Gut Luck

How runners can improve overall gut health – and perhaps reduce the urgency of that pre-race pit stop

A runner’s diet isn’t always the healthiest; the combination of high sugar and processed food, combined with exercise, means many runners suffer some form of gut trouble. Here, I’ll discuss how to choose foods that soothe and strengthen the gut, and what to avoid to ensure everything works smoothly.

There has been much focus on the gut microbiome recently, as we now know that it plays a central part in immunity and well-being. The gut microbiome is essentially the balance of bacteria that resides in your digestive system. There are good bacteria and bad bacteria coexisting within this delicate ecosystem and an imbalance can quickly make us feel pretty awful. When the bad bacteria outnumber the good bacteria, we

can suffer gastric distress such as cramps, diarrhoea, constipation, bloating and flatulence which ultimately affects our emotional balance and performance. This is further complicated by stress and anxiety and even the motion of running in itself can increase symptoms.

So, as a runner I’m sure the last thing you want affecting your performance, especially on race day, are these kind of symptoms. Therefore it’s imperative that we do what we can to keep the gut bacteria in balance.

The foods and lifestyle choices that can affect the gut are inflammatory in nature and each person has an individual tolerance to these:

  • Processed food
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Refined sugar
  • Alcohol
  • Recreational drugs
  • Some prescription drugs
  • Caffeine
  • Stress

For optimum well-being I would recommend that you reduce all of the above to ensure that your gut has the best chance of remaining calm and healthy. That in itself massively reduces inflammation and strengthens your digestive health. That’s easier said than done, but any steps you can take towards reducing the burden on your gut will have a positive impact..

In addition, there are many things we can do on a daily basis to soothe and rebuild the gut.

  • Add herbal teas to your daily fluid intake. I’m a big fan of the Pukka tea range which include large doses of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients, for example, Pukka Turmeric Gold, Pukka Mint Refresh and Pukka Elderberry & Echinacea.
  • Add probiotics to your diet which boost the population of good bacteria in your gut. I really like the brand, Nourish Kefir. It’s a milk-based drink which contains billions of live bacteria. If you’re dairy intolerant, I recommend Rhythm Pure Coconut which is a kefir made from coconut milk.
  • Ensure you’re getting plenty of fibre ideally from fruits, vegetables, sweet potatoes and gluten free grains such as brown rice, quinoa and gluten free oats.
  • Include essential fat such as avocado, nuts, seeds, olive oil and if you eat fish, then particularly oily fish. Oils have a soothing and nourishing effect on the gut and help strengthen the gut lining.
  • The amino acid, Glutamine has been shown to be especially helpful in gastrointestinal health, as it’s a key nutrient used by the body to rebuild and repair.
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