Here’s What You Need to Know About the BRAT Diet

It's not for weight loss and it's not for misbehaving children.

bratdietHanna_photo/TLpixs/Moving Moment/bigacis/ShutterstockHad the runs or feeling queasy? You might have tried home remedies for diarrhea or morning sickness remedies, but you’re still not feeling up to scratch. Maybe you’ve heard that plain foods, like the BRAT diet, might help? Here’s what you need to know.

What is the BRAT diet?

The BRAT consists of eating only B-R-A-T—bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. “The BRAT diet originated in the ’20s,” explains Pat Salber, MD, founder of The Doctor Weighs In. “There was this idea that when you have gastroenteritis or nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, you needed to have something bland to eat. And what could be more bland than bananas, rice, applesauce and toast?” So the BRAT diet was recommended, especially for children, as a good way to nurture the body back to full health.

Is the BRAT diet nutritionally sound?

The BRAT diet has fallen out of favor in recent years. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with the foods, the diet is low in protein, fiber, and fat, which means even though it’s easy to digest (and that’s kind of the main idea), it doesn’t contain enough good nutrition to help your body recover from illness. In fact, studies showed that people who followed the diet for long periods actually became malnourished. Because of this, the American Academy of Pediatrics no longer recommends the BRAT diet for children, advising instead that they should get back to eating normal foods as soon as possible.

How can I prevent stomach flu?

The first line of defense against stomach flu is to avoid contracting it in the first place. Practicing good hygiene will go a long way towards preventing the spread of the illness. Dr. Salber also strongly recommends getting your baby vaccinated against rotavirus. “It’s a common cause of diarrhea, and it’s preventable with a vaccine,” she advises. “It’s a really safe and very effective vaccine.” Follow these 10 tips to protect yourself from the stomach flu.

How do I treat stomach flu?

The most important thing is to stay hydrated. The body loses fluids quickly through diarrhea and vomiting, so drinking water, oral rehydration solutions, or sports drinks can help replenish your stores. Mild diarrhea won’t require medication (and you should never give it to children), but in some cases, OTC medication may help. Try these home remedies for an upset stomach. If your symptoms are very severe, see your doctor. “The really serious diarrheas, like cholera or some of the bacterial diarrheas you can get, may need antibiotics,” says Dr. Salber. Once the worst symptoms have passed, Dr. Salber’s advice is also clear: Go back onto your normal diet as soon as you can tolerate it.

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