Does exertional heat stress impact gastrointestinal function and symptoms?

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Objectives: Exertional-heat stress generates a thermoregulatory strain that exacerbates splanchnic hypoperfusion and sympathetic drive, but the effects on gastrointestinal function are poorly defined. The study aimed to determine the effects of exertional-heat stress on gastric myoelectrical activity, orocecal transit time (OCTT), and gastrointestinal symptoms (GIS). Design: Randomised cross-over study. Methods: Endurance runners (n = 16) completed 2 h of running at 60 % V̇O2max in 35 °C (HOT) and 22 °C (TEMP) ambient conditions. Surface electrogastrography (cEGG) was recorded pre- and post-exercise to determine gastric myoelectrical activity, a lactulose challenge was used to determine OCTT, and GIS were recorded using a modified visual analogue scale tool. Results: Post-exercise Tre [HOT:38.8(38.5 to 39.0)°C and TEMP:38.1(37.8 to 38.4)°C] and Δ Tre [HOT:2.2(2.0 to 2.4)°C and TEMP:1.5(1.2 to 1.8)°C] was higher on HOT compared to TEMP (p < 0.001). Normal gastric myoelectrical cycle frequency reduced (p = 0.010) on HOT [− 11.7(− 20.8 to − 2.6)%], but this decrease did not differ (p = 0.058) from TEMP [− 2.7(− 8.3 to 3.0)%]. Bradygastria increased post-exercise on both trials (HOT:11.3(2.3 to 20.4)%, p = 0.030; and TEMP:7.4(2.1 to 12.6)%, p = 0.009). OCTT did not differ between trials (p = 0.864) with transit response classified as very slow on both HOT (99(68 to 131)min) and TEMP (98(74 to 121)min). GIS incidence was higher on HOT (88 %) compared to TEMP (81 %), in accordance with greater total-GIS and upper-GIS severity (p = 0.005 and p = 0.033, respectively). Conclusions: Running for 2 h at 60 % V̇O2max in either hot or temperate ambient conditions instigates perturbations in myoelectrical activity and OCTT, with GIS incidence and severity greater in hot conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)960-967
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Science and Medicine in Sport
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


  • Electrogastrography
  • Gastrointestinal motility
  • Gastrointestinal transit
  • Heat
  • Running
  • Symptoms

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