Are you suffering from diarrhoea, vomiting or a stomach virus and want to consume something for it? Walk into any drugstore, pharmacy or the health conditions related section of your favorite supermarket and you’ll be bombarded with a plethora of options and offers to settle this all too common condition people find themselves in nowadays.
The products available all tell the same story, ‘immediate relief’, ‘quick remedy’ and so on. Perhaps you’ve had your fill of trying this and that without finding something you can count on each and every time. Well, the BRAT diet could be at least part of that solution you’re looking for to help you recover from the effects of any stomach-related illness you may have to go through (6). Some pediatricians regularly recommend it for children with upset stomachs because the main goal of the diet is to give the gut a rest and it can significantly reduce the volume of stool produced.
Lena Beal, M.S., RD, LD, a Piedmont therapeutic dietitian, once noted that in the past paediatricians recommended the diet to children who got sick and then were unable to eat anything (8). BRAT diets won’t irritate your stomach, and a lot of people have testified to the fact that it helped them after illness to get back to normal eating without stress. Some women who were vomiting during pregnancy also found the diet useful (2).
How it works?
The rationale behind the BRAT diet is to discourage people from eating foods that can trigger gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhoea and gas (11). Also, the diet encourages the consumption of the soft, milder foods that don’t have the intense odours and flavours that often make some people feel disgusted and so on.
What is the BRAT diet exactly?
The BRAT diet is the composition of Bananas, Rice, Applesauce and Toast. Over the years people have used it to support the treatment of stomach illnesses like stomach flu and diarrhoea. There are, however, risks associated with this meal plan. The risks come from it being deficient in calories and nutrients. In addition, because it is low in protein, fibre and fat, it is unable to support gastrointestinal tract recovery in children who have been ill.
This is just one of the reasons why a BRAT diet is not recommended for treatment by some physicians. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics has placed a note of warning that as soon a child begins recovering from gut-related illnesses, the intake of a well-balanced diet should immediately be resumed to avoid additional complications.
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About BRAT diet modifications
Recently there modifications to the traditional BRAT diet have appeared. For instance, there is the BRATT diet, which encourages the addition of drinking tea to the food items, and BRATY diet, which is involves the inclusion of yoghurt to the diet (7).
But is the diet really effective in treating all that it is claimed to be capable of? Well, although no clinical trials have been carried out yet on its effectiveness (10), one can not deny the reports from family members and friends that it has been useful to relieve a number of people of their stomach illnesses.
About BRAT diet studies
Some components of the diet have been studied by some researchers. What they have looked into are rice and bananas, and from their research, they discovered that the bananas which are rich in pectin, a starch, make a valuable contribution to the healing of the digestive tract. They also found that in particular, green banana pulp has added goodness in that it can potentially reduce constipation and diarrhoea in children (5).
Research conducted in 2010 by G. H. Rabbani et al. found out that a green banana supplemented diet aided the quick recovery of children suffering from diarrhoea (4). Another study was conducted in 2016 and it found that a rice soup diet was effective in treating children with diarrhoea (9).
BRAT diet for adults
As much as components of the BRAT diet may work well for children, it should be noted that it’s good for adults too. The starchy and low-fibre foods serve to make stools firmer. We can especially say this for bananas, which are high in potassium. Therefore this diet has elements which can assist in the replacement of lost nutrients in the body due to diarrhoea and vomiting (2).
BRAT diet weight loss
Please note that the purpose of the BRAT dietary plan is not for weight loss; it is primarily for the treatment of stomach illnesses like stomach flu and diarrhoea, for example, and this diet is for a short period of time only.
What does the BRAT diet consist of?
The BRAT diet consists of Bananas, Rice, Apples and Toast, but that does not mean your meal is restricted to them. Depending on how severe the situation is with your health, you may want to add solids into your meals after a few days (1). So, what else can you eat on the BRAT diet?
- saltine crackers
- sweet potatoes
- clear broths
- potatoes without cream, butter, or cheese
- grilled, baked or steamed skinless chicken without fat
- tender meats like poultry, beef, pork, and fish
- vegetable broth
- alternative plant-based milk like coconut milk, flax milk, walnut milk, and almond milk
- puddings and custard
Understanding the fact that the possibility of dehydration may occur, you need to be sure to drink enough fluids. Some of the liquids you may want to consider include clear broths, water, apple juice, coconut water and herbal teas like those that contain peppermint and ginger (11).
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What can you eat on the brat diet?
