If you’ve ever had a tummy infection, you’ve probably heard of the BRAT diet. It is a bland diet recommended for recovering from a stomach/gastrointestinal infection. It gives the gut a chance to rest and reduces the amount of stool produced.
What is the BRAT diet?
BRAT is an acronym for:
Why is it recommended?
The BRAT diet helps with recovery from the following conditions:
- Causes for nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
- Stomach flu
- Women suffering from morning sickness during pregnancy
During a stomach infection we need to consume foods that are not only easy to digest without putting a strain on our digestive system, but are also easily tolerated. The BRAT diet is low protein, low fat and low fiber and specifically advised for recover from a gastrointestinal infection. Because the fiber content is low, this diet helps to make loose stools firmer. The bananas are a source of potassium and pectin, beneficial for the digestive system.
How does the BRAT diet work?
The mild foods in the BRAT diet help by doing the following when there’s diarrhea and stomach flu:
- Firmer stools – since these foods are starchy and low-fiber, they help bind loose stools.
- Gentle on the stomach – since these foods are low fat low protein, they do not irritate the stomach or stress the digestive system.
- No nausea – the bland nature of these foods prevent nausea or vomiting.
Your doctor may sometimes modify the BRAT diet and recommend BRATY – where the Y adds yogurt to the list of safe foods. Sometimes it can be the BRATT – where the T adds tea, also well tolerated at this time.
Although the BRAT diet used to be suggested for children recovering from a stomach upset, it is now recommended that children get back to the regular diet within twenty-four hours of becoming sick, mainly because the BRAT diet does not provide all the nutrients to help the child recover quickly.
Remember that even though the BRAT diet helps with recovery, it is important to take in enough fluids to avoid dehydration. Most doctors advise an electrolye drink along with water to replace lost electrolytes and fluids.
Once you start recovering from the tummy infection and are on your road to better health and get back to your normal diet, remember to ease into it. Avoid the following foods until you are completely fine:
- Fatty foods – difficult to digest and make diarrhea worse
- Oily foods – difficult to digest and make diarrhea worse
- Raw fruits and vegetables – vegetables like beans, broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage may cause intestinal gas or bloating
- Heavy protein – steak, pork, salmon can be tough to digest and stress the stomach
- Alcohol – causes dehydration, irritates the stomach
- Dairy products – difficult to digest. However, yogurt and kefir have beneficial bacteria
- Caffeine – (coffee, cola, black tea – act as a mild diuretic)
- Spicy foods – irritate sensitive stomach
- Artificial sweeteners – cause diarrhea in some people
- Citrus fruits
- Sugar (cookies, cakes, soda, candy and chocolate can make things worse)
What else can you eat when you have diarrhea besides the BRAT diet?
Some safe foods along with the BRAT diet are probiotic foods, oats, and vegetable juice made with carrots and other root vegetables). Here’s an infographic from Dr.Axe that lists the top ten anti-diarrhea foods and why they are beneficial for controlling diarrhea:
Do not use the BRAT diet for a prolonged period as it is nutrionally inadequate. If you experience the following, contact your doctor immediately if diarrhea
- Lasts for more than two days
- Is frequent or severe
- Is accompanied by rectal pain or bleeding
- Is accompanied by a temperature of 102 degrees Fahrenheit or higher
Other things to watch out for is dehydration, whose symptoms can include reduced urine output, dry mouth, thirst, light-headedness or dizziness. In children, also look for inability to produce tears and sunken cheeks.