UK HealthCare

Staying Hydrated is Important During Cancer Treatment

drinking water
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The University of Kentucky Public Relations and Strategic Communications Office provides a weekly health column available for use and reprint by news media. This week's column is by UK HealthCare dietetic intern Alison Hammond.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 26, 2021) We’re currently in the dog days of summer, traditionally the hottest time of the year when the temperatures and humidity tend to rise. Higher temperatures mean an increase in sweating for many of us, which can ultimately lead to dehydration if we’re not careful. While dehydration can become a problem for anyone especially this time of year, it can become a bigger issue for people dealing with serious health conditions, such as cancer.

Water is an extremely important nutrient for many reasons, which is unsurprising since it makes up over 60% of the human body. Water plays a major role in many bodily processes, such as controlling heart rate and blood pressure, regulating body temperature and waste disposal. 

When you don’t drink as much water as you need, dehydration occurs. In addition to excessive sweating, dehydration can also occur due to issues such as fever, diarrhea, vomiting and use of some medications like diuretics or water pills.

Staying hydrated during cancer treatment is critically important because many treatment regimens can cause vomiting and diarrhea, which puts patients at risk for dehydration. Furthermore, many patients undergoing cancer treatment experience taste changes, which may cause a decrease in water consumption.

When dehydration occurs, your body cannot function properly, and issues like fatigue, constipation, dizziness, headache and nausea can emerge. Some moderate to severe signs of dehydration include dark yellow urine, decreased sweat production, confusion and rapid heartbeat.

If you wait until you’re already thirsty, then you’re already behind in water consumption. Prevention is the best way to avoid dehydration, and the best way to do that is to keep a water bottle nearby and sip throughout the day. It’s recommended that most people consume at least 8-10 cups of water per day. 

General tips for staying hydrated include:

  • Keep a water bottle at your side and take small sips throughout the day.
  • Start drinking water as soon as you wake up and continue throughout the day.
  • Develop a schedule and set goals for when to refill your water bottle.
  • Eat foods higher in water content. Citrus fruits, melons, lettuce and broccoli all have high water content. Soups, popsicles and yogurt are also good choices.

To help encourage hydration, there are many ways to enhance or change the flavor of plain water. While lemon water is common, its acidity may not be a great option for someone with mouth sores, which is a common problem for some patients undergoing cancer treatments. Try other “spa water” combinations of fruits, vegetables and herbs, such as:

  • cucumber and watermelon with mint
  • strawberry and cucumber with basil
  • peach and basil
  • apple and ginger

The possibilities are endless — keep experimenting with things you enjoy!

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $501 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

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