A Guide to the BRAT Diet

Helpful Foods to Eat for Vomiting, Diarrhea, or Other GI Issues

In This Article

Table of Contents

The BRAT diet has been recommended for treating stomach flu, diarrhea, and other stomach issues. The foods included in the BRAT diet are low in protein, fat, and fiber, making them easier to digest. While helpful for short durations, there are risks associated with following this diet for an extended period of time, including nutrient and calorie deficiencies.

If your doctor has recommended the BRAT diet, or you'd like to try it to ease a temporary gastrointestinal (GI) issue, it's important that you learn how to follow it safely and to know what alternatives you have to eating when you have stomach trouble.

Components of the BRAT Diet

Past medical practice advocated a low-fiber, easily digestible diet for people who were recovering from an acute stomach illness involving vomiting and/or diarrhea. An acronym was coined as a simple way for people to remember a set of bland foods that you might best tolerate when ill:

  • Bananas
  • Rice
  • Applesauce
  • Toast

The BRAT diet has also been extended to the BRATTY diet with the addition of the following:

  • BRATT: Add decaffeinated tea
  • BRATTY: Add yogurt

Eating the foods that are part of the BRAT diet is believed to relieve stomach issues because the foods:

  • Are gentle on the stomach. The foods included are low in both fat and protein, which means they are less likely to irritate the stomach and put stress on the digestive system.
  • Produce firmer stools. The diet includes low-starch and low-fiber foods, which discourages loose and runny stools.
  • Reduce nausea and vomiting. Because the foods in the diet are bland and don’t have strong smells, the diet reduces nausea and vomiting. Moreover, it offers symptom relief.

Research on the BRAT Diet

Despite the fact the BRAT diet enjoys much celebrity, and has anecdotal support, there is surprisingly a lack of research on its effectiveness and risks.

There is some limited research suggesting bananas and rice are helpful in reducing diarrhea symptoms. One 2010 study found children with diarrhea who followed a green banana supplement diet recovered faster then children who did not. A 2016 study found a rice soup diet was effective in treating diarrhea in children. 

Safety

Using the BRAT diet for short periods, usually less than 48 hours, is unlikely to cause any harm. However, prolonged use of the BRAT diet can be dangerous because the diet does not contain enough calories, protein, fat, fiber, minerals, and vitamins.

In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics no longer recommends the diet for management of diarrhea in children and instead pushes for oral hydration therapies using re-hydration drinks. 

With vomiting, only introduce solid foods after you have been able to hold down liquids for several hours without a vomiting episode.

Alternatives

It may be a good idea to modify this and add other bland foods to your diet, including clear broths, saltine crackers, and oatmeal. For longer-term relief, however, you'll need to make sure you eat a balance of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats.

Beneficial bacteria called probiotics may help shorten the course of diarrhea. Natural yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, miso soup, and fermented vegetables (e.g., sauerkraut) are great options.

While recovering from stomach symptoms and re-introducing solid foods into your diet, it is essential to keep yourself well-hydrated too. In addition to drinking water and tea, other helpful choices are clear broth and electrolyte-containing drinks, such as sports drinks.

What Not to Eat

Pay attention to all the foods you are eating while managing diarrhea and vomiting. Avoid the following foods:

  • Spicy foods
  • Fatty foods, including fried foods, greasy foods, and junk foods
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Dairy
  • Sugary desserts
  • Beans and vegetables that cause gas, such as broccoli and cauliflower (especially raw)
  • Heavy proteins, including pork, steak and salmon

A Word From Verywell

While following the BRAT diet can be helpful, there are times when your symptoms could be a sign of something that requires more attention than a change in how you eat. Know when it's time to see the doctor (if not for the first time, then again), and be sure to get his OK before taking any anti-diarrhea medications. In some cases, these treatments may worsen your symptoms.

Was this page helpful?

Article Sources