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The BRAT Diet: A Guide to Managing Diarrhea and Upset Stomach

Introduction

Doctors and dietitians frequently indicates the BRAT diet, a bland food diet, to cure diarrhea, sickness caused by motion, and gastrointestinal problems. BRAT stands for bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. The following foods can help with digestive problems because they are binders and simple to digest.The BRAT diet is comprehensively clarified in this article, along with its history, goals, items to consume and stay away from, representative meal plan, recipes, and other information.Our dedication will also go over the benefits and drawbacks attached to the diet and provide tips for going back to a normal diet.

What is the BRAT Diet?

The BRAT diet has been recommended by healthcare providers since the 1920s as an effective way to treat vomiting, diarrhea, and other gastrointestinal issues 1. BRAT foods are low in fiber and bland in flavor, making them gentle on the stomach and easy to digest. Here’s a quick overview of the BRAT diet:

  •  B – Bananas – High in potassium to replenish electrolytes lost from fluid loss
  • R – Rice – Bland, starchy, and binding
  • A – Applesauce – Source of pectin to aid digestion
  • T – Toast – Easy to digest, especially when made with white breadBrat Diet

The BRAT diet is typically recommended for the short-term management of acute gastrointestinal symptoms lasting 24-48 hours. It can aid in stomach settling along with let the digestive system to relax and recuperate.

 History of the BRAT Diet

The BRAT diet was first mentioned in scientific literature in 1926 by pediatrician William Murphy, MD of Mayo Clinic’s Children’s Department 2. He recommended bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast as safe first foods when reintroducing eating after acute childhood gastroenteritis.  By the 1970s, the BRAT diet became a standard diet prescription for adults as well as children dealing with diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting 3. It continues to be recommended today as an easy-to-follow bland diet to give the GI tract a rest.

Some sources suggest the BRAT diet was originally called the BRAT diet, with the letter B representing boiled milk rather than bananas 4. However, bananas appear to be the more commonly accepted first “B” food today.

Purpose of the BRAT Diet

The main focus purpose of the BRAT diet is to:

  • Provide the stomach and intestines a period of rest to recover from inflammation or irritation
  • Replace lost fluids and electrolytes
  • Avoid fiber, fat, and protein that can aggravate diarrhea
  • Ease back into eating after vomiting or diarrhea

BRAT foods are low in fiber and fat, mild in taste, and easy to digest. This makes them unlikely to further upset an already inflamed or irritated gastrointestinal tract. The binding nature of bananas, rice, and toast can also help firm up loose stools.

The diet is meant only for short-term symptom management, not as a long-term way of eating. Once nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea improve, more foods can be gradually reintroduced into the diet.

Main Foods to Eat on the BRAT Diet

The BRAT diet includes bland, easy-to-digest foods that are unlikely to irritate the stomach. Here are the primary BRAT foods:

Bananas

Bananas are a BRAT diet staple. With no extra soluble fiber, they offer potassium and carbs.Pectin, a fiber that dissolves in which is believed to enhance bowel regularity, is also abundant in bananas.Choose ripened bananas as they tend to be easier to digest than underripe, green bananas. Mash or puree bananas for infants or when experiencing severe nausea.

Rice

White rice is the preferred form of rice in the BRAT diet. It is low in fiber and provides easily digestible starch. Well-cooked white rice has a mild flavor and soothing texture. Rice cereal, rice porridge, rice crackers, and plain rice cakes are other acceptable forms of rice. Brown or wild rice and rice with seasonings should be avoided until symptoms improve.Brat Diet

Applesauce

Both pectin and carbs can be found in apple sauce.while feeling queasy, it offers a mushy dimension that is simple to swallow. Canned or homemade unsweetened applesauce is best.

Toast

Dry toast made from white bread is tolerated well when vomiting and diarrhea occur. In addition to providing simple sugars, the starch aids in incorporating additional acid from the abdomen. Avoid high-fiber breads or toast with butter or other toppings.

 Additional Foods

Some additional foods allowed in the early stages of the BRAT diet include:

  •  Broths – Chicken, vegetable or bone broth provide hydration.
  • Plain crackers – Low-fiber, low-salt crackers help settle the stomach.
  • Weak tea – Helps replace fluids. Avoid milk, cream, or sweeteners.
  • Clear juices – Apple, cranberry, grape juice without pulp.
  • Frozen popsicles – Help sore throats and improve hydration.

