I must admit that I am probably the last person who should be talking about dehydration… I do not keep my fluid levels topped up properly at the best of times. During my cancer treatments I was even worse at it. In fact, while I was doing the combined radiation and chemo therapies the lead of my oncology team, Dr. Jha, finally got so frustrated with my inadequate fluid intake that he made taking two x one litre bags of fluid intravenously daily a mandatory requirement for the last two weeks of my radiation treatments. Now that was a bit embarrassing! Imagine taking up a bed for a couple of hours in a cancer treatment centre just because you can’t be bothered to drink a couple of litres of water on your own. Okay, in my defense, I didn’t want to take anything by mouth during that time period… hmmmm. Not much of a defense when my recovery was at risk.
Here’s the advice: Drink. Drink WATER. And some juices, just being careful with which ones of those you choose. Apparently pineapple juice has properties that will undo all the good some medications will. You need to do the research, as in most situations during your treatments.
Why is dehydration such a big deal? Well, I don’t quite understand all the ins and outs, but water is the major component in the body. It is the delivery system to the body’s cellular structure. A lack of water, or dehydration can be responsible for depression, loss of libido, lupus flare ups, joint pain and a host of other things. Don’t be complacent and dismiss this lightly: Dehydration can kill… there’s something like 2.2 million children dying every year from the dehydration caused by diarrhoea. The elderly and the sick are equally at risk. You don’t have to be lying prostrate in the desert sun somewhere to be seriously affected by a lack of water.
This goes back to my whining about knowing your body and what it is doing. You need to pay attention to what your body is telling you. For instance;
Arthritis: made worse by lack of water in your joints.
Heartburn: an indicator of a lack of water in the upper GI tract. Its a prime indicator that your body is headed for serious dehydration. The thing is that chemo therapy makes you so sick that you may miss that indicator.
Low Back Pain: can be an indicator that your spinal column and all that connective tissue needs a top up.
Heart Pain/Angina: indicating that your heart and lung tissues are not getting the water that they need.
Headaches (and Migraines): Think about the kind of headache that you get from a hangover, and you’ll have a feel for it. You need to get some more water to the brain and eyes, and get more electrolytes back into your system.
Digestive tract pain: colitis-like symptoms, constipation can be caused by dehydration.
Diabetes: adult onset diabetes can be triggered by extended periods of dehydration. The body uses water as a delivery vehicle for insulin to cells.
High Cholesterol: indicator of potential hydration issues.
High blood pressure: hypertension can be a simple case of dehydration. Hypo tension means that you are usually in serious trouble.
I know that it’s tough to drink, let alone eat, when you’re dealing with the pain in your mouth and throat when you swallow, and the nausea from the chemo, and those indescribable sensations in your mouth from the radiation, but you really do need to stay hydrated. Drink water. Drink some of those better sports drinks that replenish salts and electrolytes. Take a look at the list above. How many of those things are going to be masked by the effects of your treatments? If you’re really having trouble with getting your fluids down, raise the red flag with your treatment team before they find symptoms of potentially dangerous side effects to dehydration.