gluten free for a week and a couple of days now. Things are certainly not all better yet, but I do think there has been some improvement and I have read that it can take weeks or even months after going gluten free for the intestines to completely heal and symptoms to completely disappear.

I thought that the diet change would be very hard, but it really hasn't been. I eat a lot of fruit, veggies, nuts, eggs, potatoes, beans, and rice anyway. I had to find a gluten free oatmeal which was easy enough, and some gluten free bread for my peanut butter and jelly. I found some rice noodles (gluten free) for pasta and I am all set! The biggest challenge will be eating out, but we don't do that very often anyway. I have not had any problems getting in enough calories, nutrients or carbs, and I am feeling really great this week.

Anyone else out there on a gluten free diet? Anyone else struggle with digestive issues when running?

Thanks for the kind comments on my running video clips. I got several questions on those posts and I will be answering those in a post tomorrow or the next day. I hope everyone is enjoying the long weekend!


35 comments:

Ugly said...

I dont eat any meal the day I do longer jogging, or races of half-marathons or longer.

Tomorrow, I plan to do an 18-20 mile jog so I will eat nothing before it....

That sounds counter-productive but it has seem to help me. Afterwards, I'll consume the calories....

Rhonda Dunker said...

I'm very sorry. I too had the same problems on long runs, over 6 mi. I have Crohn's. I am lucky I am doing very well with it so far, but every long run... I got sick. I started taking an Immodium and it worked. But I haven't done a long run since last Dec. I am building up to them again... My GI Dr didn't seem worried, seemed to think it was more of a common runner thing, blood being diverted from intestines.... At least I'm not the only one and not crazy. I thought maybe was my "fuel" during... I tried different things... I may also increase my Crohn's dose, I currently take 1/2 because I'm doing well.
All of these IBD issues are more and more common, I begged for some of the lesser problems, but he assured me I had Crohn's.... Good luck!

Sybil said...

I went off gluten for a year and felt much better. A blood test and biopsy both came back negative for gluten intolerance, but my ND confirmed what I felt: you can be sensitive to certain things that don't necessarily show up on tests. Curious to see how it ends up working out for you! Good luck!

Elly said...

I struggle massively with digestive issues too. As in, have to race to the bathroom NOW or there will be an accident. The last race I did (13k) was miserable - great for the first 7k, then spent the last 4 k walk/jogging to every bathroom I saw on the course. I was so disheartened! I'm running a half marathon in 5 weeks and really need to get it sorted. I'm kind of at a loss. Lucky your doctor is so great!! I really hope you get yours sorted out - would love to hear how you go with the gluten-free diet and whether it makes a difference. I'm cutting out dairy for the moment to see if that helps.

Cindy said...

i don't have the digestive issues while running thing but i totally think that it might be what you're eating and cutting out gluten is a great idea! i used to have really bad stomach issues...twisting pain in the morning with bloating...and i finally went to the naturopath where i got tested for food sensitivies. turns out i'm not great with eggs, and really bad with dairy...and what was i eat every morning? yoghourt and hardboiled eggs! after i cut out both, my stomach issues have completely cleared up and my skin (i had bad excema) totally cleared up without using any steroid creams. good luck on the gluten free diet!

Terzah said...

Many of us are in this boat to one degree or another, me included--you should NOT feel embarrassed. I feel pretty lucky that limiting certain foods (dairy and high fiber foods among them) ahead of big races seems to do the trick for me without eliminating them all the time. I'm really glad the gluten-free way is working for you so far, and I hope it proves to be your solution.

Annet said...

I was going to blog about this this week! I've been listening to the most interesting podcast called Dishing Up Nutrition (find it on itunes) for the last many months. It's all real nutritionist advice based on research and real food. They believe almost many conditions are related to food and I've been learning a lot.
Two things they've mentioned that relate directly to your post - they said a stool test is much more reliable for gluten testing than blood or endoscopies, that both of those often give false negatives. Plus, like you said, you could be gluten sensitive so there is no benefit in actually finding out if you are already eating that way. They also said they don't like all the gluten free products out there, since they are full of other starches which turn to sugar, but I'm sure for someone running 90 miles, that's not going to be an issue.
The other thing, it might be more about wheat itself rather than gluten - there is a lot of new interesting research about how damaging modern wheat is to our bodies. We're going to try going wheat free for David's skin, my skin, etc.
I think you will find a whole lot of difference.

Annette@(running)In the Right Direction said...

