Person with SBS drinking a sports drink

Ultimate Guide to Staying Hydrated for Short Bowel Syndrome Patients

Person with SBS drinking a sports drinkPatients with Short Bowel Syndrome (SBS) must learn to adapt to their body’s nutritional needs to continue living whole and healthy lives. One of the ways patients must adapt is by ensuring their bodies stay adequately hydrated, and not just during the warm summer months. SBS often disrupts the body’s ability to absorb enough water, essential nutrients, and electrolytes from food due to the reduced functioning of the small intestine.

For individuals managing SBS, an essential aspect of their daily regimen involves maintaining proper hydration. Dehydration can quickly escalate from a minor issue to a significant concern, exacerbating the condition’s symptoms and potentially leading to serious health complications.

While the answer may seem as simple as drinking more water, staying hydrated for SBS patients is more about what they drink than how much they drink. Oral rehydration solutions (ORS) can help SBS patients manage their hydration levels more effectively than any other beverage.

Continue reading to discover how dehydration impacts SBS patients, the hydration benefits of drinking ORS, how the beverage compares to water and commercially available sports drinks, and learn a few recipes for making your own SBS at home.

Dehydration & SBS

Due to its effects on the digestive tract, Short Bowel Syndrome places patients at greater risk of dehydration. The reduced functional length of the small intestine hampers the body’s ability to absorb fluids effectively, which can lead to chronic dehydration if not properly managed.

Even though common in SBS patients, the signs of dehydration are not always immediately noticeable. Patients must remain aware of the signs to hydrate before a health risk occurs. Symptoms can range from mild ones like dry mouth and fatigue to more serious ones like dizziness and rapid heart rate. More severe cases might cause sunken eyes, confusion, and unconsciousness.

SBS patients should remember that feeling thirsty or dehydrated might not always be the most reliable indicator of their hydration status. The body’s ability to signal thirst can be compromised due to the underlying changes in the digestive tract. This makes the management of hydration in SBS not just about responding to feeling thirsty but about a structured, proactive approach toward fluid intake.

Fortunately, oral rehydration solutions can provide SBS patients with vital nutrients while helping them stay fully hydrated.

The Benefits of ORS for SBS Patients

Oral Rehydration Solutions are beverages designed to replace electrolytes and fluid losses that are associated with SBS. They consist of a carefully balanced mix of salts and sugars dissolved in water. This formulation allows for adequate rehydration, particularly in conditions with persistent dehydration, like SBS.

ORS works by utilizing the body’s sodium-glucose co-transport mechanism. When the small intestine is presented with a mixture of sodium and glucose, it stimulates the body to absorb both substances and water. This means that even a compromised digestive system, like in SBS, can absorb fluids more effectively with ORS than with plain water or other drinks.

Numerous scientific studies have confirmed the usefulness of ORS in treating dehydration, particularly in scenarios involving diarrheal diseases or conditions like SBS.

While sports drinks like Gatorade and Powerade are frequently used to keep athletes hydrated in extreme heat and under intense physical exertion, these beverages are only sometimes the answer for SBS patients.

The Benefits of Drinks ORS vs. Water and Sports Drinks

While drinking water is essential to staying hydrated, it falls short when replenishing lost electrolytes, especially for SBS patients. Water alone does not contain the necessary salts that the body needs for proper hydration, making it less effective for individuals who experience chronic dehydration or episodes of severe diarrhea, both common in SBS patients.

Commercial sports drinks like Gatorade, although a better choice than plain water due to their electrolyte content, aren’t ideally suited for keeping SBS patients hydrated. Often, these drinks have high sugar content and may not offer the optimal electrolyte balance required by the body. For instance, a sports drink like Gatorade may contain sodium and potassium, but the ratios and overall electrolyte concentration do not match the body’s needs, especially for SBS patients. The high sugar content in commercial ORS brands can contribute to diarrhea, aggravating dehydration.

On the other hand, oral rehydration solutions are specifically formulated with an optimal balance of glucose and electrolytes. ORS formulas replenish lost fluids and provide the right proportion of essential salts that the body can absorb effectively, even in a compromised digestive state like SBS. Also, homemade ORS lets you control the ingredients, ensuring they suit your body’s needs without any unnecessary additives or excessive sugars often found in commercial brands.

How to Make ORS at Home

Preparing your Oral Rehydration Solution at home is simpler than you might think. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides a straightforward recipe to ensure the right balance of salts and sugars for adequate hydration. Here’s how you can make your ORS:

  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 7 teaspoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt substitute (Morton Salt Substitute® – Potassium Chloride)
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons trisodium citrate dihydrate*

Water (to make 1 liter)

Directions: To a one-liter container, add about 1/2 the needed water. Add the dry ingredients, stir well, then add the remaining water to make a final volume of one liter.

Voila! Your homemade ORS is ready. Remember, getting the measurements as accurate as possible ensures the correct balance of sugar and salts.

ORS is best served chilled. Ensure you are storing your homemade ORS correctly: refrigerate the mixture for best taste and use within 48 hours. If you are unable to refrigerate the mixture, keep it covered in a cool place and use it within 24 hours.

This simple solution can go a long way in helping SBS patients maintain their hydration levels effectively.

You can also use store-bought beverages as a base to create a homemade ORS that tastes better than the WHO’s recipe:

Beverage or Juice Based ORS Recipes

Gatorade Base

  • 2 Cups Gatorade™ any flavor
  • 2 cups of water
  • ½ tsp Salt

These provide ~50-70 mEq sodium

Grape or Cranberry Juice

  • ½ cup Juice
  • 3 ½ cups of Water
  • ½ tsp salt

Apple Juice

  • 1 cup of Juice
  • 3 cups water
  • ½ tsp salt

If you don’t have the time to make an ORS before leaving the house or need to hydrate when out, the following brands are the best commercially available alternatives: Trioral®, Jianas® Brothers,* Pedialyte™ Abbott Nutrition, *Liquid IV Hydration Multiplier®, *Hydralyte®,* Drip Drop®, *Gatorlyte™.

* Contains a lower-than-recommended sodium content for patients with SBS or significant fluid loss.

Download Our ORS Recipe Guide

Always Consult a Medical Professional Before Changing Your Diet

While ORS is a beneficial tool in managing hydration for SBS patients, it’s vital to consult your healthcare provider before incorporating it into your routine. Individual health circumstances vary significantly, and professional guidance ensures that ORS is tailored to your needs. Your healthcare provider may suggest modifications to the ORS recipe, timing, or quantity based on your specific condition. Proactively and openly communicating with your healthcare team is crucial to managing SBS effectively.

The Nutrishare Team is Here to Help

The journey with Short Bowel Syndrome can be challenging, but it’s vital to remember that you’re not alone. With the correct information and resources, SBS doesn’t have to define your life. Adequate hydration is essential to managing SBS, and homemade ORS can play an essential role.

We understand that each person’s journey with SBS is unique, and their nutritional needs can significantly vary. That’s why we’re here to help with personalized nutrition support services and home Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN). Our team is dedicated to working with you and your healthcare provider to tailor a TPN regimen to suit your requirements.

Hydration, nutrition, and comprehensive care are the cornerstones of managing SBS effectively. Remember, it’s not just about surviving with SBS; it’s about living and thriving. You’re more than your condition; you can thrive with proper care and support.

Connect with the Nutrishare team to learn how we can assist in your SBS journey or call 1-800-466-3876.