Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Faecal blood loss in response to exercise.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1987; 295 doi: (Published 01 August 1987) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1987;295:303
  1. J D Robertson,
  2. R J Maughan,
  3. R J Davidson
  1. Department of Environmental and Occupational Medicine, University Medical School, Foresterhill, Aberdeen.


    Recently qualitative tests have indicated that gastrointestinal bleeding during exercise may be an important contributory factor in sports anaemia. In six healthy men who walked 37 km on four consecutive days faecal haemoglobin content remained normal (reference range 0.10-2.53 mg/g faeces) with no significant differences between values. In 28 marathon runners who refrained from taking drugs or food containing blood the median faecal haemoglobin content increased by 0.42 mg/g faeces (95% confidence interval 0.12 to 0.83 mg/g) from 1.06 (0.86 to 1.31) mg/g before the race. In 13 runners who had taken drugs before the race the corresponding increase in the median faecal haemoglobin content was 0.87 (-0.03 to 2.20) mg/g from the value before the race of 0.93 (0.46 to 1.55) mg/g. Prolonged walking had no effect on gastrointestinal blood loss. Intense endurance exercise in the form of marathon running induced a significant but clinically unimportant increase. This may be exaggerated by the ingestion of drugs and assume importance in causing iron deficiency and sports anaemia. The use of drugs, particularly analgesics, by marathon runners should be actively discouraged.