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!