The BRAT diet is a traditional treatment for diarrhea and a way to keep food down when feeling sick. This diet helps alleviate digestive issues while providing enough calories to help you get well.
This diet is a short-term eating pattern comprised of only four foods. It is used to treat children and adults experiencing upset stomachs, nausea and vomiting, or diarrhea.
The four food components include:
These foods make up the diet because they are bland and won't aggravate nausea and vomiting. Additionally, the BRAT foods are binding foods that will help bulk stool to reduce diarrhea. The simple flavors of BRAT foods are less likely to trigger nausea than more complex foods, and there are no spices or strong acids to irritate an upset stomach.
Considerations Before Starting
Many doctors no longer advise the use of the BRAT diet. A major concern is that when used with children, the diet doesn't provide all the nutrition they need. Additionally, scientific evidence supporting the BRAT diet is minimal, although there is some evidence behind treating diarrhea with bananas and rice. Despite a lack of overwhelming evidence, consuming only the simple, bland flavors is beneficial when experiencing digestive sickness. Sick individuals can expand the diet to include other bland, basic foods such as eggs, crackers, broth soups, noodles etc.
When to Use the Diet
Severe nausea typically requires even simpler foods than the BRAT foods. If bland foods don't stay down, resting the stomach entirely for a few hours is advised. Begin with small sips of clear liquids like water, broth, or an electrolyte-enhanced sports drink mixed with water.
Once liquids are well-tolerated, slowly start trying the BRAT foods or other simple, bland foods. If liquids continue to trigger vomiting, check with a doctor. Dehydration is a dangerous complication of nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Additionally, the diet shouldn't be followed for more than one to two days as it can't provide all the nutrients people need.
When to Call the Doctor
BRAT is for mild to moderate cases of diarrhea and nausea, not for serious illness. Seek medical attention for any of the following:
- Signs of dehydration: These include lack of urination (young children should go at least once in eight hours), crying without making tears, and having a dry-looking mouth or sunken eyes. Dehydration, especially in young children, is a reason to head for the emergency room.
- Diarrhea that won't go away: Diarrhea should start to get better within a few days.
- Blood in the stools: Bloody diarrhea is a reason to call the doctor right away.
- Vomiting that won't stop: Constant vomiting, especially when there's no food in the stomach, can be a sign of a more serious illness.
BRAT and Your Health
BRAT consists of consuming only bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast to treat digestional upset and should only be followed for one to two days. This diet has limited science behind it, and some medical practitioners even advise against it. However, the diet encourages a beneficial treatment of eating bland foods while experiencing nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea to help alleviate unwanted symptoms.