Seriously...sometimes i wish I could just call and chat...I JUST got out of the ER because my GYN sent me there wanting a CAT scan to check for a mass because that's how BLOATED my stomach becomes after running...and certain foods...and ovulating..and. You get the picture. She didn't rush me there..that's just how they get the scans quicker.

Long story short they sent me to a GI and he wants a colonoscopy and possible endoscopy(sp?)... They are also suspecting gluten intolerance. They also asked that I try a Probiotic daily...we'll see if it helps. I have only been on it three days.

Today I went on a long run and took the perpetuem solids...I thought I would try them because you had mentioned that brand didn't hurt your belly...well I was curled up in the bed after. It is so frustrating because other than my stomach I feel good.

The only thing I have felt comfort from is taking pepto before a run. I will let you know what comes of my fun colonoscopy...I'm going to schedule it when school ends.

Annette@(running)In the Right Direction said...

Oh...and DAIRY is a huge culprit. I have tried to cut that out altogether.

L.A. Runner said...

I deal with stomach troubles of that kind, too. It ruined my fall half marathon this year, even. Through food journaling, I've IMPROVED (but not cured) my situation. i also suspect that I have some sort of intolerance to gluten but I am 1)too cheap and busy to go have the tests 2) too poor to buy those "gluten free" brands. I have to shop the Winn Dixie clearance section as is! (haha).

For me, I do NOT eat solids 12 hours before a race. I just don't. That sounds crazy, but I am able to get my calories/fuel in through liquids and avoid problems that way. (I began this AFTER my half marathon GI disaster.) I also have a LONG list of foods that I *know* will tear my stomach up on a run. During easy runs days it doesn't matter much; I just make a stop. On workout days, I am VERY careful the day before and day-of as to try to eat foods that agree with me.

Anyway... you aren't alone and I really hope you get it worked out.

Rhonda Dunker said...

I have heard that probiotics have really helped a lot of people.

Caroline said...

I have a LOT of GI problems. I have GERD and my diet is very strict. I do take PRO and PRE biotics. it does help. during a long run or a race I eat very little if I do eat. It does not take much to give me problems..mostly cramping and nausea. I can only drink water also while running. I have not tried to go off gluten...my Dr wants me to try but ..procrastination is winning

Vicky Cook said...

Same boat, mentioned it in one of my blogs. This has been by far the most frustrating part of my running comeback.
It has got way better cutting out dairy, fibre and complex carbs 24 hrs before. I don't eat before a long run I also try to avoid these sugary drinks you're 'supposed' to have during a run as I think they cause me trouble. BUT I run in Houston and sweat sooooo much when I run, I'm not sure water is enough? I have been having leg craps a lot at night since it started to get hotter, I NEED to drink more and maybe add salt to my food (I don't normally). I almost got my husband to take me to A&E after the Woodlands half, I have never experienced pain like it.
I have now decided I need to get up at 4am to run at 4:30 to give my body a chance to 'go' before I leave, so far that has helped. This seems to be a female issue????
I have very little recollection of having problems whilst I ran at school but on looking back through ancient training diaries they are littered with 'sore stomach'.
I have googled and apparently being dehydrated can lead to these problems so I am trying to drink more (can you believe I was actually deliberately NOT drinking before I ran as I have bladder issues since having kids!) Oh the joys!!!!!!!! :D I now dink and spend a fortune on pads, TMI?! I wear one every time I run :( For me I think dehydration might have been a big factor?????? Good luck, it SUCKS!
Oh, a friend in the same boat took immodium around 40 mins before her last half and had NO problems during or after, she suffers terribly from this issue.

Vicky Cook said...

leg 'cramps' not 'craps' hahahahaha, what a slip up to make on this topic :D

Runner Maybe said...

I have the same issues when running...and I don't even have to run that far. I have an upset stomach after 6 miles today. I know that Heather at willrunforcoffee.com is gluteen free as she ha celiac's - she has a great recipe blog also with ideas since she is following a vegetarian and gluteen free lifestyle.

Jen said...

I also have celiac disease, which has caused enough damage that I have a long list of foods I can't eat in addition to those that contain gluten. It's annoying/aggravating/frustrating sometimes, but feeling so much better (finally feeling healthy after 10+ years of feeling horrible) is definitely worth the extra hassle.

Peter at http://noglutennoproblem.blogspot.com/ is a great source of info for athletes who have celiac. I've been following his blog for a couple years now and have learned a lot. He wrote a book about athletes and being gluten free that comes out in July- I can't wait to read it.

