A Guide to Fluid Restriction

Please note, this page is printable by selecting the normal print options on your computer.

This leaflet is for anyone who has been advised by a healthcare professional to follow a fluid restriction diet.

Why is fluid restriction important?
Fluid restriction is needed if your body is holding water. This is called fluid retention (oedema). Fluid retention can range in severity and can cause health problems, such as tissue and blood vessel damage, long-term swelling, and stress on the heart if left untreated. The symptoms of fluid retention will depend on the area it affects. Common areas include the lower legs, the hands, abdomen, and chest. Symptoms might include raised blood pressure, swollen ankles, legs, face or abdomen, and breathlessness.

Your treatment team may suggest you follow a fluid restriction diet to help relieve your symptoms.

Your fluid allowance
Ask your healthcare professional how much fluid you can have each day as this may vary over time. Your daily fluid allowance is _________ ml (equal to _________ ounces or ________ cups).

How to track your fluid intake
Fluid includes all drinks, and anything that is liquid at room temperature: e.g. water, tea, coffee, milk, alcohol, soft and fizzy drinks, cordial, fruit juice, etc. You should also count foods with a high fluid content in your daily allowance: e.g. soup, gravy, custard and ice cream – count these as half (1/2) fluid. Remember to record the amount of fluid you use to swallow medicines.

The following measures will help you to add up your daily fluid intake:

1 average mug – 300 ml
1 average teacup – 200 ml
1 average glass tumbler – 200 ml
1 average plastic cup – 175 ml
1 canned drink – 330 ml
1 ice cube – 10-20 ml

Useful conversions
1 teaspoon – 5 ml
1 tablespoon – 15 ml
1 pint – Approx. 600 ml
1 litre – 1000 ml / approx. 1 ¾ pints

Hints for fluid control
• Sip beverages and use smaller cups.
• Half fill your cup or glass when you have a drink.
• Avoid ‘topping up’ your drink as this will make it harder to keep track.
• Plan ahead and spread your fluids throughout the day.
• Drink between meals rather than with your meals.
• For every drink or liquid food that you have during the day, pour the same amount of water into an empty jug. You will then be able to measure your intake of fluid as the day goes on and judge how much fluid is left from your allowance for the rest of the day.
• Take pills with very small sips of water, or try apple sauce or other soft foods instead of water

Hints for reducing thirst
• Avoid salty and spicy food as these can make you thirsty. Foods high in salt include processed meats, canned vegetables, packet and tinned soup, cheese, sauces, gravy, snack foods (salted nuts, crisps), pastry, and most takeaway foods and ready meals.
• Avoid adding salt or high salt condiments such as ketchup to your food.
• Ice cubes, ice-lollies, cubes of frozen squash or fizzy drinks may be more satisfying than a drink – but remember to include these in your fluid allowance.
• Try sucking boiled sweets or lemon slices.
• Eat mints or chew chewing gum.
• Try using a mouth wash or rinse your mouth with ice cold water.
• Try eating frozen grapes or pineapple chunks (unless you have been advised to restrict these foods).