What is Brat Diet?
BRAT Diet sounds like the feeding of a spoilt child, but that is not what it’s all about. It is an acronym of foods that make up the diet suitable for individuals experiencing an upset stomach. The foods are; Bananas, Rice, Apple sauce and Toast hence the name BRAT.
The diet has been prescribed for years by pediatricians because these foods enhance gut rest by reducing stool production. The diet is considered bland and therefore a good prescription for adults and children who experience gastroenteritis, also known as stomach flu. You may feel nausea, experience vomiting and diarrhea due to causes such as:
- Viral infections
- Food poisoning
- Pregnancy or
When Should You Follow the Brat Diet?
The diet is usually used during times of diarrhea but should not be used in cases of acute vomiting. After a slight improvement and liquids can be tolerated the diet can come in handy.
This diet is administered through time intervals as follows:
After 6 hours
The first 6 hours after an episode of vomiting and diarrhea do not eat anything to allow your stomach to rest. If nausea persists you can sip water or lick on a candy to get the feeling off.
At the end of the first day, you should progress to drinking other clear liquids such as water, weak tea, apple juice and broth. For broth, ensure that it is not greasy or spiced. In case you experience nausea again, give your stomach rest for about an hour or so.
On the second day you can slowly add bland foods to your liquids. You may take bananas, applesauce, crackers or rice. These foods help to reduce vomiting and diarrhea.
By the third day, your stomach is quite stable thus regular dieting can commence. To start with, you can begin with soft food such as cooked vegies, white meat (like chicken) and cooked eggs. If you feel stable enough you may go on to your normal dieting but it is advisable to stay away from too much fat and spices.
Brat Diet Do’s
In as much as the BRAT diet is made up of four main foods it does not mean that it is limited to that. Foods that are allowed in the diet include:
- Rice (white)
- Toast (white bread)
- Clear liquids such as water, juices, broth and weak tea
Brat Diet Don’ts
When following this diet, the following should be avoided:
- Milk and other dairy products such as cheese
- Raw vegetables like cabbages
- Caffeinated drinks such as coffee
- Very hot/cold drinks
- Citric fruits such as oranges and pineapples
- Pork, sardines and salmon
- Nuts and seeds
- Legumes and beans
- Carbonated drinks
If after 24 hours of complying with the diet there is no improvement, medical assistance should be sought.
Who Can Use The Diet?
Pediatricians recommend the diet for children with an upset stomach. Fluids are vitally important for rehydration and electrolyte replacement. If you notice:
- Diarrhea is persistent after 3 days
- Urine reduction
- Temperature of about 38 degrees Celsius or higher is registered
- Sunken cheeks or lack of tears in your child,
Then, you need to visit a doctor for treatment. Pediatricians say that BRAT diet can be fed to children with upset stomach, but experts now hold the view that this diet isn’t the best option for children experiencing illness. The reason is that BRAT diet contains foods with low protein, fat, and most importantly fiber. It lacks sufficient nutrients that are needed to help children with gastrointestinal tract problems to recover fast.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children should resume their normal well-balanced diet designed for their age within a period of 24 hours after they have become sick. Their normal diet should include things like meat, fruits, vegetables, complex carbohydrates, and yogurt. 1
Like in children, the elderly need to commence on normal diet immediately. In fact before administering the diet, doctor’s advice should be followed.
For healthy adults, strict follow up of Brat is not an issue as they are quite capable of handling the nutrient deficiency. After the stomach upset subsides you can go back to your regular diet, but stick to eating foods that will not upset your stomach further.
Expectant mothers are expected to eat food that has the required nutrients frequently. Before following BRAT, visit your doctor and only follow it after getting a recommendation.
During the diet, always take your prenatal vitamins to back up the low nutrients diet. If you experience severe morning sickness, this may be a symptom of hyperemesis gravidarum that needs immediate medical intervention.
Advantages of Brat
BRAT Diet has been used for almost a century due to its benefits. Some of the advantages include:
- Foods in this diet are easily digested, thus they neither upset the gut nor cause nauseousness. Bananas, toast, rice and applesauce are binding agents and have anti-diarrhea properties. Green or unripe bananas are particularly beneficial in enhancing bacteria fermentation into short chain fatty acids that contributes to reabsorption of nutrients and water into the blood stream.
- Vomiting is reduced when this diet is followed up.
Disadvantages of Brat
The main critique that the BRAT diet has been subjected to is the lack of adequate nutrients needed by recovering patients. Individuals who have experienced episodes of vomiting and diarrhea need nutrients to replenish the lost ones to recover.
Infants, pregnant women and the elderly are quite sensitive as they can become malnourished. For this reason, this vulnerable group needs an alternative to the diet.
Alternative to the Brat Diet
With the leap in the medical study, BRAT Diet has been criticized and declared not to be the best option after all. Other dietary strategies that could be used include 4,5:
- Probiotic yogurt – taking probiotic rich yogurt is helpful in reducing diarrhea
- Regular diet should be resumed within 24 hours of sickness. Foods that have high vitamin, protein and mineral content should be considered to replace lost nutrients.
- Taking blended soup- cook vegetable in non-greasy broth soup and have it blended into a mash that is both nourishing and gentle for the gut
- Drink fluids such as chicken broth or bone broth, as they are rich in electrolyte
- Have well cooked eggs. Eggs are rich in protein, but lack fiber, which contributes to releasing of stool. Avoid lots of fat during preparation.
- Low fiber cereals are also gentle to the stomach
- Fruits- unlike the BRAT diet that restricts you to bananas and applesauce, you can take soft, blended fruits or skinless fruits. For skinless fruits such as peaches, purchase those stored in real juice and not corn syrup.
- Cooked vegetables such as yams and other soft vegetables are beneficial in the case of stomach upsets.
- BRAT Diet (Bland Diet). http://www.webmd.com/children/brat-diet
- BRAT Diet for Pregnancy. http://www.livestrong.com/article/291073-brat-diet-for-pregnancy/
- Diet for Nausea, Vomiting or Diarrhea (BRAT Diet). http://www.oregonclinic.com/diets-BRAT
- The Benefits of the BRAT Diet and Food Alternatives to Consider. Available at http://www.livestrong.com/article/241432-alternative-foods-on-the-brat-diet/
- The BRAT Diet: Is it a Good Idea? http://authoritynutrition.com/the-brat-diet/
- The BRAT Diet. http://www.simplyrealmoms.com/posts/brat-diet/