How to Hydrate: Healthy Drink Choices for Lung Cancer Patients

Kylie Buchan RDN, CSO, Savor Health

Hydration is one of the most important factors for lung cancer patients. Dehydration can cause you to be lightheaded or dizzy, but also make treatment-related side effects, like nausea, dry mouth, and constipation, much worse.1 Research has also shown that when cancer patients are fully hydrated, they have fewer complications and better quality of life compared with those who are dehydrated.2 However, for cancer patients and caregivers, it can be difficult to know what to drink and how much.

As we all know, water is the most ideal fluid you can drink. Unfortunately, when you are undergoing lung cancer treatment, water can taste unpleasant or bitter. Adding lemon, lime, or orange slices can help offset the bitterness, as well as a splash of 100% fruit juice. Even with these “add-ins,” it may be difficult to drink enough water to stay hydrated. Luckily, there are other fluids that can help hydrate your body and please your taste buds.

Coconut water

Coconut water is a great option if you are dehydrated from diarrhea, vomiting, or excess sweating. It contains the electrolytes sodium, potassium, and magnesium, and it is also low in sugar. Choose coconut water that has the least amount of added ingredients. If you don’t like the flavor of coconut water, add a splash of 100% cranberry or pomegranate juice to give it an extra burst of flavor.

Diluted juice

Fruit juice can help hydrate your body, but it is high in sugar. High-sugar beverages can cause diarrhea in patients who are undergoing cancer treatment. Instead of drinking fruit juice full strength, dilute it with half (or even three-fourths) water to reduce the amount of sugar you are drinking. You will still get the added flavor without the extra sweetness.

Green and herbal tea

Green tea is a healthy beverage, full of cancer-fighting antioxidants and phytochemicals. It does, however, contain a small amount of caffeine. If you are sensitive to caffeine or just trying to reduce how much you are drinking, choose herbal tea instead. There are many varieties of herbal teas and they contain no caffeine or additives. Some may even help relieve treatment-related side effects. Ginger tea is a good option if you are battling nausea, while peppermint tea is a great choice for stomach discomfort, bloating, or acid reflux.

Flavored seltzer water

There are numerous brands of flavored seltzer water on the market today. They are a great way to get hydrating fluids without additional calories or artificial sweeteners. Make sure you look at the nutrition facts label on the can to ensure that water and natural flavor are the only ingredients.

Decaf coffee

Many people only drink coffee for their fluid intake. When this happens, you are dehydrating yourself by drinking caffeine all day long. Caffeine is fine to drink in the mornings but aim to keep it only in the mornings. Decaf coffee is a good option for those transitioning out of drinking coffee all day long. Decaf contains a very small amount of caffeine, one which will not cause dehydration. Coffee may increase your risk of diarrhea, so if you are prone to stomach discomfort, it would be best to limit or avoid it altogether.


It is important to drink at least 6-8 cups of water daily when you are undergoing lung cancer treatment. If you are experiencing diarrhea or vomiting, you may need to increase that amount.  In order to get adequate fluids, you can try setting reminders to drink throughout the day. One way to do that is to fill up a large jug of water in the morning and make sure you finish it by lunch.  Do the same in the afternoon. Seeing the water that needs to be consumed can help remind you to hydrate all day long.

Once you start drinking more fluids, you will notice that you are thirstier than you were before. The more you drink, the more your body will tell you when it is thirsty. This is similar to food and a decreased appetite; the more you eat, the more you will get hungry. Working on your hydration can seem like a chore, especially if you are not feeling well. Whether it is water, tea, or other hydrating fluids, all will help you feel better, reduce treatment-related side effects, and give you strength as you go through your lung cancer journey.


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Related Reading:

Savor Health logoSavor Health is a provider of personalized nutrition solutions designed exclusively for cancer patients based on evidence-based science and clinical best practices and provided by a team of oncology-credentialed registered dietitians.

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