During treatment for the hepatitis C virus (HCV), it seems that there’s an endless list of things you can’t do or can’t have: with alcohol topping the list of no-no’s. And worse than that is the lousy way that the HCV medications make most people feel during treatment. While you know that your health will benefit in the long-term, sticking with HCV treatment in the short-term can be challenging. It turns out, however, that drinking more water during HCV treatment can make all the difference.
Simply staying well-hydrated during HCV treatment has been shown to lessen many of the uncomfortable side effects of HCV treatment. People taking HCV medications report that they feel better on the days that they drink plenty of water.
Staying hydrated can help with several side effects of HCV therapy, including:
- Muscle and body aches
- Dry mouth
- Dry skin
It’s not surprising that many people on HCV medications come up short with water, since most Americans are slightly dehydrated for most of their lives. This national “water debt” is partially due to the quirky physiological fact that the human body doesn’t send out the signal of thirst until quite a bit of water is already lost (through sweat and urination). By the time your body sends a request to quench your thirst, 1-2 percent of your body weight in water is already spent. In day-to-day life this isn’t a big deal, but during HCV therapy it can mean the difference between completing therapy or throwing in the towel. In fact, research finds that people who drank at least six 8-ounce glasses of water each day were more likely to complete their therapy because their side effects were more manageable. (1)
Don’t let yourself get dehydrated at any time during HCV treatment, but pay particular attention to how much water you drink right before and right after each injection. Aim for at least six to seven 8-ounce glasses of water each day, although even more would be better. One way to set your goal amount of water each day is to divide your body weight by two. So a person who weighs 128 pounds should drink 64 ounces (eight 8-ounce glasses) each day.
Try these tips to reach your daily water goal:
- Don’t wait until you feel thirsty to drink water; sip water all day long.
- Try cold or chilled water; people drink more water when it is cool instead of room temperature.
- Try flavored water, even if it’s just a slice of lemon you may find that you drink more.
- Keep water in all the places you spend time (at home, in the car, and at work) so it is always nearby.
- Track how much you drink (by noting how many glasses or bottles you go through) to make sure you reach your daily total.
- Notice the color of your urine. It will be a pale yellow if you are well hydrated. The darker your urine, the more dehydrated your body is, and the more water you need to drink to correct your water deficit.
Any way you pour it, drinking enough water (or almost any other non-alcoholic beverage) is a must during your HCV treatment.
Stephen C Vogt, PharmD
President and CEO