An upset stomach – including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea – is a very common condition, with many possible causes: viral infections, food poisoning, overindulgence in alcohol, reactions to medications, anxiety, and pregnancy among many others. A person with an upset stomach usually has a very low appetite, which actually worsens the condition. In the absence of food, the stomach acid attacks the soft inner lining of the stomach and damages it, causing stomach pain. Also, proper nutrition is essential for supplying the body with nutrients to fight an infection.
This need for bland, but nutritious food is why doctors often suggest the BRAT diet during times of an upset stomach.
BRAT stands for:
• B – Banana
• R – Rice
• A – Applesauce
• T – Toast
As these are low-fiber, binding foods, the BRAT diet helps to stop diarrhea and vomiting. The bananas and applesauce are easily digestible, and help replace the nutrients that the body has lost. The BRAT diet should be given to young children and infants only under a doctor’s supervision.
The BRAT diet is normally recommended for short-term use following diarrhea and vomiting, to help the body get back to normal eating. The BRAT diet is also often recommended for women who suffer from nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. Someone who finds the BRAT diet too monotonous can add other bland foods like crackers, clear soups, or boiled potatoes. The BRAT diet should be used only on the recommendation of a doctor.
A few advantages of using the BRAT diet are:
• It adds volume to the stool, reducing liquid stool
• Bananas protect the gastrointestinal mucosa
• Improvements of conditions that lead to a sour feeling in the stomach
• It improves healing of gastrointestinal mucosa (the stomach’s inner layer) by stimulating the production of colonocytes (cells of the large intestine)
The BRAT diet is a temporary measure, to be used to help recover from stomach distress. It does not provide adequate protein, calories, or micronutrients needed for everyday health.
Following the BRAT diet for a long time will make the body malnourished – especially in children – and makes the healing process very difficult.
The BRAT diet is usually not recommended for more than one to three days. A normal diet, including fruits and vegetables, should resume within 24 to 48 hours of the cessation of vomiting or diarrhea.
Foods that do not fall under BRAT diet, and should be avoided until fully recovered are:
• Dairy products
• Drinks or foods that are rich in sugar
• Greasy, fatty, fried, and/or spicy foods
• Raw vegetables
• Pork, veal, salmon, and sardines
• Citrus fruits and other acidic foods
• Extremely hot or extremely cold beverages
• Fruits like cherries, figs, raisins, and seeded berries
• Alcohol and caffeine
Drinking plenty of water, or a sports drink with electrolytes, will help prevent dehydration. Get plenty of rest, and give time to the body to recover.
A restricted diet during times of gastric distress is necessary, but dietary restriction should be used sparingly.
Consult the doctor for specific foods that are optimal for your condition and circumstances.