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IBS is a Bad Sport

IBS has a way of working itself into every corner of your life. That includes sports. It doesn’t matter how fit you are: If your gut decides to throw a tantrum on the day of an event or competition, it can really wreck your performance.

IBS, travel and competitive sports

I’m no elite athlete, but I do like to stay active. My husband and I are into a sport called orienteering. It’s a race where you use a map and compass to navigate point to point in unfamiliar terrain, usually forests. It’s well known in Northern Europe, but a real niche activity in the U.S. The objective is to find all the points in order in the fastest time possible. It’s a great combination of physical and mental challenge in the outdoors.

We travel around the country, and even the world, for orienteering events. Which means that I have had IBS-driven memories in forests from Texas to New Hampshire, and from to Sweden to Slovenia!

Before my aging knees became a limiting factor, I tried hard to beat the other women in my age category. That meant a lot of running. And you don’t need to have IBS to know that running will really loosen things up down there… Plus, I got so nervous before events, I would end up trapped in the port-o-potty before the start. Not a big deal when there are 20 units; really embarrassing when there are only one or two and people are waiting. I was tempted to stave it off with something like Imodium, but because I have the “alternating” type of IBS, stopping things up artificially could make things worse for me later.

On more than one occasion, I found myself out on the course, and my system still hadn’t calmed down. The good news is that the forest is essentially one big bathroom: You find some pine needles or leaves to use in place of toilet paper (I don’t support leaving actual toilet paper in the woods), quickly dig a little hole far from water sources, and try to have a positive, “can-go” attitude! As far as I know, no one has ever spotted me hiding behind a boulder. They were nice enough not to say so if they did.

It was tougher to deal with the abdominal pain I suffered from when diagnosed with IBS-A in 2010. (Coincidentally, I likely brought home the C. diff infection that possibly triggered my major attack from an orienteering event in Scotland). My stomach hurt from the bouncing motion of running. I could only make it a few steps before the pain made me stop. For months, I watched other people run by me and wished I could go faster than a walk.

Now that I’m more of a recreational participant than a competitive one, I don’t get quite so nervous. That has helped. But you know how it is with travel and IBS: Some odd food could trigger a flare-up, and certainly has before. So I make sure to bring my own breakfast foods and stick to my routine. Which includes more time in the port-o-potty. There ought to be one with my name on it!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The IrritableBowelSyndrome.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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