Yesterday was the Cleveland Marathon and met with so many of my close running friends. The event went smooth for me however not so smooth for couple of my friends. Some were running the half and some were planning on running the full but ended up with a DNF due to stomach issues. The one thing they all had in common: Ibuprofen or NSAID.
Let me first say I am not a doctor and this post is not meant to go in great details on the effect of ibuprofen and running. If you want more details, talk to your doctor or head to Google and do your own research.
Just like many, I learned from my own mistakes. When I first started running and was ready for my first half marathon, that morning I took couple of Motrin to minimize some pain I had in my ankle. About an hour after finishing, I experienced the worst pain in my stomach that I can remember and spent the day in the bathroom or in a fetal position holding my stomach. After doing my research I learned that taking the Motrin was the cause for my stomach pain.
So why these over the counter pain killers are causing this?
Let me first say that if you think you can’t run or finish a race without taking these medications, then you got a problem that you might want to get it checked out by a doctor and you shouldn’t be running. If you just like to take them as a preventive to any potential pain or think it might give you an edge in the race then you might want to re think that option.
There are two main reasons for avoiding these medications before runs or any strenuous exercise: 1- stomach damage 2- kidney damage.
These drugs reduce the blood flow to the stomach and duodenal lining. This impairs healing and reduces the mucus layer that forms a protective barrier in the gut. Without this layer, stomach acid can damage the gut lining. This is why if you read the label, it is recommended to take these medications with food. When you are running you are unlikely to be doing so.
The body then will process these drugs through your kidneys. Your kidneys are already working hard during a race or a long run and more so when you are dehydrated. Adding these drugs to the load on your kidneys can lead to hyponatremia or cause kidney failure.
Dealing with injuries can be tough but if pain killers are the only way to get you out the door to race or exercise then it might be better to take time off and let things heal. In the long run, this might be the smart choice.