Stomach Cramps

Could someone please advise me. I am sick to death of getting servere stomach cramps every time I go running. I've tried running on an empty stomach, waiting atleast 3 hours after eating, I've even been on 'no wheat' and 'no yeast' diets. I've paid a nutritionalist to try and sort out my problem (she failed), and I've been to the doctors about this (medication did not work).
I'm trying to build up my mileage and just can't. The pain in my stomach becomes unbearable - I have to stop.
Does anyone else know what the cause may be and hopefully the cure?
My diet is very sensible. I don't binge on fatty foods and I drink 2 litres of water a day. It's not energy bars/drinks because I'm not using them yet. I don't know what to do it's disheartening.
I ran a marathon and then spent 6 hours in the afternoon in total agony running in and out of the bathroom! I want to run a full marathon.


  • Alright I'm no quack but does this just come on after running or any time, also I've looked at your profile and I'm afraid I can't sus out if your are m or f (without being to rude, sorry ) Assuming you know the difference between stomach cramp and a stitch could this be irritable bowel syndrome or a spastic colon or something or , maybe , gulp the dreaded "ladies problems" ( delete if a bloke )
  • I sometimes suffer a similar problem when out on the road but not on a treadmill, I think it is due to the difference in running styles – I think I may move up and down a little too much out on the road , which in turn bounces my stomach about a bit. (On a treadmill I run smother as it mover under me)

    To counter this I take a couple of ‘Tums’ or similar before I run

  • Hi Mercury,
    I'm female and I've always been in to sport but not running. It's definitely not a stitch. I have actually almost fainted from it on a couple of occassions and once a friend had to carry me home because it was so painful. I know when it gets bad because I go from being red in the face to a deathly white and feel all dizzy. The pain usually comes on after about 3 miles and seems to get really bad during hot weather. I do get it on the treadmill but only when I push myself hard.
    ...and it's not those 'womens' problems.
  • Not 'T u r n s' but 'T u m s' for acid and indigestion (I suffer from reflux)

  • Oh 'Tums' - I haven't tried them. I've tried some chalky/minty things. I'll give them a whirl tomorrow.
  • Effie, you mentioned "running in and out of the bathroom". Does that mean that you had diarrhoea, or repeatedly felt as if you needed to open your bowels but when you tried there was nothing there except a spot of mucus, perhaps with a bit of blood in it?

    If so, the pain is likely to be coming from your large intestine. If you only get it while running, it's probably not irritable bowel syndrome or a food intolerance.

    Two likely explanations:

    1. When you work really hard at your running, blood gets diverted from some of your internal organs to cool your skin. This means that the muscular wall of your large intestine gets starved of blood and the result is painful cramps, nausea, and the colour changes you describe so vividly. This is thought to be of limited relevance because cyclists and swimmers don't get runner's trots.

    2. At three different points in your abdomen, the large intestine is quite loose and mobile, and running makes it swing around, slap against other organs, pull on its own nerve and blood supply, and sets up a chain of events leading to cramps.

    There isn't anything in a bottle that's likely to help. I'd suggest trying slower runs for a while and doing your heavy cardiovascular work on the bike, in the pool, or on the elliptical cross-trainer (less bouncy than running).

    I do hope it settles.

    Cheers, V-rap.
  • Effie

    I suffer from exactly the same thing, and the answer, once I found it, is extremely simple. Its called the 'Runners Trots' or an intolerance to lactose. Apparently its quite common amongst serious runners. Like you I only suffer after about 3-4 miles when running outside. All you need to to is avoid ALL diary food or food that contains any amount of lactose/dairy for 24 hours before you run and you'll find the result miraculus. (Quite difficult I know, but you get used to fruit tea and soya milk!). Try it and let me know if it works for you. Reason is that the body can't digest diary food very well and the combination of that, the lactic acid build up when you exercise and the motion of running on a hard surface (hence its not so bad on a treadmill) is what causes the tummy upset in sensitive souls.
  • Thank you for your response. I bought some 'tums' on my break.
    I think Velociraptor was 'spot on'. I normally suffer from pains and cramps when my mileage is low. When I run further and when I raced I suffered from extreme diarrhoea, bleeding (which actually got me worried), and t'was a little breezy below! My stomach was painful to the touch and looked bloated and had a pulse! - it was moving in and out without me doing anything. It is exhausting, I don't think normal runners understand how upsetting this can get.
    I'll try coming off diary foods for a while but Louise are you not worried that you won't be getting enough calcium?
    Thanks for your ideas I will try all of them out.
  • If you haven't already looked at the lactose-intolerance angle with your nutritionist, it's certainly worth a try, Effie. The "breeziness" would fit with this possibility.

