Staying hydrated is very important while you're receiving breast cancer treatment. Experts say that drinking 64 to 96 ounces of water a day will keep you hydrated. That sounds like a lot, but it's only about 8 to 12 glasses (8 ounces each) of water. And while this number has been questioned by some researchers, most doctors agree that most people don't drink enough water. So aim for 8 glasses. If you're having side effects such as diarrhea or vomiting because of your treatment, you may need to drink more than this. Talk to your doctor about how much water makes sense for you.
You shouldn't rely on feeling thirsty to tell if you're getting enough water. You may not feel thirsty until you've already lost quite a bit of water, so try to drink throughout the day. An easy way to tell if you're getting enough water is to look at the color of your urine. If your urine is pale to clear, you're probably getting enough water. If it's dark, it's more concentrated, which means you are becoming dehydrated. Try to increase the amount of water and other liquids you drink. (Multivitamins can sometimes darken urine, so keep that in mind if you're taking one.)
If your treatment causes severe diarrhea or vomiting, you may become dehydrated. If you're in a lot of pain, you may also eat and drink less, which also may cause dehydration. Fatigue can be one of the first signs of dehydration. Other signs are dry mouth, feeling dizzy or weak, trouble swallowing dry food, and dry skin or dry tongue. You also may be urinating very little or not at all.
Talk to your doctor immediately if you're having any of these symptoms. Together, you can deal with the underlying causes of your dehydration.
Learn more about the causes of dehydration and steps you can take to prevent it.
Tips for staying hydrated:
- Drink a lot. Water, pasteurized 100% fruit juices, milk, and broth are good food choices for staying hydrated while you're in treatment. If you're also trying to lose weight, keep in mind that juices have a lot of sugar and calories. You may want to drink water or seltzer instead (seltzer usually has no salt; club soda usually does).
- Drink caffeine in moderation. Drinks with caffeine, such as coffee, tea, colas, and some root beers, will increase your water intake. But caffeine acts as a diuretic, so it flushes water out of your system more than other drinks without caffeine. Don't rely on caffeinated beverages as your only source of water.
- Eat foods with high water content. Liquid in your solid food counts toward your daily total. Some fruits and vegetables are more than 90% water. Cantaloupe, grapefruit, strawberries, watermelon, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, eggplant, lettuce, sweet peppers, radishes, spinach, zucchini, and tomatoes are all at least 90% water. Soups, popsicles, water ice, and gelatins are also high in water.
- Add some citrus to your water. If you don't like drinking plain water, try adding lime, lemon, or orange slices to your water. You can also pour in a splash of fruit juice. Or try drinking carbonated water (known as club soda, seltzer, and fizzy water). Look for a brand WITHOUT added sugar or sodium.
- Keep a glass of water close to you during the day and night to remind you to drink it.
Tips for managing dehydration:
- Don't drink too much at once. Sip fluids slowly, gradually drinking more and more.
- Suck on ice chips to keep your lips and mouth moist.
- Eat foods that have a lot of fluids, such as watermelon or cucumbers.
- Fill a small cooler with clean ice and small bottles of water or juice and keep it near you so you can drink frequently.
"Sometimes drinking just one glass of water after chemo felt like an impossible chore. But it kept me from becoming dehydrated."
Kutluk Oktay, M.D.