Foods to Avoid on the BRAT Diet

It’s just as important to avoid irritating foods as it is to choose the right ones when following the BRAT diet. Here are some foods to avoid:

  •  Dairy products – Milk, cheese, yogurt can be hard to digest.
  • Fried or fatty foods – High-fat foods increase stool output.
  • Gas-producing foods – Broccoli, onions, beans can cause bloating.
  • Fruits and fruit juices with fiber or pulp – Can stimulate bowel movements.
  • Whole grains – High-fiber cereals, brown rice, whole wheat bread.
  • Sugary foods – Can worsen diarrhea.
  • Spicy foods – Can irritate the intestines.
  • Alcohol, caffeine – Can stimulate the intestines and cause dehydration.

Stick with simple BRAT foods for at least 24 hours after vomiting subsides. Slowly reintroduce other bland foods like plain noodles, boiled potatoes, lean meats, and cooked vegetables as tolerated.

Sample 1-Day BRAT Diet Meal Plan

Here is a sample menu reflecting foods that are part of the BRAT diet:

Breakfast:

  •  1 cup rice porridge
  • 1 banana, mashed
  • Decaffeinated tea

Lunch:

  • 2 slices dry white toast
  • 1 cup chicken broth

Snack:

  • 4 saltine crackers
  • 1 cup apple juice diluted with water

Dinner:

  •  3⁄4 cup cooked white rice
  • 1⁄2 cup applesauce
  •  1 cup grape juice diluted with water

Evening Snack:

  • Rice cake
  • Weak decaffeinated tea

 10 Soothing BRAT Diet Recipes

Here are 10 easy recipe ideas that stick to the BRAT diet foods:

1. Brown Rice Porridge

  • 1⁄2 cup brown rice
  • 2 cups water or broth
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 banana, mashed

Simmer rice in water or broth until soft. Mash banana into porridge.

2. Applesauce Oatmeal

  • 1⁄2 cup instant oats
  • 1 cup water
  • 1⁄2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • Dash of cinnamon

Cook oats in water. Stir in applesauce and cinnamon.

3. Banana Rice Pudding

  • 1⁄2 cup cooked white rice
  • 1 ripe banana, mashed
  • 1 tsp honey or sugar
  • Dash of cinnamon

Mix mashed banana, rice, honey, and cinnamon.

4. Chicken and Rice Soup

  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1⁄2 cup cooked white rice
  • 1⁄4 cup chopped chicken breast
  • Pinch of salt and pepper

Simmer all ingredients 5-10 minutes.

 5. Plain Rice Cakes

  • 2-3 plain rice cakes
  • 1 tbsp peanut or almond butter (optional)

Top rice cakes with small amount of nut butter if desired.

6. Weak Chamomile Tea

  • 1 chamomile tea bag
  • 1 cup hot water

Steep tea bag in hot water for 1-3 minutes only.

7. Applesauce Jello

  •  1 (3 oz) package Jello gelatin mix
  • 1 cup applesauce
  • 1 cup cold water

Dissolve gelatin in boiling water. Stir in applesauce. Chill until set.

 8. Banana Toast

  • 1 slice toasted white bread
  • 1⁄2 banana, mashed
  • Dash of cinnamon

Toast bread. Mash banana and spread over toast. Sprinkle cinnamon.

9. Rice Crackers with Nut Butter

  • 5 plain rice crackers
  • 1 tbsp almond or peanut butter

Spread nut butter on crackers.

10. Frozen Fruit Pops

  • 100% fruit juice
  • Popsicle molds

Pour juice into molds and freeze.Brat Diet

Pros and Cons of the BRAT Diet

Like any dietary approach, the BRAT diet has both advantages and disadvantages.

Pros

  • Helps treat acute nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • Provides hydration and electrolytes
  • Easy to follow with limited ingredients
  • Foods are inexpensive and found at most stores
  • Can help settle stomach and improve gut rest

Cons

  • Not nutritionally balanced long-term
  • May not provide adequate calories for extended use
  • Can promote constipation due to low fiber
  • Doesn’t address root cause of gastrointestinal issues
  • May not be appropriate for chronic conditions like IBS

The BRAT diet works well for short-term management of vomiting, diarrhea, and other stomach issues. But it should not be used for more than 3-5 days due to the nutritional restrictions. Those with chronic digestive problems may need more nutrients.

