For cancer patients, caregivers, family members and survivors
Hydration – Drink for Your Health

Why is it important?

Our bodies are composed of about 60 percent water and, on the most basic level, it sustains all of the body’s functions. It transports nutrients and oxygen, protects our organs and lubricates our joints. Fluids also help regulate heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature.

As important as it is to stay hydrated when you’re well, it’s even more important during cancer treatment. “Good hydration helps flush toxins out of the body and reduce potential side effects of treatment, such as nausea, constipation and fatigue,” says Melissa Picchietti, RD, LDN at Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) in Chicago. “One of the keys for cancer patients is understanding that you have to replace fluids that are lost, or risk becoming dehydrated,” she says.

At CTCA® hospitals, registered dietitians like Picchietti work with each patient’s care team to develop strategies to prevent dehydration during treatments including surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. When at home, it's important for patients and their caregivers to recognize the symptoms of dehydration, which may include:

  • - thirst
  • - fatigue or exhaustion
  • - weakness or light-headedness
  • - dizziness or feeling faint
  • - constipation
  • - dark yellow urine
  • - decrease in urination
  • - dry skin and lips
  • - headaches
  • - nausea and vomiting

How much water do I need to stay hydrated?

A general goal is to drink at least 64 ounces a day, which is equivalent to eight cups of fluid. For a more personalized approach, you can determine the number of ounces or cups you should drink daily based on your body weight. If you are a healthy body weight, divide your weight by two to determine your ideal fluid intake in ounces. To translate ounces into cups, divide the number of ounces by eight. (Example: Body weight: 150 lbs. /2 = 75 oz; 75/8 = 9.38 cups). 

Tips for reaching your daily water goal:

  • - Start when you wake up. Your body needs re-hydrating after 6-8 hours of sleep, so keep a filled glass on your nightstand.
  • - Keep a reusable water bottle with you. Drink sips throughout the day instead of trying to "chug" large amounts at a time.
  • - Fill a pitcher with your daily consumption. Keep it in your fridge or near your workspace as a reminder.
  • - Create a water routine. Develop a schedule of times during the day to refill so you can hold yourself accountable. Use your phone's alarm clock to set yourself reminders.
  • - Track your progress on an app. There are lots of free options for mobile apps. Plant Nanny is an example of a mobile application.
  • - Use a filtered water pitcher or faucet filter. Filters may reduce the metallic taste patients undergoing chemotherapy often experience.
  • - Add a splash of flavor. If this taste of plain water is difficult to tolerate or to mix it up, try adding citrus or cucumber slices, mint leaves or fruit juice. Also, check out these flavor-boosting recipes.

As long as your tap water is safe to drink, there’s no need to buy bottled water. Bottled water is not always better quality, it costs more, wastes energy and puts millions of empty bottles into the garbage.

What other beverages are hydrating?

While drinking plain water is the best way to hydrate, other beverages and even some foods can help. Milk, juice, smoothies, tea and coffee can be included as part of your daily fluid goal. Be aware that caffeinated beverages have a diuretic effect, which makes it more difficult to keep up with fluid loss.

For patients undergoing treatment who enjoy tea, CTCA dietitians often recommend:

  • - Ginger tea since ginger has been shown to relieve nausea.
  • - Lavender tea aids with relaxation and mental tranquility, so is idea before bedtime.
  • - Green tea for overall health. It contains a substance called polyphenols, which may contribute to anticancer cell activity.

Picchietti also recommends including beverages with electrolytes in your hydration plan. Electrolytes are minerals, including sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium and calcium, that are critical in maintaining key body functions. While many sports drinks are supplemented with electrolytes, watch the sugar content of these flavored drinks. Healthier options include coconut water and bottled water with added electrolytes.

It is important to check with your naturopathic provider about any potential interactions between your medications and beverages, including juices or herbal tea, as adverse side effects can occur.

What foods are especially hydrating?

Soup, popsicles or gelatin and some fruits and vegetables also help your body's water level stay in balance. Hydrating fruits include watermelon, cantaloupe, peaches, oranges and berries. High-water content vegetables include celery, lettuce, cucumbers, sweet bell peppers, tomatoes, carrots, zucchini, spinach, radishes and eggplant.

Choose fruits and veggies that are "juicy" and in a rainbow of colors. Eating a variety of fresh produce is not only hydrating, it also provides your body with different antioxidants, which are cancer fighting nutrients.

Learn more 

Hydrating recipes from CTCA and Cancer Fighters:

- Antioxidant smoothie
- Chocolate peanut butter banana shake
- Ginger pomegranate cooler
- Cleansing cranberry cocktail 

Help is available 

The Nutritional Support Team at CTCA is designed to help you maintain your health and improve your quality of life during and after treatment. Our dietitians offer evidence-informed therapies to help patients cope with cancer-related side effects including digestive issues, nausea and vomiting, taste and smell changes, and difficulty eating or drinking. Whether you are at one of our cancer hospitals, or at home between visits, we're here to help. Contact your CTCA care team to learn more about our Nutritional Support Services.

If someone you care about has received a cancer diagnosis, referring him or her to CTCA is easy. Simply share 844-97-FIGHT or visit the the refer a friend page.

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