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What is the BRAT Diet?

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Updated May 01, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Question: What is the BRAT Diet?
If you or your child has ever had a "stomach flu", you may have heard of the BRAT diet. Although it is not a diet that you would follow to lose weight, it may help you if you have a stomach bug. The BRAT diet is a plan to introduce your body to foods again after you have experienced significant vomiting and diarrhea.
Answer:

The BRAT diet is a plan to help people who have vomiting or diarrhea due to a stomach virus. The letters are actually an acronym that stands for:

Bananas
Rice
Applesauce
Toast

These foods are recommended after you have been vomiting but only when you are able to tolerate drinking and eating without vomiting any longer.

If you are vomiting and can't keep anything down, we have step by step instructions to help you figure out what to do.

When to Use It

If you have been vomiting, the BRAT diet can be started after you are able to hold down fluids for several hours without vomiting. Start slowly with small amounts of these foods. You do not have to stick only to these specific foods, but they are a good starting point. The most important thing to remember is to eat bland, starchy foods that will be easy on your stomach. Other good options include saltine crackers, chicken (not fried), or pasta.

When you have had a stomach virus, you want to avoid foods that are greasy, spicy or too rich because they can cause more nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.

If you have only experienced diarrhea with no vomiting, you can eat your normal diet. Adding foods on the BRAT diet may help reduce your diarrhea, but you do not need to restrict your diet. Eat what you feel comfortable eating.

Kids and the BRAT Diet

If your child has a stomach bug or significant diarrhea or vomiting, the BRAT diet is not a necessary treatment, but adding these foods to her diet may be helpful.

If your child is breastfed, you can continue breastfeeding when she has diarrhea or has been vomiting.

Contact your health care provider to see what he recommends if your child is formula fed. The CDC recommends continuing formula feedings if your child has diarrhea. If there is vomiting, be sure to discuss this with your child's health care provider to see what your treatment options are.

If your child is under 6 months old and is forcefully vomiting, contact your health care provider right away. Do not attempt to feed your child any of the foods listed here until you have discussed the situation with her doctor. There are serious conditions that can cause vomiting and can only be ruled out by a health care professional.

Children also get mild diarrhea fairly frequently and there is no evidence that feeding a child the BRAT diet is beneficial. If stools are watery and occurring more often than normal, feed your child his normal diet but avoid feeding a lot of foods that are high in sugar.

It is not safe or healthy to feed anyone -- especially a child -- the BRAT diet on a long-term basis.

If you aren't sure whether or not the BRAT diet is right for you, discuss it with your health care provider before you start.

Sources:

BRAT Diet: Recovering From an Upset Stomach. Weight Loss and Diet Plans Feb 11. FamilyDoctor.org American Academy of Family Physicians. 20 May 12.

Diarrhea in Infants. MedlinePlus 19 Apr 12. US National Library of Medicine. 21 May 12.

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