    Not all dairy products contain lactose, and several non-dairy foods are quite good sources of calcium. Cheese (which contains the fat and protein from the milk but not the lactose, which drains off in the whey) and yogurt (in which the lactose is pre-digested by bacteria) are usually well tolerated even by the lactose-intolerant. Calcium-fortified soya milk products (check the label) and calcium-fortified orange juice are available. Some nuts, tahini, tofu, and tinned salmon and sardines are good sources of calcium, and if you eat plenty of fruit and veg you are more likely to retain the calcium you do eat.

    Let us know how you get on.

    Cheers, V-rap.
  • Thank you very much. I'll try this diet. I have a half-marathon in September so it's well worth a try.
  • Thank you for your replies.
    I think it is Lactose-Intolerance. I went on a dairy free diet and the pain seemed to ease off. Then I went out for a meal last Saturday and had pasta in a white source (I was enjoying myself and totally forgot about the diet) - I was back to square one come my VERY, VERY long Sunday run (I got lost).
    Atleast I now know what the cause is, I've now just need to get used to being on a diet. The next time I see my doctor I'll tell him I'm on a diet and ask for a food guide.
    I can't begin to tell you guys how good it is to know at last what the cause is. Now I can adjust my diet to accommodate my running and hopefully achieve my running goals.
  • Hi

    I'm pleased it worked for you too! I know I found it very demoralising too until I found the cause. Diet's not too difficult - just requires a bit of planning and you get used to reading the labels on everything in the supermatket!

    Cheers Louise
  • Louise

    I also seem to be a sensitive soul, not tried the diary free option, will start from now - means I have to change the meal I had planned for this evening!! as I am running tomorrow night!!

    Did you have any tests to see if you were intolerant or just tried by excluding dairy products?

  • Hi Whizzy
    No, no tests, but just tried by excluding dairy 24 hours before going for a run and the result was miraculous. I found out about it through the web by accident when I was looking for similar symptoms experienced by others - apparently it is quite common .....

    You can get a test from your doctor I think, but they only usually want to do it if you are experiencing major problems day to day.

    Hope it works for you too.

  • Thanks - I am certainly going to try this as I am getting to the stage where I am going to give up running as I am fed up with getting caught so often

  • I cannot begin to tell you how relieved I am after reading the various correspondence about runners trots. I have just started running (seriously) again after an absence of about almost 10 years. I had never had any problems with my tum but over the last 6 weeks I was starting to get seriously worried. Not only was I getting cramps and pain but a does of windy pops as well!! This was so bad after I had stopped my run I had an appt booked at my doctors I was so concerned. However I think I might try the dairy free diet to see if this helps as it sounds as if Effie was experiencing exactly the same problem as myself. I, however, start to find it bothering me after about a mile and a half and it is very tiresome.
  • Just to ressurect this thread again.. been reading with interest as I also seem to suffer from "Runner's trots"....

    I had to nip in to a pub on my long run today.. it was full of families and this sweaty bloke in lycra shorts and vest turns up looking rather anxiously for the loos!!...

    Will try the lactose thingy..... I had an energy gel just before setting off... can this trigger it??

    It got so bad that 2 miles from home I had to go in a ditch... i'll spare you the details.. my wife went on and got the car (aah sweetie)...

    Got some serious milage to do soon so need to sort this out...

    It started after about 8 miles... was drinking plenty of water....

    The Badger...
  • Have been reading this long thread with great interest and glad that the Badger has started it again just last week.

    I have been running on and off for years (nothing serious though and not very far either). I recently started again in order to lose some weight - I love running and I really want to be able to call myself a "runner". However, I too suffer badly from the trots - so bad that after about 15-20mins I start having pains and then the "follow through" happens. Once it starts I can't stop it and I end up having to call home for my partner to come and get me or I walk home in tears trying desparately not to let anyone see what's happened!

