It’s a tale as old as time- everyone says to drink plenty of water. Your teachers growing up in school, your parents, your doctors, and probably your more healthy friends. And if you have kids you’ve probably become the “drink-more-water-reminder” in their lives.
But do you know why it seems like everyone in the world harps on this? Furthermore, if you’re preparing for having breast surgery, do you know how staying adequately hydrated affects your recovery?
Let’s start with some facts about the importance of water in the body:
• Did you know that your skin is the largest organ in your body? The skin contains 64% water, and without enough water the skin’s elasticity is decreased.
• The human body on the whole is made up of about 60% water.
• Your blood carries oxygen and elements that promote healing to the entire body including any surgical sites- and water is essential to your blood’s ability to initiate wound healing.
Now let’s take a look at the body after surgery.
How Water Affects the Body’s Ability to Heal After Surgery
During the recovery period, there are wounds that will be going through a healing process. Your body will have (more than likely) had anesthesia during surgery and you may be on pain medication. You are very likely to be sedentary for at least the first several days after surgery, if not longer depending on the type of surgery.
- After surgery, one of the last things anyone wants to deal with is constipation. And when our bodies need hydration and we’re not taking in enough water, it will find other ways to get it- like from our stool. Having anesthesia and pain medication on board can increase the likelihood of suffering from post-op constipation, making it even more important to get plenty of water after surgery.
- Drinking plenty of fluids after surgery helps to eliminate the toxins from the anesthesia, and reduces the chances of becoming dizzy and suffering from muscle fatigue after surgery.
- Water also helps move nutrients through the body including the wound sites for increased healing. Nobody wants to have delayed healing after breast surgery- you want to recover as quickly as possible so that you can get back to enjoying life after surgery.
- Proper hydration also helps prevent surgical complications such as blood clots. When the blood is not hydrated, it becomes thicker and makes forming clots more likely. Being sedentary, which is more common after surgery also increases the chances of developing a blood clot, which can also lead to pulmonary embolism. Drinking plenty of water will help the blood to move through the body properly and decrease the chances of developing dangerous clots.
- Our white blood cells protect us from harmful bacteria, and it’s necessary to stay hydrated so that our blood can carry the white blood cells throughout the body, which aids in preventing infection.
So How Much Water Should I Drink for My Body Type?
There’s no definitive research suggesting exactly how much water you should drink and since we are all different shapes and sizes. According to a publication by the PMC here it was stated, “As a graphic acknowledgement of the limited database upon which to express Estimated Average Requirements for water for different population groups, the Committee and the Institute of Medicine were forced to state
“While it might appear useful to estimate an average requirement (an EAR) for water, an EAR based on data is not possible. Given the extreme variability in water needs… there is not a single level of water intake that would assure adequate hydration and optimum health for half of all apparently healthy [persons].”
Thus it has been broadly generalized as a universal rule of thumb to take your body weight in pounds and divide that number in half. This will give you the number of ounces of water to consume in a 24-hour period.
For example, it’s generally recommended that a 130 pound woman consume 65 ounces of water. (130/2=65)
If you’re feeling thirsty, you are likely already dehydrated and need to drink up!
It’s important to remember that excessive water consumption is also not recommended as it can lead to fluid retention (swelling/edema) and will not speed up your recovery.
Listen to your body. You need to drink more water if:
- You’re thirsty
- Your urine is yellow (especially dark yellow)
If it’s clear, you are most likely on track consuming just the right amount.
If you’re not sure how much to drink or if your electrolytes are balanced, talk with your doctor. He or she can recommend the proper amount of water for your body.
Common Signs or Symptoms of Dehydration
- Rapid Heart Rate
- Muscle Cramps
- Muscle Spasms
- Dry Mouth
- Urine that is darker in yellow (should be mostly clear)