BRAT is an acronym that denotes bananas, rice, applesauce and toast. This diet has been suggested for managing stomach flu, diarrhoea, nausea and other gastrointestinal woes. It is also known as a bland diet and comprises foods that are easy to digest and low on fat, protein and dietary fibre.
The BRAT diet has a mild flavour and less acidic assisting in the smooth digestion process and fewer bowel movements. While being low on nutrients, this diet is advisable for short durations, thereafter a regular diet is recommended to minimise nutritional deficiency. Raw and undercooked foods are totally avoided.
What is a BRAT Diet?
The BRAT diet is a low calorie, low fibre and bland meal plan which is recommended for treating digestive ailments and diarrhoea. Following this diet while dealing with nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea may help to improve the condition and reduce the symptoms. The key to this diet is to focus on foods that are easy on the tummy.
An acronym was framed so as to help people to remember a set of bland foods that are best tolerated when ill. The BRAT diet has also been extended to the BRATTY diet which includes the following:
BRATT- include decaffeinated tea
BRATTY –include yoghurt
How Does It Work?
Consuming the foods that are part of the BRAT diet is believed to get rid of stomach issues because the foods are:
Gentle on the stomach and less likely to irritate the stomach and add stress on the gastrointestinal tract.
Produce firmer stool as it is low on starch and fibre which put off loose and watery stools.
Lessen nausea and vomiting as the foods are bland without any irritants and strong flavours and it provides respite from symptom.
Some of the other foods to be included in BRAT diet includes:
Soft cooked cereals like oatmeal and porridges
Soft fruits like bananas, applesauce, avocado and pumpkin
Home-made ORS solution
Gut friendly beneficial bacteria like probiotic may help to reduce the severity of diarrhoea like yoghurt, kefir, miso, sauerkraut and fermented vegetables are good options. As soon as the patients recover from symptoms it is essential to re-introduce solid foods into the diet and drink plenty of water to maintain hydration. In addition to water and mild tea, other options are clear broth and electrolyte drinks.
Foods To Be Avoided
Spicy and flavoured food including onion, garlic, sauces and seasonings.
Deep fried, greasy and fatty foods
Raw vegetables and salad greens, carrots, broccoli and cauliflower
High protein foods like meat and salmon
Acidic fruits such as lemons, grapes, oranges and berries
Caffeinated beverages and alcohol
How To Follow The BRAT Diet?
The BRAT diet is ideally recommended to follow for a period of 3 days.
Within the first 6 hours of illness, it is best to avoid food completely.
This gives time for the stomach to rest and wait to eat until vomiting and diarrhoea have stopped.
It is ideal to have popsicles or ice chips and sip water while you are avoiding food. This helps to replace lost water and electrolytes due to illness.
Then start with clear fluids like water, apple juice and vegetable or chicken broth with the first 24 hours.
If the symptoms do not settle, stop drinking clear fluids and wait for a few hours before resuming to eat again.
On day two start following the BRAT diet. However, as the diet lacks the needed nutrients it is not advisable to continue for more than 2 days.
On day three the patient should slowly start including normal foods back into their meal plan. It is best, to begin with soft foods like cooked vegetables and fruits. It is important to adapt to your body’s cues and it is not advisable to eat too much variety too soon, as the symptoms may soon return.
The BRAT diet is formulated to assist people to recover from stomach ailments. It is also helpful in other situations like post surgeries, where a smooth digestion process would be beneficial. It is safe to follow for a period of two-three days until digestion improves. As per the current guidelines by the American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP), it is not recommended for infants. It is always best to seek advice from the doctor if the symptoms do not settle and to know if the BRAT diet works for you or not.