One common side effect of chemotherapy treatment is constipation. As far as I can tell from reading through the literature, the problem is with some of the medications given along with the chemotherapy drugs, not the chemotherapy drugs themselves. From my first chemo, I was cautioned to avoid constipation by increasing my fluid and fibre intake, getting regular exercise, and taking laxatives or stool softeners.
I’ve been having big problems with constipation while on chemo, which I’ll talk about another time (once I’ve gotten a few more answers from my medical team), but in the meantime I’m trying to do everything I can to fix the situation, including drinking lots of fluids.
You can find a million sources that tell you to drink eight glasses of water a day for your health. This medical myth has been debunked, but it still has a lot of traction with health and fitness gurus everywhere.
It also has a lot of traction with “medical” websites giving advice on chemotherapy treatment (although I’ve noticed that the Mayo Clinic doesn’t recommend water as a solution for constipation). The “care binder” that my local cancer clinic gave me recommends fluids for constipation. I figure, if there’s a chance it might help (and believe me, I’m to the point where I’m willing to try anything), why not?
I also realized that I haven’t really been accurately tracking my fluid intake since my chemo started. It feels like I’ve been drinking a lot, but today I started actually keeping track with a chart on my fridge, and realized half-way through the day that I wasn’t drinking much. This chart is a way of keeping myself honest, and also a way of reminding myself how much I’ve had (or not had) to drink so far each day.
Another time that I really need to drink a lot is right before each chemo treatment (my next chemo is this week). By naturally maximizing the amount of fluid in my body, it’s supposed to make it easier for the nurses to find a vein to put my IV into. The nurses at my chemo clinic swear by this, although it didn’t make my veins easier to find last time (and I drank about 3L before my chemo treatment).
Anyhow, I’ve also been trying to settle on some fluids that I can tolerate in large amounts. Water would seem like an obvious choice, but for some reason I’ve developed a water aversion since I started chemotherapy (probably because of the nausea I had after my first treatment, and all the water they’ve been pushing on me in the chemo clinic). I only like ice water, and only right after I’ve done some exercise. My latest fluid love is cranberry juice diluted with water – it’s all I want after I’ve vomited – but I’m afraid of getting sick of it too.
This week I was trying herbal teas (ginger, rooibos, chai), but some of them also made me nauseous. Yesterday I bought a large carton of a fruit smoothie, and I love that, but it’s expensive and high in fructose.
The hydration journey continues…