It’s important to stay healthy while traveling. Sometimes unexpected things sneak up on you, though. The first thing I’ll warn any visitor to Southeast Asia about is hyponatremia and heat exhaustion. Slow down, take it easy, and drink a lot! Wait, no, not that coffee or wine or beer. YOU NEED SALT.
It should be obvious. Sweat tastes like salt. (Go ahead, try it.) So, if you sweat too much, you’ll lose too much of your body’s salt content. And yes, that would be bad news. Sodium is one of many electrolytes vital for your body’s health.
As it happens, this hyponatremic condition has resulted in fatigue, diarrhea, and vomiting (always in that order) among my friends and I. But I’m here to tell you that there is a way to avoid it. There’s no need to ruin your vacation by being sick the whole time.
First of all, be careful when you go out! AirCon makes it all too easy to avoid acclimatizing to Vietnam. But, of course, what’s the use of traveling to a country if you don’t get out and explore it? Follow these tips to prevent hyponatremia.
ORS solution recipe
Once I got sick, it took me nearly a week to feel 100% better. I had to spend most of that week at home to keep from overexerting myself.
I found that I felt an unquenchable thirst. Finally, the only thing that cured me was a homemade remedy known as “ORS solution” that I’d forgotten about.
Homemade Gatorade recipe (according to rehydrate.org):
- 1 liter water
- 6 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
Luckily, I found plenty of salt and sugar in my furnished apartment and got busy. Guess what? This homemade Gatorade stuff was the FIRST thing to quench my thirst!
Why? Because sugar and salt help your body absorb water. It’s that simple. And lots of sugar is needed, too–that’s about a 12-to-1 ratio in the ORS solution recipe.
What to drink in Vietnam
Of course, if you’re a tourist or backpacker, you may not have a kitchen at your disposal. As often as possible, indulge in a drink that will help you prevent or recover from hyponatremia.
Here are the most commonly found electrolyte-rich beverages that will help you in Vietnam, ordered from the easiest to find to the hardest to find.
- Nuoc mia–You can find sugarcane juice on almost every street in Vietnam. Can’t miss it! Look for the juicing machine and pressed sugarcane shoots. Nuoc Mia is probably the cheapest of all these thirst-quenching beverages. A good deal ranges from 5,000 to 8,000, but in the more touristy areas, you can expect to find it for 10,000 to 15,000. Includes: calcium, magnesium, potassium, manganese, and iron (juicernet.com).
- Revive–Found in literally ANY convenience store and about 90% of random beverage street carts. Includes: Sodium and potassium.
- Da chanh muoi–This literally means iced salty lemonade. And it tastes like how it sounds. Some people enjoy it, some don’t. I try to drink it as often as possible, just for my health’s sake. Ingredients include sugar and salt, plus lemon juice which naturally has calcium, potassium, and magnesium. Therefore, da chanh muoi is a pretty good substitute for homemade gatorade.
- Coconut–This is called nuoc dua or trai dua in Vietnamese. Basically, just look for a bunch of coconuts on a cart. If you take it to-go, make sure the vendor cuts it enough and provides a straw. (Coconuts are hard to cut.) Coconuts have a very high amount of potassium, whereas the sodium content is quite low. So don’t view coconut juice as a cure-all.
- Pocari sweat–A Korean sports drink. It’s not carbonated, so I think it tastes pretty lame. It also doesn’t have much sodium compared to the better-tasting Asian sports drinks.
- Aquarius–You can’t miss this one. It comes in a blue bottle. I think it tastes better than Revive, but it does have less potassium.
- 100 Plus–I fell it love with this drink in Malaysia, where it’s more easily found. It’s my favorite! However, it probably doesn’t have as much of the electrolytes when compared to Aquarius and Revive, since the exact amounts are unknown.
- Xi muoi–This acquired taste of a drink is made from preserved plums. Sweet, sour, and salty, you’ll find it has plenty of sodium (myfitnesspal.com).