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Dietary Considerations for People With Special Needs Running the Marathon

If you are participating in a marathon and have gluten sensitivity or lactose intolerance, you may need to follow a specialised diet to obtain the required nutrition. These medical conditions may need you to avoid some foods and substitute them with other foods to gain the essential nutrients required to stay healthy, stay strong and keep running.1

Gluten sensitivity

Gluten is a type of protein found mostly in cereals such as wheat, rye and barley. Gluten sensitivity can cause intestinal damage, leading to a condition known as celiac disease. Symptoms such as diarrhoea, abdominal pain, bloating, fatigue, muscle pain, nausea, vomiting and irritability are commonly observed in celiac disease. In addition to these symptoms, the intestinal damage caused by gluten can result in malabsorption; that is, certain nutrients from other foods are not absorbed well. Gluten sensitivity, if ignored, can affect the quality of life and the performance of runners.1,2

Special diet for gluten-sensitive runners

If you have gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, it is highly recommended to avoid the foods containing gluten. As this condition doesn’t have any specific treatment or cure, prevention is the best practice. Following a gluten-free diet is not difficult, as gluten-free foods are readily available in the market. Make sure to find the gluten-free labels while choosing foods made of wheat, rye and barley. You can even substitute them with non-gluten grains such as rice, corn, oats, millets, quinoa, sorghum and others.2

Lactose intolerance

Lactose intolerance is a condition in which the body is unable to digest lactose, a sugar primarily found in dairy products. People with lactose intolerance can experience symptoms such as bloating, gas and abdominal cramps when they consume dairy products. Runners can experience gastrointestinal complaints during training or running, impacting their performance.3

Special diet for lactose-intolerant runners

As milk and milk products are very rich in several nutrients such as calcium and potassium, avoiding them can result in the deficiency of those nutrients. Hence, go for alternative options to get the required nourishment. Lactose-free products such as soya- and coconut-based products can be chosen instead of dairy products. To obtain your daily calcium and potassium requirements, you can substitute the dairy products with other foods as shown in the following figure.3-5

Good Sources of Calcium and Potassium3-5

Strictly avoiding the triggers and choosing substitutes can help fulfil your nutritional needs without missing out on nutrients. Follow meal plans that work right for you. Eat wise and go for the run.1

Kindly contact our nutritionist on the toll-free number mentioned below.

1.Coaching Association of Canada. Sport Nutrition for Athletes and Coaches. ON, Canada: Coaching Association of Canada; 2016.
2. Mayo clinic. Nutrition and healthy eating. Arizona, USA: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2014.
3. NIH. Lactose Intolerance. MD, USA: The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases; 2014.
4. NIH. Calcium: Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet. MD, USA: Office of Dietary Supplements; 2016.
5. Queensland government. Foods that contain potassium (K+). Queensland, Australia: Queensland Health Dietitian/ Nutritionists; 2012.