Are you one of the many people who find that once they start doing some exercise, particularly vigorous stuff like running, you get a sudden urge to open your bowels? More often than not it’s a runny motion too. Why does exercise give you diarrhoea? Is there such a thing as exercise-induced poop? It’s so annoying, can be really inconvenient (think crouching in the bushes) and actually put you off being active in the first place. It’s a very common problem so I thought I’d answer it for my #QuickQuestion this week.

The honest answer is, we don’t really know what causes you to poo when you exercise but there are some theories that make sense and it’s probably a combination of them:

  • The adrenaline released during exercise (and when you have pre-race nerves) speeds you up but also quickens your bowel transit time too. Stools pass through the gut more quickly, leaving less time for water to be reabsorbed, and the result is a loose and sometimes explosive motion
  • When you exercise, your bowels literally jiggle about inside you, this upsets and irritates them so they empty
  • Muscles need an increased blood flow when you exercise, to supply them with oxygen and take away the waste products. The big skeletal muscles are prioritised over your gut so there’s less blood flow to the bowel which affects its function.

People with bowel conditions such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Inflammatory Bowel Disease seem to be more troubled by the ‘exercise trots’ than others. Women who have weak pelvic floor muscles often struggle too as the extra pressure of high impact exercise can be too much for the pelvic floor to cope with. You might find that exercising too soon after eating is your trigger and certain foods, caffeine or sports fuels can make it worse too.

So, you aren’t alone! These are some of the theories and next week’s #QuickQuestion will offer some tips on how to ease it.

There are more answers to questions like these and lots of health information to help you lead a happy and active life in my book Sorted: The Active Woman’s Guide to Health.
Disclaimer: I can’t give personal medical advice and as always with health advice, reading something online doesn’t replace seeing your doctor who knows your medical history and can assess you in person.  So, if you are unsure then always seek the opinion of a health care professional. 
Photo credit: Photo by Hafidz Alifuddin via Pexels

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