Dietary Patterns in Runners with Gastrointestinal Disorders

Nutrients. 2021 Jan 29;13(2):448. doi: 10.3390/nu13020448.

Kelly Anne Erdman 1, Kim Wagner Jones 2, Robyn F Madden 3, Nancy Gammack 3, Jill A Parnell 3


Author information

  • 1Canadian Sport Institute, Calgary, AB T3B 6B7, Canada.
  • 2Helios Wellness Centres, Calgary, AB T2N 4Z6, Canada.
  • 3Health and Physical Education, Mount Royal University, Calgary, AB T3E 6K6, Canada.


Individuals with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and reflux frequently experience gastrointestinal symptoms (GIS), potentially enhanced by high-intensity running. Food avoidances, food choices, and GIS in runners with IBS/IBD (n = 53) and reflux (n = 37) were evaluated using a reliability and validity tested questionnaire. Comparisons to a control group of runners (n = 375) were made using a Fisher's Exact test. Runners with IBS/IBD experienced the greatest amount of exercise-induced GIS followed by those with reflux. Commonly reported GIS were stomach pain/cramps (77%; 53%), bloating (52%; 50%), intestinal pain/cramps (58%; 33%), and diarrhea (58%; 39%) in IBS/IBD and reflux groups respectively. In the pre-race meal, those with IBS/IBD frequently avoided milk products (53%), legumes (37%), and meat (31%); whereas, runners with reflux avoided milk (38%), meat (36%), and high-fibre foods (33%). When considering food choices pre-race, runners with IBS/IBD chose grains containing gluten (40%), high fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols (FODMAP) fruits (38%), and water (38%). Runners with reflux chose water (51%), grains containing gluten (37%), and eggs (31%). In conclusion, while many runners with IBS/IBD and reflux are avoiding trigger foods in their pre-race meals, they are also consuming potentially aggravating foods, suggesting nutrition advice may be warranted.

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