If you are one of the many cancer patients who report feeling fatigued, you’re not alone. According to the National Cancer Institute, it is the most common side effect of cancer treatment with 80% of patients reporting fatigue while receiving chemotherapy or radiation.

What’s the difference between general fatigue and cancer-related fatigue (CRF)? CRF is not improved with rest or sleep. And while it usually improves after treatment is completed (for those not requiring ongoing treatment), for others it may continue for months or years.

While a person’s cancer treatment is usually the biggest reason someone experiences CRF, there are other factors that could contribute. These include hydration status, anemia, nutritional deficiencies, anxiety, depression, not sleeping well and certain medications.

How do you know if dehydration is affecting how you feel? Try doing a self-check:

  • Do you have dry mouth, lips or gums?
  • Are you feeling thirsty?
  • Has it been several hours since you last urinated?
  • Do you notice dark-colored urine when you visit the bathroom?
  • Do you feel light-headed or faint?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may want to start sipping! Try these tips…

Start with the Sunrise

After several hours of sleep, the body needs rehydrating. Keep a glass/bottle at your bedside to begin sipping as soon as you wake.

Add your Favorite Flavors

Water is our best hydrator, but sometimes it needs a little something. Try adding fresh ginger, mint, cucumber slices, berries, or a splash of juice to your glass or pitcher. Consider even reaching for sparkling water for something different!

Try Filtered or Alkaline

If you’re experiencing taste changes, consider using a filtered water pitcher or faucet filter. It may improve the taste by removing chlorine and other minerals.

In addition, we know that foods/beverages do not change the body’s pH (it’s tightly regulated by an acid-base system that includes the kidneys and lungs). However, this subtle shift in pH may make water more palatable.

Invest in a Reusable Bottle or Cup with a Straw

Out of sight – out of mind. If you need a reminder to sip, keep a bottle nearby as a visual cue. Or you could try drinking from a cup with a straw as this usually leads to swallowing larger volumes because you’re sipping for longer.

Think Outside the Box

Many foods and beverages contribute to hydration. This includes: coconut water, smoothies, milk, tea, coffee*, soup/broth, and high water content foods like cucumber, watermelon, tomatoes, greens, strawberries, bell peppers, and grapes.

*Some daily caffeine is OK, but excessive intake can cause increased urination making it more difficult to keep the body hydrated. 

Fill a Pitcher

Do you have a large pitcher that meets your daily hydration goal? Consider filling it each morning and use it to refill your glass/bottle.

Track your Progress

Download a free hydration app to record your daily hydration progress. You can even set alarms to remind you when to sip!


Erin Pellegrin, RD, LDN