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If you’re a parent, chances are good you’ve heard of the BRAT diet. It’s an often-used home remedy designed to help nurse people back to health after a bout with an upset stomach.
The BRAT diet isn’t just for children, though. Medical News Today states most people experience diarrhea one to two times a year, sometimes suffering for two days at a time.
BRAT diet foods are often recommended for people with diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. This can be caused by things like food poisoning, a stomach virus, drinking contaminated water, a parasite like Giardia, or chemotherapy.
What is the BRAT Diet?
BRAT stands for banana, rice, applesauce, and toast. The idea behind the diet is that eating only bland, low fiber foods for a period of time will give the intestinal tract a chance to heal.
It will also help ease the transition back to a standard menu plan after vomiting and diarrhea. Since many people can’t tolerate traditional foods immediately after being sick, eating food on the BRAT diet list will ease hunger and help avoid dehydration.
BRAT Diet Food Ratios
There’s no particular ratio for how much a person should eat each food on the list. If they tolerate applesauce, there’s no need to also serve equal portions of bananas, rice, and toast. The main point is to help them ease back into eating with these bland foods until you’re confident they can keep it down without any more stomach issues or abdominal discomfort.
Why are Bananas on the BRAT Diet?
Studies have shown that bananas, particularly slightly green ones, help with digestive issues. According to WebMD, the probiotics and potassium they contain are especially important after an upset stomach.
It doesn’t matter what form the bananas are in, either. You can eat them plain, mashed, or boiled. However, eating too many bananas can cause constipation, so use them in moderation.
Does Rice Combat Nausea?
Rice is another low-fiber, bland food that’s easy for digestion. Most people consider brown rice and jasmine rice healthier than white rice. However, they are high fiber foods and harder to digest. For this reason, stick to plain, white rice until all symptoms of nausea and vomiting are gone, and you can return to a healthier diet.
Rice water is exceptionally gentle on the gastrointestinal tract. It also helps replace electrolytes lost during bouts of acute diarrhea. People who have been especially sick may need to drink sips of rice water before trying anything else on the BRAT diet.
How can Applesauce Help Treat a Stomach Illness?
Many people find applesauce comforting, especially when they can’t keep solid foods down. Let them have it if that’s what gets them through after having a nasty tummy bug.
Healthline.com states that applesauce may be helpful because it’s high in dietary fiber pectin. Pectin is useful in easing symptoms of nausea and diarrhea.
If your child has a mild fever, they may find chilled applesauce especially comforting. Encourage eating small amounts every one to two hours to help stay dehydrated and to stave off hunger pains.
Since apples have a lot of insoluble fiber that can be hard for the stomach to digest, applesauce is considered a better choice. Try sipping small amounts of apple juice if applesauce can’t be tolerated.
What Kind of Toast is Acceptable on the BRAT diet?
Toast is part of every breakfast for many people, even when they’re not recovering from a stomach bug. Not only is it a form of comfort food, but it’s also a great choice of food for an upset stomach.
You may wonder what kind of bread is best for the BRAT diet. According to Dr. Brunilda Nazario, MD at WebMD.com, you’re better off sticking to plain, white bread to help settle nausea. Whole wheat is a high fiber bread, which is great when you’re not sick. For now, though, a slice of toasted white bread will help absorb excess gastric acid, reducing nausea.
Can you put Butter on Toast for the BRAT Diet?
Yes, you can put butter on toast for the BRAT diet, as long as it’s a small amount. If eating buttered toast causes more nausea or vomiting, stick to plain toast or even rice water.
What Other Foods can you eat on the BRAT Diet?
Strictly speaking, the BRAT diet consists of only bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. However, most health care providers acknowledge there are other foods that will also work. The main purpose is to eat foods that are bland and low fiber.
Other foods that may help reduce nausea and vomiting are crackers, baked or boiled potatoes, diluted tea, and broth.
How to Follow the BRAT Diet
During the time when you are actively sick, don’t introduce any new food into your system. Instead, try to get small amounts of liquids to stay down. The first six hours after your sickness, focus on liquids only.
