BRAT is an acronym for bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. These foods are often recommended following a stomach illness. But, what do these foods have in common? They are all easy on the stomach. Sticking to them after dealing with nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea may help you feel better faster. Here is what you need to know.
What Is the BRAT Diet?
BRAT stands for bananas, rice, applesauce and toast. Pediatricians suggest that infants and children with upset stomachs eat these four foods because they reduce the amount of stool produced by the body and give the gut a chance to rest. Although the BRAT diet was a staple of most pediatricians’ recommendations for children with diarrhea, it is recommended that kids resume eating a normal, well-balanced diet within 24 hours of diarrhea symptoms because BRAT diet foods are low in fiber, protein and fat, thereby lacking enough nutrients.
The secret behind the BRAT diet is that it includes binding foods that are low in fiber and can help to make stools firmer. It also includes bananas that are rich in potassium and help replace nutrients that are lost due to vomiting or diarrhea. People follow the BRAT diet in order to help their bodies ease back into normal eating after having diarrhea or upset stomach. Because the BRAT diet does not provide all of the elements of a healthy diet, children and adults should only follow it for a short period of time.
How does the BRAT Diet Work?
Eating the foods included in the BRAT diet is believed to benefit an upset stomach and diarrhea for a few reasons:
- Firmer stools - These foods are starchy and low in fiber, which may encourage binding of loose and runny stools.
- Gentle on the stomach - Because the foods are low in fat and protein, they are unlikely to irritate the stomach and put stress on the digestive system.
- No nausea - Due to the bland flavor and absence of strong smells, BRAT foods do not tend to cause nausea or vomiting.
When is the BRAT Diet Recommended?
The BRAT diet may be recommended for recovery from gastroenteritis or other causes of nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or stomach upset. It also helps women who are suffering from morning sickness during pregnancy. Of course, while following the BRAT diet or when recovering from any illness, it is important to drink enough fluids to prevent dehydration. Supplementing water intake with a sports drink can help replace lost electrolytes and fluids.
How to Follow the BRAT Diet
In the first six hours of your illness, you may want to skip food completely. Wait until the vomiting and diarrhea have stopped to give your stomach some rest. Before introducing the BRAT diet, you may want to start by sucking on popsicles or ice chips, and sipping water. That will eventually help replace water and electrolytes that were lost as a result of your illness. You should try to add clear liquids back into your diet in the first 24 hours after your illness. You can try things like water, apple juice, or chicken broth. If your symptoms return, stop drinking the clear liquids, and wait a couple of hours before trying again.
After the first day of your illness, start following the BRAT diet. This diet is limiting and not very nutritious, so you won’t want to stay on it for long. By the third day following your illness, you should start adding normal foods back into your diet. Start with things like soft-cooked eggs, cooked fruits and vegetables, and white meat, like chicken or turkey. The important thing is to follow your body’s cues. If you eat too much variety too soon, your symptoms may return.
Though the BRAT diet isn’t supported by research as the best solution, bananas and whole grains may help you recover much faster. As soon as you are able, eat a varied, balanced diet to restore your overall nutrition and energy levels.