Good luck and I hope you feel better!

Mark Matthews said...

I have just your basic struggles, and I firmly believe that what you put in your gut and what you get out before a run are two huge factors. Ironically, when reviewing The Jade Rabbit, one person wrote "do we really need to know what she ate and if she pooped before the marathon?". Now, it may not have had artistic value, but they are two of the most important things to know. And as I write this, I just ate a sandwich, cliff bar, and banana, and got out of a ten minute bathroom break with my kindle, and I'm about to embark on a 22 miler.

You certainly have the gluten-free disciplined mind, so hope the adventure works well.

Angie said...

I too eat gluten free but never got tested. After I made the switch, so many positive changes happened that I did not even care if I had it or not. I knew I wasn't going to eat it anyways. I have had gluten since then and if I do it for a couple days in a row, all of my symptoms come back. My husband actually likes the gf pasta better than the regular! Hope you feel better asap! Oh... there is an phone app called "find me gluten free" that will show you all of the places to eat wherever you are that have gf menus! I use it all the time! There are a few main chain places like Olive Garden that offer gluten free pasta! I have found that PF Changs or Olive Garden work well for me for pre-race meals since those places are at most of the big city races and not too expensive!

Sarah said...

Another runner who has 86'd gluten. My system seems to burn cleaner now and I bloat less. Still occasional "mechanical trauma" bathroom visits, but much improved. Good luck!

T said...

My mom has a gluten free most of my life and twenty years ago there wasn't much in alternatives for foods like pasta but as you found out there is now! Take heart if that is what it is you will feel better. Also you would be amazed when you eat out how many options there are. Just ask what they have that is gluten free some places will have it marked on the menu. My mom loves pancakes and the original pancake house has gluten free pancakes which she is so excited about. Also Disney World is really nice about it and I know you run races there, just tell your server you have a gluten allergy and the chef comes out and will tell you what is gluten free. Thankfully the awareness of gluten intolerance is becoming more widespread. Good luck!

mountainkait.com said...

I am the same way. Although it does not show up as celiac on tests, I feel better once I come off of it. It also clears up my hypothyroidism issues. But, as a vegetarian sometimes I struggle with getting enough calories. Good luck!

mountainkait.com said...

I am the same way. Although it does not show up as celiac on tests, I feel better once I come off of it. It also clears up my hypothyroidism issues. But, as a vegetarian sometimes I struggle with getting enough calories. Good luck!

Jlern1 said...

I share the same issues, as does my running partner, and we are both RNs. Our co-workers laugh as we tell stories of our issues during races....they say we sound like a couple of old people discussing our intestines!! I am really anxious to hear how this works out for you...Here's hoping!!!

Julia said...

Friend! I have always noticed how you include the stops in your reports but never knew what the cause or what was going on. I can now imagine how incredibly frustrating this has been for you...especially since you compete at such a high level! i am thinking of you and hoping that this will help and that you can get the answers and solutions you need! also...just can't wait to hear how you dominate UV:) i love that race and i know you can run it so strong!

Team Serrins Springfield said...

You are not alone! I started seeing a Naturopath a little over a year ago. First we did a gluten tolerance test (no gluten at all for 3 weeks - it took me 8 weeks to manage that), then eat the most gluteny thing there is (cream of wheat) and see what happens. Then later we did a stool test and found that I'm intolterant almost to the point of celiac. I can eat a little gluten every 3-4 days but more than that and I definitely pay the price. I think my biggest issue is that being vegetarian, I needed to find new meat substitutes since all the Morningstar Farms and Quorn products have gluten. I eat a lot more beans, tofu, edamame, tempe, and even a little fish now.

Good luck.

Jill Will Run said...

I experience troubles on almost every single run. I have "failed" to reach my goals on so many races due to these types of troubles. And I've always been ashamed to mention them flat out on my blog. It seems that more people struggle with this than I realized.

I really wonder about this gluten-free "craze" right now. I kind of wonder if all the food science in the world and the chemicals introduced in things has made people a lot more susceptible to digestive distress from these items than we would be if science hadn't "improved" upon everything.

misszippy said...

Back when I went through my round of digestive issues with running, I was tested for every kind of allergy under the sun. My doctor thought gluten might be one, but it wasn't. My fix was fairly easy once I discovered peppermint oil tablets for long runs and races (and I also find that avoiding hotter temps for races helps as well). Anyhow--I hope this is the fix for you! I know how much better it is not to deal with the pain, cramping and inconvenience.

