Healthy Drinks

‘I’m a Urologist, and Here’s How To Help Your Bladder Stay Healthy and Free From Irritation When Traveling’

Photo: Getty Images/Alina RudyaBell Collective
There's no doubt that seeing more of the world is a transformative, life-enriching experience—but it also tends to throw your body out of whack. Whether you can't shake your jet lag or just always a little bit, er, backed up while you're on the road, it pays to do a little self-care planning ahead of time so you can make the most out of your trip. Unsurprisingly, one bladder expert says that your urinary system may feel the 10,000 feet effect as well—so keeping a few bladder health traveling tips in your back pocket is a good idea before you board.

According to urologist Karyn S. Eilber, MD, co-founder of personal lubricant company Glissant, there are a few factors that can change how you're feeling down there while you travel—and all of them are important to look out for as you see the sites, partake in food and drink, and meet new folks. Below, Dr. Eilber lists the three most common culprits of bladder irritation while you're traveling (plus, how to prevent them).

First thing's first: How can you tell if your bladder is irritated on vacation?

Good question. Dr. Eilber says that there a few dead-giveaways that your bladder is unhappy with you. "If you're purposely not drinking a lot and you're still having a lot of frequent urges to go [to the bathroom] then you may have a little bladder infection, or if you're having associated pain," she says.

Generally speaking, Dr. Eilber says these symptoms should pass if within 24 hours, as everything you've had to drink leaves your system. If you start to run a fever or experience chills, though, it's time to see a doctor.

3 common culprits of bladder irritation while you're traveling and how prevent them

1. Drinking more spirits and coffee, and less water

When you're on vacay, your usual beverage rotation may get interrupted (and, hey, that's alright). Maybe you're drinking more coffee to outrun jetlag, enjoying an extra glass or two of wine, or simply not carrying your emotional support water bottle everywhere you go. "Typical bladder irritants are caffeinated drinks, carbonated drinks, alcohol, and anything acidic," says Dr. Eilber. "It's not necessarily bad in the long run for your overall health, but you might be like, 'gee, why am I urinating so frequently. Oh, it's because I had, you know, four cups of coffee this morning and three glasses of wine night before.'" Relatable?

If this sounds like something you experience on vacation, Dr. Eilber recommends making a point of checking in with your body and asking: "Am I thirsty? Is the next glass of wine going to be amazing, or is it going to make my bladder feel worse?" There's no judgment in these questions. "If you're thirsty, drink; if you're not, don't worry about it. If you feel like you're having some bladder discomfort, maybe don't drink that glass of red wine and opt for something that's a little less acidic. Or, if you're urinating very, very frequently, you know, maybe you don't have that second cup of coffee or that extra cocktail when you go out," says Dr. Eilber.

2. You're having... a little more sex than usual

If you tend to feel a little more frisky in far-flung destinations, you're far from alone. "If you're hooking up more, that can definitely put you at a higher risk of bladder infection," says Dr. Eilber. "Sexual activity in general puts women at higher risk for bladder infection."

Sex essentially pushes bacteria into the urethra (which is one of the reasons why it's really important to go pee after your intimate moments). While you may be able to help treat symptoms of a urinary tract infection (UTI) by drinking plenty of water, using a heating pad, and (you guessed it) avoiding irritating beverages, you should also see a doctor if pain persists.

3. Being in a new environment

Maybe you have a specific stall in the office that's your favorite place to go number one... and now, you're missing it. While this is sort of a silly example, being plunged into a new schedule can, indeed, affect your bladder health. "Let's say you just like to drink lots and lots of fluids and when you're home and it's really easy, you know, just use the restroom, that's fine, but then you may want to cut back on your fluids [when you're traveling]," says Dr. Eilber. Alternatively, you may continue drinking the same amount of water, then struggle to find a bathroom in the city you're exploring.

All of this can place stress on your bladder, but in this case, you can hack it with the right balance of a go-with-the-flow attitude and pre-planning. Take time to map out the bathroom situation where you're going if you feel better, or try drinking a little bit less than you normally would.

Make sure you're taking care of yourself, but don't be afraid to give over to the spontaneity of a great destination. You can get back to your normally scheduled eight glasses of water per day rule when you get back home.

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