After that, begin to slowly introduce the BRAT diet.
For the next 12-24 hours, try to eat a small amount of food on the BRAT diet list. If you can do so without any further discomfort, you can slowly return to your normal way of eating.
How Long Should You Be on the BRAT diet?
The purpose of eating a bland diet is to help you ease back into eating after vomiting or having diarrhea. It’s ok to suck on ice chips or sip broth or other clear liquids for rehydration while you’re sick.
Once you’re over the worst symptoms, stay on the BRAT diet for 1-2 days. If you’re tolerating bland foods, it’s ok to slowly add other foods back into your regular diet. However, if you continue throwing up or symptoms of diarrhea persist, you may need medical attention.
The BRAT diet doesn’t have enough nutritional value to stay on it long-term. This is also one reason many doctors have changed their recommendations for what to eat with an upset stomach.
What Foods Should You Avoid While on the BRAT Diet?
The purpose of a bland, low fiber diet is to give your intestines a chance to heal and avoid foods that irritate and cause abdominal pain.
If you’re experiencing diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, or other stomach flu symptoms, you’ll want to steer clear of fried foods. Other foods to avoid include high fiber, fatty, and spicy foods, meats, dairy products, and foods with strong smells. You should also refrain from drinking sugary and caffeinated beverages.
How to Use the BRAT Diet While Traveling
Dealing with a stomach illness while traveling is especially difficult. Especially if you’re on a road trip since car sickness can make an already nauseated person feel even worse. If you must travel, bring bananas since they are easy to pack.
If you’re away from home on vacation, you should be able to find bananas, rice, applesauce, and bread for toast almost anywhere you go. Get plenty of rest and allow your stomach time to heal before returning to your schedule of things to do with kids on your vacation.
Is the BRAT diet safe?
Follow your health care provider’s recommendations and remember that your goal in the first six hours after a bout with a stomach illness is to stay hydrated. Children with diarrhea and vomiting who show signs of dehydration may need Iv fluids.
Without a way to rehydrate, a nasty stomach bug can lead to hospitalization fairly quickly. It’s vital to continue sipping liquids while on the BRAT diet. You can also sip on water or a sports drink or suck on a popsicle to get some liquids in. This will help replace the lost electrolytes your body needs to function properly.
However, there are reasons you may want to consider an alternative to the BRAT diet.
Why is the BRAT Diet no Longer Recommended?
Although doctors have recommended the BRAT diet for decades, it’s no longer the medical advice most doctors offer. The main reason is that it lacks the nutritional value a person needs to help heal after being ill. There are better food options with more calories, protein, and probiotics, all necessary after dealing with gastrointestinal distress.
It’s also important to note that there aren’t any medical studies to support the use of the BRAT diet. Because of the lack of nutrients, it’s especially discouraged for children and pregnant mothers.
Why the CRAM Diet is Recommended Instead of the BRAT Diet
The CRAM diet consists of cereal, rice, apples, and milk. However, don’t fill a bowl with sugary cereal and expect to feel better. Your best options are rice cereal or oatmeal. You’ll also have an easier time digesting soy, almond, or rice milk, instead of cow’s milk. Cereal and milk offer more health benefits than bananas and toast, such as more calories and protein, making the CRAM diet a better option.
The BRAT diet has been used for many years to aid the digestive tract after diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. Eating small amounts of bland and low fiber food can help a person ease back into eating regular meals.
Because the BRAT diet is low in nutritional value, there are BRAT diet alternatives such as the CRAM diet.
Both the BRAT and CRAM diets are recommended only for short periods of time after a stomach illness. If you tolerate bland foods well for 24 hours, start trying to eat regular foods as soon as you get your appetite back.
It’s’slso important to note that neither the BRAT nor the CRAM diets are intended for weight loss.
Although it’st’smpting to take over-the-counter medication, such as Pepto Bismol, Imodium AD, or other anti-diarrhea remedies to relieve symptoms, those can worsen and prolong your sickness. They can also lead to severe dehydration, so avoid those unless your pediatrician or health care provider recommends them.