You may like to try out these BRAT diet recipes (1):
First six hours
After your stomach has taken some rest from vomiting, have a popsicle or piece of hard candy. Then, if nausea persists, you can sip water or eat ice chips.
Twenty-four hours after the vomiting, you can take liquids.
- You can sip apple juice, water, weak tea, flat soda or eat some jello every two to ten minutes.
- If you feel nauseated or start vomiting, start the process all over again.
Consume bland foods like applesauce, bananas, cooked cereals, crackers, jelly and toast.
Start a regular diet. You can add things like stewed fruits, soft-cooked eggs, turkey, cooked vegetables, sherbet or chicken white meat.
Another dietary regimen
Another dietary regimen that you can follow when you are on BRAT diet is in the list below:
As you feed on bananas, applesauce, and toast, slowly add some foods rich in protein that are also probiotic. A few of the ones that you can add to your BRAT diet list include (3):
- Crisp rice cereal
- Waffles without syrup
- Rice cakes with flavour
- Boiled eggs or scrambled ones with small oil or butter
- Cream of wheat, oatmeal, rice porridge or farina
- Plain, low-fat yoghurt with live bacterial culture
Lunch and Dinner Foods
Whatever kind of food you eat during lunch and dinner should be rich in protein with some carbohydrates to help regulate watery stools. Remember that excessive fats may not be well tolerated during this period. So, your diet composition can include the following:
- Chicken broth
- Canned tuna packed in water (not oil)
- Plain noodles or pasta
- A small portion of lean chicken, turkey, or pork
- Mashed potatoes, winter squash, or sweet potatoes
- A little amount of asparagus tips, green beans, carrots, peeled zucchini, beets, or mushrooms
- Salty pretzels
You can also prepare a vegetable soup using any of the above-listed ingredients.
What foods should you avoid during the BRAT diet?
Some of the foods that you should not consider include:
- Dairy products and milk like cheese, yoghurt, full-fat milk and dairy-based ice cream
- Spicy, greasy, fatty and fried foods
- Sardines, salmon, veal and pork
- Any product with more than five grams of fibre per serving
- Raw vegetables like sauerkraut, onions, parsnips, cabbage family, and corn on the cob
- Citrus fruits, including tomatoes, grapefruits, oranges and pineapples. Don’t take raw, frozen and fresh fruit like seeded berries, raisins, cherries, rhubarb, figs, grapes and currants as well as unpasteurized juices
- Very cold or hot beverages
- Also, don’t drink alcohol or caffeinated sodas (1).
When to call your doctor or visit a physician
BRAT diet can be helpful and temporarily safe when addressing stomach-related illnesses, but then you should always be aware of when it is time to seek medical attention. If you feel any of the symptoms listed below, you should contact a doctor:
- When you feel lightheaded, dizzy or weak
- The symptoms persist after three days
- Reduction in urine
- No sunken cheeks or tears
- If the symptom comes with bleeding or rectal pain
- If your mouth is constantly dry
- When sickness occurs alongside a temperature of 102ºF or more
- When your illness becomes consistent or severe
The BRAT diet is an old-time dietary plan that paediatricians have used for many years in treating children suffering from stomach-related issues. It has helped people who have felt queasy, nauseous, or have vomited as well as those experiencing diarrhea. However, the reservation most physicians today have is that it is low in protein, fibre and fat, nutrients which are essential for a body’s needs. Consequently, those who follow the plan should not do so for a lengthy period of time and that as soon as possible, they should resume eating a balanced diet.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- BRAT Diet for Nausea, Vomiting, or Diarrhea (oregonclinic.com)
- BRAT Diet: Recovering From an Upset Stomach (2017, familydoctor.org)
- Foods for a Post-Diarrhea Diet (2019, verywellhealth.com)
- Green banana‐supplemented diet in the home management of acute and prolonged diarrhoea in children: a community‐based trial in rural Bangladesh (2010, onlinelibrary.wiley.com)
- Health Benefits of Green Banana Consumption: A Systematic Review (2019, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The BRAT Diet (2019, webm.com)
- The BRAT diet (medicinenet.com)
- The BRAT diet: What to eat after a stomach virus (piedmont.org)
- The Effect of G-ORS Along With Rice Soup in the Treatment of Acute Diarrhea in Children: A Single-Blind Randomized Controlled Trial (2016, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- What to know about the BRAT diet (2020, medicalnewstoday.com)
- What you can and cannot eat on a bland diet (2019, medicalnewstoday.com)