June 20, 2023
Dehydration is common during cancer treatment and happens when fluid loss is greater than the fluid intake, leading to a deficit in the body. Water or fluids are essential for many bodily functions, including regulating body temperature, lubricating joints, transporting nutrients and oxygen to cells, and removing waste products.
Dehydration can lead to several serious complications including kidney damage, electrolyte imbalances, etc., and it can affect your overall wellbeing. For those undergoing cancer treatment, dehydration can even lead to hospitalization due to their underlying health issue.
In this blog post, we will share how cancer treatment can cause dehydration and provide practical strategies to ensure adequate hydration. Read on to learn more.
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy - the most common traditional cancer treatment options can impact the body's hydration levels significantly. These treatments can affect the cells lining the digestive tract, eventually causing symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, and a loss of fluids and electrolytes. As a result, individuals may suffer from dehydration, especially when they do not take enough fluids to replace what they have lost.
In addition, chemotherapy can also impact kidney functions, hampering the body's ability to regulate fluid and electrolyte levels. If dehydration is not treated in a timely manner, it can eventually cause kidney failure.
Radiation therapy can also cause inflammation and cause damage to the salivary gland. As a result, it can lead to dry mouth and decrease saliva production. When the salivary gland is affected, individuals may have trouble swallowing, leading to lower fluid intake and consequent possible dehydration.
Moreover, oncologists often prescribe certain pain medications to individuals undergoing cancer treatment to manage the symptoms. Pain medication can cause nausea and vomiting, also contributing to dehydration.
The first step to prevent dehydration during cancer treatment is to drink plenty of fluids, especially water. Individuals should drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day to get adequate hydration.
However, this recommendation may differ for every individual based on their age, health condition, types, and side effects from the treatment. It is crucial to talk to a healthcare provider for proper guidance.
The following are some ways in which individuals can ensure adequate water intake:
Along with water, incorporate foods with high water content to keep the body hydrated. Have watermelon, cucumbers, lettuce, celery, and other citrus fruits to ensure required hydration. Also, add soups and broths into your diet as they are also excellent sources of hydration and can bring lots of flavors to the plate. In addition, try smoothies and natural, fresh fruit juices to prevent dehydration.
While considering these options, it is crucial to consult a physician as well as a certified dietitian before making any significant changes to the diet plan.
Caffeine and alcohol are known as diuretics, which can significantly contribute to dehydration. Individuals undergoing cancer treatment should avoid these and opt for green tea or other healthy beverages as recommended by their healthcare provider or dietitian.
In order to replenish the fluids lost through vomiting, or diarrhea, individuals can opt for electrolyte drinks. They contain essential minerals to maintain proper hydration and electrolyte balance in the body.
To prepare the best hydration drink, individuals may mix one commercial pack of oral rehydration solution (ORS) that typically contains 21 grams of powder with 1 liter of safe water. They can also prepare electrolyte drinks at home using a few simple ingredients. Use the following ingredients for a homemade electrolyte drink:
Those undergoing cancer treatment can use a measuring cup or water bottle to track the amount of fluids they drink. It will help them in monitoring whether they are taking adequate fluids.
Also, pay attention to the color of urine. While dark or concentrated urine may indicate dehydration, pale or clear urine means adequate hydration.
Furthermore, individuals should monitor their weight since sudden weight loss can indicate dehydration.
In addition, individuals undergoing cancer treatment should consider small, frequent meals over large portions. It will help them stay hydrated by providing a steady supply of fluids and nutrients throughout the day.
Furthermore, it is better to avoid greasy or spicy foods that can irritate the digestive system and trigger nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. Individuals can try oral rehydration solutions like Pedialyte to replenish lost fluids and electrolytes, as recommended by their healthcare provider.
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Individuals experiencing the following symptoms should seek immediate medical attention:
Dehydration can lead to serious complications if left untreated, especially in people undergoing cancer treatment. It can impact the effectiveness of cancer treatment and increase the risk of infection by weakening the immune system. In severe cases, dehydration can also lead to organ failure.
It is crucial to consult a healthcare provider, who can evaluate the symptoms and recommend an appropriate course of treatment, which may include intravenous fluids, electrolyte replacement, or other interventions. For any queries or concerns about the risk of dehydration during cancer treatment, contact ACTC, one of the best cancer treatment centers in Florida, offering personalized cancer care plans and treatments.