top of page

IBS getting in the way of your exercise?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)…

If you take part in regular exercise the last thing you want is IBS kicking in before you’re about to start a session, or even worse in the middle of a session.

If you’re a diehard runner I’m sure at some point you might have experienced ‘runner's trots’ if you’ve eaten too much of a certain carbohydrate, maybe overloaded on sports gels or the famous pocket snack... jelly babies.

For those suffering with IBS this can be a frequent occurrence.

IBS can be brought on by many different responses to food, stress, anxiety or fluids (milk, caffeine, alcohol etc).

If you suffer from IBS you will experience regular abdominal pain, bloating and or changes in bowel habits, like diarrhea or constipation.

Not fun.

Imagine getting ready for a big lift, or sprinting your final length only to be stopped in your tracks by crippling stomach cramp.

If you are one of these people, restricting spicy, fatty food and caffeine seem to be commonly recommended for IBS, second to limiting your consumption of high FODMAP foods.

FODMAP foods are short chain carbohydrates which can ferment in your intestine, potentially causing you a world of pain and discomfort depending on how your gut microbiome (stomach and intestinal bacteria/microorganisms) and intestinal tract handles them.

The acronym stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols, all different molecule structures which make up common carbohydrates found in our fruit, vegetables and dairy products.

You might be able to eat the majority of the typical FODMAP foods, but struggle with the odd one or two.

If you suffer from IBS you probably notice certain foods which really get you going...

But just because you can’t eat certain foods at the moment doesn’t mean you won't be able to reintroduce them later on once you have resolved the underlying issue/s (gut/bacteria ratio).

A FODMAP diet isn’t intended to be for the long term.

The goal being to gradually introduce foods back into your diet and evaluate your tolerance as you continue to incorporate more food/s.

Foods such as...

  • cauliflower, beetroot

  • mushrooms

  • apples, pears, apricots, mango, nectarines, cherries

  • honey and agave + some sweeteners like sorbitol, mannitol and xylitol

  • leek, onion, garlic

  • peas, asparagus

  • ripe bananas

  • wheat, rye, barley

  • beans and lentils

  • asparagus

  • dairy (lactose)

  • avocado

This is generally due to the foods carbohydrate composition, fibre type and the amount you consume.

Dietary fibre is a conversation that should be had with IBS patients, ideally by a dietitian or a nutritionist who's specialties lie within gut or immune disorders.

Often dietary fibre can be used as a treatment of IBS through diet manipulation.

Depending on the individual you might want to increase or decrease fibre content along with altering the specific type of fibre.

Soluble fibre is a digestible form of fibre and has the potential to assist healthy digestion in those suffering with IBS.

Insoluble fibre is not digestible and is found commonly in cereals, wholegrain and root vegetables, which seem to aggregate IBS in most cases.

Those who suffer more from diarrhea or constipation have been shown to have beneficial responses to incorporating ground flaxseed/linseed in their diet, this seems to be due to the content of soluble fibre found within them.

So if you're a recreational athlete of any kind here are a few tips to avoid IBS around exercise…

  • Avoid FODMAP foods in your pre exercise meals (<24hrs)

  • Reduce frequency of workout supplementation

  • Reduce fibre content leading up to competition

To find out what foods really aggravates individual cases of IBS, you can either...

- Undertake an elimination diet regarding FODMAP foods and slowly incorporate single foods, one at a time, keeping record of how you/they react to said food.


- If you tend to only flair up from specific meals make a not of what you have eaten prior to any IBS symptoms, what ingredients you incorporated, and how you prepared them (Sometimes the cooking method can effect how foods are broken down and digested). Reconstruct the meal replacing or remove the foods you presume to be the issue.

If your IBS continues to cause you a problem after taking the previous steps then it may be wise to seek medical help encase your digestive issues are related to other medical conditions such as krones or immune diseases.

Best of luck



bottom of page