Transitioning Back to a Regular Diet

Once nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea have resolved, it’s important to gradually transition back to a normal diet. Here are some tips:

  • Reintroduce foods slowly to assess tolerance
  • Start with low-fiber foods like plain pasta, eggs, crackers
  • Slowly increase fiber with cooked veggies, soft fruits
  • Limit fat, spice, sugar, dairy initially
  • Drink adequate fluids with electrolytes
  • Pay attention to any recurrence of symptoms
  • See a doctor if symptoms persist more than 2 days

Rushing the transition can lead to more gastrointestinal upset. Take it to slow and give your body the time to adjust. Listen to your symptoms and only advance the diet when you feel ready.

When to See a Doctor About the BRAT Diet

The BRAT diet is intended only for short-term management of acute gastrointestinal symptoms. See a doctor or professional health care if any of the following occur:

  • Vomiting or diarrhea lasts more than 2 days
  • Inability to keep down fluids
  • Blood in vomit or stool
  • Severe abdominal pain or cramping
  • Fever over 101 F
  • Fatigue or lethargy
  • Red flags like recent antibiotic use, exposure to contaminated foods/water, or travel to high-risk area

The effects of dehydration and imbalance can occur as a result of persistent vomiting and diarrhea. Seek medical care if symptoms are severe or last more than 48 hours.

The Takeaway

The BRAT diet includes bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast to help treat nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. It offers bland, straightforward meals that allow the GI tract to rest. Use this diet for short-term symptom relief, starting with 24 hours of BRAT foods then gradually adding other bland foods. See a doctor if symptoms don’t improve within 2 days. With the right management, most acute stomach issues can be relieved at home with the tried-and-true BRAT diet.

Here is a conclusion and 10 frequently asked questions about the BRAT diet:

Conclusion

For short-term assistance from nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, try the BRAT diet. By sticking to bland, easy-to-digest BRAT foods like bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast, you allow your gastrointestinal system to rest and recover. Follow the BRAT diet for 24-48 hours initially, then slowly reintroduce other foods. Be sure to stay hydrated and seek medical advice if symptoms last more than two days. With the proper management, gastrointestinal upset can often be treated effectively at home using the time-tested BRAT diet.

 FAQs

1. How long should you follow the BRAT diet?

The BRAT diet is intended only for short-term use, about 24-48 hours. After this, slowly begin incorporating other bland foods and return to a normal diet over 3-5 days.

2. Can adults follow the BRAT diet too?

Yes, the BRAT diet is appropriate for both children and adults experiencing diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting.

3. Why is the BRAT diet recommended for diarrhea? 

BRAT foods are low in fiber and fat, binding, and easy to digest. This makes them less likely to aggravate diarrhea. Bananas can help firm up stool.

4. What should you avoid on the BRAT diet?

Avoid dairy, high-fiber foods, spicy foods, alcohol, and anything fatty, fried, or gas-producing. Stick to the basic BRAT foods only.

5. Are BRAT foods good for an upset stomach?

Yes, a BRAT diet of bland, easy-to-digest foods gives an upset stomach a chance to rest and recover.

6. Does the BRAT diet help with vomiting?

Yes, the BRAT diet can help treat nausea and vomiting by providing simple foods and fluids that are gentle on the stomach.

7. What are some meal ideas for the BRAT diet? 

Some meal ideas include mashed banana with rice porridge, applesauce with dry toast, plain rice cakes, rice with boiled chicken, and banana smoothies.

8. Can I drink coffee on the BRAT diet?

It’s best to avoid coffee and caffeinated drinks, as caffeine can stimulate the gut. Stick to decaf tea, juice, or flat soda diluted with water.

9. Is peanut butter allowed on the BRAT diet?

Small amounts of smooth peanut butter are sometimes tolerated, but other nut butters or oils are better options during the first 24-48 hours.

10. When should I see a doctor about diarrhea or vomiting?

See a doctor if symptoms last more than 2 days, you see blood, have a fever over 101 F, or are unable to keep down fluids.

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