The Brat diet has been formulated to help you when you have an upset stomach and are suffering with nausea, and diarrhea. It can be difficult to know what to eat and drink at this time. Many people wonder what to eat after diarrhea has set in.
Of course the first thing to think about when you have diarrhea or vomiting is your fluid intake. It is important to prevent dehydration by balancing your fluids, sugars and electrolytes (salts).
Adults should drink plenty of clear fluids and replace salt by either including bouillon/stock/clear broth or drinking sports drinks like Gatorade or Lucozade Sport (not Lucozade Energy). Avoid milky drinks, fizzy drinks, alcohol, caffeine and drinks high in sugar like fruit juice.
If you are having trouble keeping fluids down then take small sips or try sucking ice pops/lollies.
Children should be given oral replacement fluids like Pedialyte or Dioralyte.They can be given fluid slowly into the corner of the mouth with a syringe. Babies should continue with their feeds and have extra water in-between.
When you stop vomiting and want to re-introduce food into your diet it can be difficult to know what to eat as you are worried about making your symptoms worse and you want to have something to soothe your upset tummy and help slow down the diarrhea. This is where the brat diet comes in.
People have asked me " what is the brat diet exactly? " well B.R.A.T. is an acronym which stands for banana, rice, applesauce, toast.
These foods are easily tolerated and digested by most people. They provide energy without putting too much strain on the digestive system allowing it to rest and recover.
If you have sudden onset diarrhea you should stick to this low fiber diet for a short while and avoid eating fats and proteins which are harder to digest.
The first food in the brat diet gets its place because it has been found that the resistant starch in banana slows down diarrhea, reduces gastric symptoms and decreases the volume of stools.
Bananas are high in potassium, one of the salts needed by your body to function properly which can get low when you have diarrhea or vomiting.
Ordinary bananas will help but it has be found that cooked green banana (plantain) is even more effective.
The brat diet includes rice because it is easily digestible and helps to keep blood sugars up. Basmati rice is recommended as it has a lower glycemic index than other rice and so will not cause a high sugar spike. Basmati cooked in clear broth is a good choice.
Rice is also thought to have a specific anti-secretory effect in some diarrheas where salts and fluid are pushed out of the body into the gut, so it stops the diarrhea more quickly.
Applesauce or apple sauce as us Brits say forms part of the diet because it is easy to digest, it provides energy and contains pectin which has been found in studies to slow down diarrhea by helping to make the stools more formed.
Pectin is naturally found in some fruits and is used as a gelling agent to thicken jelly/jam and marmalade. In the same way it helps to thicken stools and slow down their passage through the gut.
Apples are also moderately high in potassium one of the salts that needs replacing when you have diarrhea or vomiting.
Although commercially made applesauce is easy to obtain it is very simple to make your own. Just peel and core some cooking apples. Chop into chunks add 1-2 tablespoons of water, cover and cook gently over a low heat stirring occasionally until ready. Add more water if necessary.
Applesauce can also be made with eating apples which are preferred by some people as they are sweeter but they will take a little longer to cook down. I prefer not to add sugar but you can add a little towards the end of cooking to your own taste.
Toast is a bland carbohydrate which provides calories and energy but will stimulate your bowels less than untoasted bread.
It should be eaten dry with no butter but if this seems too dry then you can add a little jelly/jam. As this contains pectin it may also help to slow down the diarrhea.
It is no longer recommended that the brat diet alone is given to children because it does not provide the nutrients they need for their growing bodies. If your child is not vomiting then give them their normal diet but avoid foods which are very fatty.
It can be useful to add elements from the brat diet to their normal food. For example apple has been shown to slow down diarrhea in children.
An easy way to add brat ingredients to their diet if you live in America is to give them a specially formulated brat diet drink which also balances their electrolytes.
You should try the brat diet after you have stopped vomiting and when you feel like eating. It can be introduced within the first 24 hours after you become ill.
The brat diet is only a short term diet and should only be eaten for 24-48 hours as it does not provide all the nutrients needed for a well balance diet.
The brat diet for diarrhea is an introduction back into eating food. When you have gastroenteritis it can take a minimum of 48 hours for the lining of the intestines to start to recover, so to begin with you should not give it too much work to do.
When you first become ill stick to fluids for a few hours and then start to introduce the brat diet. If you tolerate this well then after 24-48 hours you can gradually start to introduce more foods.
Good foods to try after the brat diet include baked potato, skinless chicken, cooked carrots, and eggs.
At this point you should be on the road to recovery. If you are not improving then you should seek medical advice.
The bratt diet is a slightly different version of the diet which introduces the addition of black tea. The tannin in tea has been traditionally used as a treatment for diarrhea but you do have to drink quite a lot for it to be effective.
This version adds yoghurt. The idea is to have live yoghurt which will introduce good bacteria to help in the fight against which ever bad bug is causing your diarrhea. It might also help your intestines be in better shape when you recover. Yoghurt is easier to digest than milk.
The brat diet is designed to slow down your diarrhea and rest your bowel while it heals. If you do not start to feel better in 48 hours then seek medical advice.
If you are caring for a baby or young child, an elderly person or somebody who has an underlying illness then please seek medical attention earlier. This is especially important if they are showing signs of dehydration.
If you have severe abdominal pain, fever, have black diarrhea or are passing blood then you should see a doctor sooner. Contact the medical facility for advice and do not just turn up as you don't want to infect other people.
Read more about this soluble fiber diet which helps stop chronic diarrhea by soaking up the diarrhea like a sponge.
Banana by Justus Blumer https://www.flickr.com/photos/justusbluemer/6044992549
Basmati rice (cropped) by Cookbookman17 https://www.flickr.com/photos/cookbookman/6121427720