Jan said...

I am self-diagnosed gluten intolerant. I was having a lot of issues--intestinal, headaches, acne, seasonal allergies--and giving up gluten almost completely eliminates all of them. I am lucky that I haven't had issues while running, but I do run hard or go over 6 or 7 miles. I hope the diet helps you! I have also found that I cannot tolerate a lot of raw fruits or veggies. I just have a touchy stomach!

Kathy said...

The subject of countless conversations for all of us! I can't wait to hear more about your progress.
Lovely that your first doc was not concerned - of course, he's not in the middle of a grueling run when the call of nature can NOT be ignored. I'm very glad your current doc is on board.
My PCP is a serious runner and he absolutely delights in helping me problem solve my GI issues (most of which I have worked out). I am so lucky he's there to bounce ideas past and to ALWAYS understand!!

SWMom said...

http://www.pappardellesonline.com/servlet/StoreFront

and
http://www.pamelasproducts.com/

are my two go-to's besides UDI's bread. I've been gluten free for 2 years and it's really helped my endometriosis! Best wishes!!!!

Raina said...

Sorry about your GI issues. :( I have had some issues too, but usually I can nip them by not eating anything with fiber after 7 PM if I plan to run early the next morning. That can be kind of tricky and eliminates almost all deserts except ice cream. :) It works for me though. Also, I run without eating first, then carb up right after.
Sure hope the GF eating is the answer for you, because I know it can be terribly frustrating.

Christina said...

I have what is currently diagnosed as regular IBS (what gets diagnosed until more is known). I've spent a lot of time doing my own "self-tests" over the past year. I found the most relief actually following an IBS friendly diet. Meaning, sticking more with "soluble fiber" foods. "Gentler" foods. Many healthy foods like broccoli are not soluble fiber foods and for some of us, trigger more problems than they are worth. Even though they are normally healthy, they are harder on digestive tracts. Cruciferous veggies are out, but carrots and spinach is in. I have had almost immediate good results when I started sticking very closely to this list of soluble fiber foods: IBS-FRIENDLY FOODS FOR SOLUBLE FIBER: Winter squash, parsnips, turnips, sweet potatoes, green peas, okra, eggplant, barley, oats, oranges, grapefruit, clementines, tangerines, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, bananas, white potatoes, avocado, cooked carrots, cooked green beans, cooked spinach, cooked kale, cooked Swiss chard, ground flaxseed ... if it's not on this list, I try to avoid :-) Good luck on your "self-tests". It's sometimes the best way to really figure this out! Here's a link to the information I found most helpful to me: http://www.joybauer.com/ibs/how-food-affects-ibs.aspx

Jessie said...

I went gluten free 2 years ago and WILL NEVER go back. I can not eat gluten without having a reaction that resembles food poisoning. Since my nephew has also went gluten free with outstanding results (able to go off all medicines Dr's have tried to use to help him with many stomach/colon issues). He also has dramatic results if he accidentally eats gluten now.

With that said, his Dr. did scopes and blood tests and could find no medical reason for it. My Dr. discouragd me from having scopes and furthur testing citing, "the inaccuracy of the test results" and his doubt of a correct diagnosis from any medical peers in our area.

I run without stomach cramping now. I have been able to increase my mileage from runs of 4 miles to 12. I have also been able to up the intensity of my runs. After my first 5 K (2 years ago) I cramped all night. Now I can race without any cramping.

I am so thankful for all of the gluten free literature out there and living in the information age. It has changed my life.

lindsay said...

personally i think testing is the best way to see if you have an allergy/intolerance to a food. well, i mean a non-life-threatening allergy. obviously if you think you might go anaphlaxis you should do it in a supervised setting!

but, medical testing for intolerances is often not 'sound' enough (so they say themselves). even allergy testing they can't guarantee is accurate.

so, i definitely see the 'power' in self-testing your diet for a week or so. you just have to make sure you do it long enough. i have tested my diet a number of times with a variety of foods. it can be frustrating b/c it takes awhile - you probably won't get results for a week or two - but it's less invasive than a scope (how pleasant sounding!) and cheaper too :)

i hope you notice a change -- only b/c going gluten-free would be an easy fix for the digestive troubles and because it isn't too hard/expensive to have a gluten-free diet.

Anonymous said...

Eat Rice Cereal instead of Oatmeal. It is amazing and even more tasty!