    This is humiliating and I've now had to give up running. I'm very sad and want to start up again - think I'll try the dairy-free option or tums. Not sure if taking tums every day I'm running is healthy though. Are there any running doctors out there who can help - my GP hasn't got a clue!
  • Salbal

    Why don't you run from home in a loop for about 15 minutes or however long you need, pop home as required and then go out again only this time, all should be OK as it were.

    So many people suffer from this - there is no cure you just have to learn to live with it and work around if you want to run.

    Give it a go and let me know how you get on.
  • Hi

    There is no cure, so to speak, but if you try the diary/lactose free diet, then I'm sure you will find, like me, that the results are miraculous. I had all the same problems that you are all describing and now, so long as I refrain from any diary/lactose for 24 hours before I run, then I'm 100%OK for however long I run for. Some of the fresh soya products on the market are really not that bad - even in tea to which I'm an addict!

    It is a very common intolerance apparently, the body can't digest lactose very well and some react worse than others, but most people have it in some form - and it obviously reacts badly with the action of running! There are lots of web sites on the subject - try - there are plenty of web rings from there that you can follow for info. (Unfortunately, I've not found one specific to running yet, so let me know if you do)
  • Well I tried the dairy free/lactose free diet and I am afraid to say that it did not work for me - I keep trying it out just in case and no joy.
  • Just found this on a running site ...... gives hope that there are others out there! And some other suggestions if the lactose theory doesn't work for you ...

    Look under "Runners Trots"

  • hmmmmm
    it said, drink plenty, avoid lactose and go to the loo
    Did I miss something
  • I think i've read most articles on this now.....
    all i've worked out for me is try to avoid stuff that is too spicy or normally gives me a dodgy stomach anyway (too much red wine or beer etc)...
    not too much cheese...
    curiously not too much water (i do drink a lot)....
    not too much caffeine......
    any plenty of fruit...
    also I never run on an "empty" stomach... always eat some jelly babies or a few buscuits ot something to line my stomach...

    not very scientific but works for me...

    (that is at the moment!!)
    I also notice that it is much worse when it is hot which holds with the theory of Ischema or lack of blood to the intestine as your trying to keep cool (blood to capillaries)...

    Don't let it put you off...... The Badger..
  • i dont go out util ive been to the loo
    And i take immodium on race days, triple strength
  • Badger

    Interesting comment about not running on an empty stomach. I recently spoke to a medic about this problem and he said to eat something such as banana about an hour before running to effectively stop the colon moving around??

    I also agree wtih the heat, does seem to make it worse
  • have read all of the related threads with interest - as i have been suffering from gut cramps followed by very sudden and painful need to releive myself if i ever ran over 4 miles, which was quite spoiling my running, for about half a year now.

    i thought it was related to stress and IBS, which i have experienced in the past when over worked and/or neglecting my diet

    so...its great to know that it is a common condition, and thanks for all the useful suggestions to try out.

    personally, i have found that if i avoid coffee, for half a day before running, and try to eat 'simple', and not at all in the 2 hours before my run - and make sure i 'go' before setting off, its ok usually. - and i'll neck a couple of immodium (or sainsbury's own) before a race.

    another theory - has any one else found that ANY THING with lucozade on the label consumed before the run is garanteed to have you diving for the bushes??? evil products!
  • I've tried to read all but to add my bit, I've been running since I was 13, I'm now 33, & have always suffered from the trots, and the bad cramps to such an extent that I'm doubled over in pain, the result is the following: I'm intollerant to...
    Anything from a cow, yeast, E220-227, MSG or E621, Oranges, Egg Yolk, cocktail nuts unfortunately this means no chinese foods, no dried foods, no nut products, etc etc. I use a lot of soya products, but do eat Pork, chicken, lots of veg, salad. I unfortunately have to stay away from fruit cos that seems to have the same effect. Although eating out is really difficult, I now run pain free & runners trots free.
  • its amazing how badly designed we really are, isn't it???
  • SticklessStickless ✭✭✭
    For those that don't do dairy, but don't really like soya, Rice Dream, original or (yum yum) vanilla is very acceptable for some purposes. Tasting a bit like skim milk, either goes well on cereal or fruit, and the original does very acceptable in soups, white sauces and so on (try thickening it with coconut milk for an oriental flavour).
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