Tag Archives: grapes

Backpacking with Stress Incontinence

Not a polite subject perhaps, but it’s what’s been on my mind since the Skyline to the Sea backpack Mr. Jack & I did with some neighbors.

I don’t think I’ve seen this issue addressed in a backpacking forum. What? None of the estimated 25 million folks in the US who suffer with urinary incontinence backpack? Most of us (75-80%) are women, so I’m so I’m not alone here. And yes, I knew I had a problem, but I had no idea how bad it would be.

Okay, sure, the day before the backpack I’d had a big delicious mug of coffee and a chocolate bar. The morning before the hike (after a lovely evening in a tent cabin at CostaNoa), Mr. Jack had brewed up some extra strong tea. YUM! You’d think I’d know better … Word on the street, as you may or may not know, is that coffee, tea and chocolate are culprits in the UI world. Well, okay, but I’d been doing my kegels and maybe (maybe?) I still would have been okay if I hadn’t munched a big ol’ bowl of grapes our neighbors brought to the trail head as treat. Who knew that grapes, of all things, were also on the “don’t eat” list? Amazing what some dedicated web browsing can uncover … 

But back on the trail, unaware of the total food whammy I had brought on myself, I hoisted my 27-lb pack and started walking downhill. OH NO! The leaking began in the first few steps and did not stop. Hopeless. I had only 2 choices — go back to the car & meet my backpacking pals at the end of the trail 3 days later … or keep hiking, wet pants and all. 

I don’t know what you would have done, but I was not willing to miss the backpack. So I kept hiking. And I kept leaking. It was not a pretty story. I couldn’t decide which was the most uncomfortable — the physical discomfort or the social discomfort.
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In an attempt to alleviate the social discomfort, I made a big announcement at our next stop that I sure would be glad to get to camp to get out of these wet trousers. There wasn’t much to do about the physical side until we actually did get to camp, where I rinsed out my soaked pants, threw them over the clothesline, and declined the after-dinner chocolate treat. The next morning, avoiding my usual cuppa black breakfast tea, I hiked on, a little drier.

By then, I had made the decision to “fix” the problem, no matter what it took. What I wasn’t so clear on was exactly what I needed to do or if it would even work. I was willing to give up chocolate, coffee and tea forever, do kegel exercises morning and night, and — as it turned out — give up a few others foods, including — yes — grapes.

The most specific list I found was at the University Women’s Health Care site. I especially loved the reassuring line that “if bladder symptoms are related to diet, you should see significant relief within 10 days.” Ten days I could do.

So I did. But before I started, I did a jump rope test as a baseline. Turned out I could do 20 jumps before the leaking started. Ten days later? I was up to 50 before I stopped because I broke a sweat.

And for the record, I didn’t strictly avoid all the foods on the UW list. I kept taking B vitamins and had salad dressing with vinegar; I also ate plums & peaches, as it is stone fruit season here in California. But I strictly avoided chocolate, tea and coffee, as well as grapes and apples. Some of the other foods on the list were easy to avoid just because I don’t eat them: mayonnaise, carbonated drinks, melons, strawberries, guava and nutrasweet, for instance.

Just a few days ago, I was sorting through some backpacking food, assembling a menu for next week’s Desolation backpack, and I absentmindedly popped a delicious block of Dagoba 100% organic chocolate in my mouth. Oh the delight! But oh the disaster later that evening when I pulled out the jump rope …