When Should You Use the BRAT Diet and What Is It?
This is for you!
When you have diarrhea, it's natural to desire to get rid of it as soon as possible. After all, being tethered to the toilet isn't exactly a pleasant way to pass the time. But it also presents a lot of problems, such as what you should consume to avoid making things worse.
Many people turn to the BRAT diet at this point. It's not designed to make you healthy or help you lose weight, unlike many other popular diets. Instead, it will (hopefully) halt the flow. Are you unfamiliar with this diet? It serves a single purpose and offers a limited menu. Here's everything you need to know about the BRAT diet, including when you should start it.
What precisely is the BRAT diet?
According to Jessica Cording, M.S., R.D., C.D.N., a dietitian and health coach, and author of The Little Book of Game-Changers, BRAT stands for "Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, and Toast." "It's a very bland diet," she explains, "that's supposed to be soothing on your stomach."
When people have diarrhea, they typically turn to the BRAT diet, but it's difficult to say whether it works, according to David Cutler, M.D., a family medicine physician at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif. "Due to its simplicity, low cost, safety, and apparent success for a common condition—diarrhea caused by an intestinal virus," he explains, "the BRAT diet attracts a lot of attention." "However, the value of a BRAT diet has yet to be established, and it is most likely insignificant." This is because, regardless of the diet, practically all instances of diarrhea caused by intestinal viruses resolve within a few days."
"The most essential first treatment for diarrhea is fluid replacement, not diet," he adds.
Still, a BRAT diet, according to Dr. Cohen, can't hurt. "A BRAT diet or other easy-to-digest meals may help cure diarrhea or other intestinal symptoms like nausea, vomiting, or abdominal discomfort when you are sick and your capacity to digest food is limited," he explains.
What foods are allowed on the BRAT diet?
The BRAT diet focuses on four main elements in general:
According to Sonya Angelone, R.D., a spokesman for the US Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, "you can expand out little from there." She suggests simple crackers and broth can be included. Other bland foods like cream of wheat and oats would also be fine, according to Cording.
Cooked eggs are also "not unusual" because they are "simple to stomach," according to Keri Gans, M.S., R.D., C.D.N., author of The Small Change Diet.
"Generally speaking," adds Scott Keatley, R.D., of Keatley Medical Nutrition Therapy, "they are all quite easy to digest foods." "They tend to be low in fiber and won't add to the quantity of stuff that lingers in your GI system, aggravating diarrhea."
When is the best time to start the BRAT diet?
Cording recommends starting it as soon as you develop diarrhea.
Dr. Cohen just advises that you watch out for signs like blood in your feces, severe stomach discomfort, a high temperature, and persistent vomiting, which should be reported to your doctor because they could indicate a more serious health problem than simple diarrhea.
If you don't have such symptoms and can drink enough of water, Dr. Cohen writes, "then it is often prudent to proceed with a BRAT or comparable easily digestible diet."
Side effects of the BRAT diet
In general, Angelone says, the BRAT diet is simple to follow and has few adverse effects—you simply don't want to stay on it for too long.
"Because the BRAT diet is poor in minerals, fiber, and calories, it shouldn't be followed for long," Angelone explains. "It can cause constipation and dietary deficits, especially protein," says the author.
Keatley concurs. "This diet is deficient in calcium, B12, protein, and fiber," he claims. "In the long run, it could harm your hair, skin, nails, teeth, and bones, as well as keep you sick for longer."
How long should the BRAT diet be followed?
It is dependent on your mood. "If diarrhea has improved after two days on BRAT, it is okay to progress to a more balanced diet," Dr. Cohen explains. However, you should still avoid harder-to-digest items (such as nuts and seeds, as well as spicy meals) and lactose-containing foods (milk, cheese, and yogurt), as these might be hard on your still-sensitive stomach.
If you're still having trouble with No. 3 after a week, Dr. Cohen suggests consulting with your doctor about next actions.