It was a Saturday morning in the middle of nowhere and I just had run out of D-Mannose. I was very annoyed with myself; when my boyfriend had asked if I had enough capsules left for our Patagonian adventure, I had distractedly given the D-Mannose box a shake and said “yeah”.
So it’s an understatement to say I was feeling pretty sheepish as we zoomed along the dusty roads, in our small rickety rental car, towards the one health store we could find online. Which was closing in 20 minutes.
I ran into the store with 5 minutes to spare and thrust the empty box into the poor sales woman’s hands, trying to explain in my (very) broken Spanish that I needed these to avoid dying a fiery cystitis death in Patagonia. After a few moments, she returned with only my empty box and a “sorry, no”.
I emerged from the shop feeling pretty glum. Okay, so I hadn’t really expected this tiny shop in the countryside to stock D-Mannose after I’d struggled to find it in shops in London, but a small part of me had hoped that maybe I was wrong. And now all hope was gone. Short of stuffing my face with the berries growing around the grounds of our BnB (which wouldn’t have worked anyway as our bodies can’t absorb enough D-Mannose from fruit to actually make a difference to UTIs), I realised I was looking at the reality of a D-Mannose-less existence for the next 3 weeks. I thought I might cry.
I returned to the car, deflated, and hoping that my (up until then) regular supplement taking might carry me through until we flew home. I was just going to have to be extra mindful and extra careful.
The problem, I realised, was that since I’d perfected my urinary care regime with regular supplement taking, I’d become complacent about it; everything was going well, and I just assumed it would continue to go well anywhere I went. But when you’re travelling, routines get turned on their heads and it’s easy to put self-care on the back burner through complacency.
Travelling, with all its unknowns, can be anxiety provoking at the best of times. When you are prone to UTIs, it can become downright scary very quickly. Regardless of the type of trip, travelling changes our environment and disrupts our routine. It can force us to step out of our comfort zones and go with the flow, (particularly if we are travelling with others). We might rest and wash less, but drink (alcohol) and have sex more. In short, travelling has all the ingredients and all the potential to wreak cystitisy hell if we are not careful.
But there’s no reason you shouldn’t have great adventures just like all the other less urethrally challenged people! You just need to be cystitis-aware and cystitis-prepared. And here are my pearls of wisdom on how to do that.
Before you go travelling
1. Count your supplements
Take some time to actually physically count your supplements (no box shaking, please), and do this far enough in advance of your trip so that you can get more supplements if you need them. Also take some extra supplements with you just in case! If you think you can get more supplements wherever you’re travelling to, check this out before (but better to just have everything you need with you from the start, I’d say!)
2. Set a ‘supplements alarm’ on your phone
It’s easy to fall out of routine when you’re travelling, so giving yourself a digital nudge is just plain good sense! Set an alarm on your phone to remind you to take your supplements, and if you take a few a day, set multiple alarms and carry supplements with you (they’re only little!)
3. Make a list of your cystitis ‘triggers’
Sex? Dehydration? Not taking your supplements? Even if you know your triggers, it can be easy to waive them aside when you’re travelling. Try and stay mindful of your behaviour, and to remain cautious (e.g. remembering to pee before and after sex, not getting stupid drunk every single day, keeping to your supplements alarm).
4. Get some “just in case” antibiotics
If you get UTIs regularly, make an appointment to see our GP before you travel and ask for emergency antibiotics. This means that if you get an infection somewhere where medical care isn’t easily accessible, you don’t need to panic.
...and once you're there...
5. Always carry water!
This applies whether you are in the middle of nowhere or in a bustling city (at least until you know what’s what in terms of shop locations, opening times etc). It will also help you feel more in control, so you can act quickly if you do feel that familiar twinge…
6. Take small sips
I know it can be tempting to take massive gulps of water when you think you might have cystitis coming on, but try and resist! Small sips will hydrate you more effectively, and also keep you feeling calm. Win.
7. Drink (water) regularly
Stay ahead of the game! Even if you feel fine, drink water- it helps keep you hydrated, and reduces the chance of an infection developing by continuously flushing out your bladder.
8. Scope out the nearest toilet
Even if you don’t need to go, knowing where the toilets are is always reassuring if you are prone to cystitis. This means that if disaster strikes you know where to head, even in the middle of the night.
9. Pack a hot water bottle
They don’t take up much space and they can be a real lifesaver if you do get cystitis (or period pains). It’s also worth finding out where you can access boiling water as soon as you arrive at your accommodation. Outside of the UK, hotel rooms don’t tend to have kettles in so it’s important to locate one (even if it’s just for an emergency cup of tea). So scope out the kettle and be prepared!
10. Tell your fellow travellers
If you’re travelling with others, consider letting them know that you are prone to UTIs. If they know, they can be more accommodating and supportive. It will also make it easier to say no to stuff if you’re not feeling well, which is a real relief when you have a UTI.
11. Allocate a cystitis ‘section’ in your day bag
Keep reading to find out what to fill it with...
12. Carry toilet paper/tissues
If you’re hiking and you get cystitis, you don’t want to be wiping your delicate parts with leaves. Avoid an ants-in-pants scenario by coming prepared with a small wodge of toilet paper. And remember (for the ladies): always wipe front to back!
13. Carry the correct supplements
Have some D-Mannose on you at all times. Make sure you keep to your travelling supplement alarm schedule.
14. Carry painkillers or temporary pain relief
If you have an infection that needs treatment then painkillers can’t cure the problem, but they can buy you some time if you aren’t able to leave a situation immediately. Ibuprofen or Paracetamol can do the trick to reduce inflammation. Azo can help make peeing more comfortable. If the pain goes away and stays away then maybe your body has fixed itself and that’s great, but if it persists for a few days make sure you get the correct medical attention.
So there you have it, fourteen tips to keep your urethra happy wherever you are in the world! Remember that being prepared is also a state of mind, and that knowing you are prepared can actually contribute towards keeping you empowered, calm and healthy.
Chickpea's Cranberry and D-Mannose Care Pack is now available to order online. Recommended by NICE and NHS guidelines, the supplement subscription helps those prone to recurrent cystitis to maintain improved urinary health and reduced UTI occurrences.
For more information, and to take advantage of the introductory offer, click here.