Staying Hydrated: Smart Tips & DIY Drinks

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Staying hydrated should be on all of our to-do lists, but for those going through treatment, it’s especially important as chemo can cause major dehydration. Plus, side effects such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and poor food and water intake can all quickly add to or result in dehydration so staying on top of it is essential.

Pay close attention to how often you are urinating and the color of your urine. It should be a pale yellow, similar to the color of straw. There’s room on the spectrum, but if your urine reaches a much darker color, like maple syrup, seek help from your cancer care team.

Other symptoms include dry mouth, fatigue, headaches, and constipation, which can all be associated with cancer treatment as well, a good reason to keep a close watch on the color of your urine.

Tips for Staying Hydrated

Water + Electrolytes

Registered dietitian Kate Ueland, MS, RD, CSO recommends 8 to 12 cups (or more depending on the type of chemotherapy you are receiving and your body size) of fluids per day and increased consumption of electrolytes, such as potassium and sodium if you are experiencing diarrhea. Potassium can be found in foods like bananas, avocados, beans, and leafy greens.  Sodium is also an important electrolyte. A great way to get sodium during treatment is to sip on lightly salted broths that can be made at home, like our vegetable broth or chicken broth. Sprinkling a little salt on slices of apple or other fruits can also help to add more sodium into your diet. Many commercial sports drinks tout their electrolyte content, but the high amount of sugar outweighs the benefits of the limited electrolytes offered. If you’re going that route, Pedialyte, which is higher in electrolytes is an option for a quick and easy to consume electrolyte beverage. Below, we’ve put together a list of 12 DIY electrolyte drinks you can quickly make at home.

Flavored Waters or Herbal Teas

One of the biggest complaints we hear from patients is about the way water tastes when they are going through chemotherapy. They often complain about the metallic taste when they drink plain water. Instead of reaching for the sports drinks, consider flavoring your water to make it more palatable such as fresh berries, vanilla bean or cinnamon sticks, and try different tastes to find the one that suits you best. We particularly love our mint water for a refreshing treat. Herbal teas can also be a good alternative to plain water, we love our banana almond coconut tea, and ginger hibiscus tea which can be refreshing served both hot and cold. Check out our collection of hot drinks that soothe for more ideas. 

Hydrating Foods

A lot of your daily intake of water comes through food.  In fact, some fruits and vegetables are over 90% water by volume. If you are not eating as much due to a lack of appetite from treatment, take this into consideration and up your fluid intake.

Our top recipes for staying hydrated can be found here in our Eating Water: Foods to Help You Stay Hydrated recipe collection. 

Hydrating Treats

Icy treats are another way to help with hydration. If your appetite is severely low, your mouth is sore, or your nausea is in full force, slowly eating icy treats can be a very helpful way to ease many side effects. Granitas, popsicles, and smoothies are all great options.

Attractive Containers

It may seem silly, but if treatment is leaving you dehydrated and water does not look appetizing, consider different glasses. If your water is tasting metallic try swapping out a metal water bottle for a glass or plastic one. 

Many people find it easier to drink out of a cup with a built-in straw. For others, a large glass pitcher of water chilling in the fridge is a good option, or maybe a mason jar is your thing, a large water bottle — whatever it takes to remember to drink water is well worth it.

DIY Electrolyte Drink Recipes

Banana Coconut Water

  • ½ Banana
  • 2 Cups Coconut water
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
  • Optional ingredients:
    • 1 teaspoon Chia seeds
    • 1/8 teaspoon vanilla bean
    • Pinch of cinnamon

Blend all ingredients in blender until smooth.

Savory Electrolyte Drink

  • 4 cups of water
  • 1 dry cube of broth, Chicken or Vegetable
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar

OR

  • 2 cups liquid broth, Chicken or Vegetable (not low sodium)
  • 2 cups of water
  • 2 Tablespoons of sugar

Warm water and broth, dissolve sugar and salt in liquid mixture.

Cereal-based Drink

  • ½ cup dry baby rice cereal, cooked
  • 2 cups of water
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients and mix until salt is dissolved and smooth consistency. The solution should be thick but pourable and drinkable.

Mint Electrolyte Drink

  • 2 cups mint tea
  • 1 cup of water
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • 1/8 – ¼ teaspoon salt

Bring water to a boil and dissolve salt and honey in water. Mix juice and tea with honey, salt mixture. May need to increase water or add salt depending on personal needs.

Ginger Ale

  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 Tablespoon of honey
  • ½ Tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • Sea salt to taste

Squeeze lemon juice. Add water, honey, ginger, and salt.

Basic Fruit Electrolyte Drink

  • ¼ – 1 teaspoon salt
  • 12 ounces water
  • 20 ounces 100% fruit juice (pasteurized) – apple juice, peach, or apricot nectar
  • 2 ounces of lemon juice

Bring water to a boil and dissolve salt in water. Mix juices with the saltwater mixture. Chill and drink. Makes four 8-ounce servings.

Tomato Juice

  • 2 ½ cups plain tomato juice
  • 1 ½ cups of water

Combine ingredients.

Cranberry Juice

  • ¾ cup cranberry juice
  • 3 ¼ cups water
  • ¾ Tablespoon salt

Dissolve salt in water, add juice.

Pina Colada Electrolyte Drink

  • 12 ounces of water
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 32 ounces of coconut water
  • 12 ounces of 100% pineapple juice (pasteurized)
  • ¼ cup lemon juice

Bring water to a boil and dissolve salt in the water. Mix in juice and coconut water. Makes four 8-ounce servings.

Tart Cherry Electrolyte Drink

  • 2 ¼ cups of water
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 ½ cups of tart cherry juice (pasteurized)
  • ¼ cup of lemon juice

Bring water to a boil and dissolve salt in the water. Mix in juice. Makes four 8-ounce servings.

Gatorade G2

  • 1, 32 oz bottle Gatorade G2
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Dissolve salt in Gatorade.

Water

  • 1 quart water
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • Optional: Crystal Light to taste (especially lemonade or orange-pineapple flavors)

Registered Dietitian Approved

There are many misconceptions about nutrition and cancer in widespread media. By using current scientific literature and recommendations from the Oncology Nutrition for Clinical Practice, 2nd Ed., published by the Oncology Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group, a professional interest group of the  Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and the American Institute for Cancer Research, the National Cancer Institute, and the American Cancer Society, our Registered Dietitian, Kate Ueland, MS, RD, CSO and our team of editors work to help our readers discern truth from myth. The statements on this blog are not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease. Always consult your physician or registered dietitian for specific medical advice.

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