digestion issues for athletes

Do you suffer from digestive issues?

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Bloating, indigestion, reflux, nausea, excessive gas or wind, abdominal pain and irregular bowels are extremely common symptoms reported by many people and are associated with poor digestive function.  Did you know that poor digestion can also cause fatigue, headaches and lack of concentration? 

There are many causes of these annoying and sometimes debilitating symptoms – the most common being low stomach acid, lack of digestive enzymes, bacterial overgrowth, microbiome disturbances and parasites.  But how to you know which it is? Where do you start? 

Most people turn to food elimination diets such as FODMAPS, LCFH, Paleo or Gluten Free in order to find relief from symptoms. In most instances’ symptoms do reduce due to the low fibre nature of these protocols but unless you get to the root cause of the issue, this approach will be short lived and a low fibre diet is not a healthy long-term solution.    Fun fact … gluten (a protein found in wheat) does NOT cause bloating as many people assume, it is the carbohydrate component of wheat (called fructan) that ferments in the gut and causes bloating and distention. 

Another common approach people take when try to find relief from symptoms is to take a probiotic supplement – often one advertised with millions of bacteria to help, but if your issue is bacterial overgrowth or gut dysbiosis these types of supplements can make matters worse.   

The long-term implications of poor digestive function are wide – with the primary concern being nutrient deficiencies, in particular Iron, B12, Folate and Zinc – all essential micronutrients that are easily obtained from food, but only if the digestive system is working effectively. 

I find that many athletes suffer from digestive issues from time to time, and become very frustrated when it starts to impact training and recovery. Athletes are at a greater risk of digestive issues due to the inflammatory effects of endurance exercise, the exposure to contaminated food and water (ie swimming in waterways for triathlons, drinking from taps/streams on long trail runs) and increased amount of carbohydrates in the diet to support high load of training, and endurance sessions. 

An appointment with a qualified nutritionist or naturopath can help you to determine the best approach to take in trying to resolve your digestive issues. There are a number of tests available to help in the diagnosis – but they can be expensive, so you need to make sure you are using the right tests. Many people assume that Food Intolerance testing is a good option – and whilst this type of testing is great in some instances, it is not useful for determining the cause of bloating or excess wind. 

If you are experiencing issues with any of the above-mentioned symptoms and would like some help – please get in touch, or visit my website to book an appointment online. I am available face to face in Balgowlah or via Phone/Skype. 

Tamara Madden

Tamara Madden (Nutritionist)

I am a passionate and realistic qualified nutritionist and a high-quality athlete. I love food and exercise and supporting my clients to achieve their goals and optimum performance.

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