It’s heartbreaking when our family has stomach pains after eating or other nasty symptoms. If the typical BRATY diet doesn’t work for your family’s health, these are some real food alternatives for the BRATY diet with foods to bind diarrhea and other digestive upsets.
My 4-year-old daughter throws up like a champ.
Ever since she was only 18 months old, she’s been able to know it’s coming and get herself to a bucket in time.
Impressive, and quite handy…but the fact that she seems to also have an on/off vomit button whenever she has stomach problems – one that someone flips like a one-year-old who just discovered how to use a light switch – not so fun.
The normal rules of throwing up do not apply to her.
For example: When vomiting occurs, one is supposed to wait two hours before taking anything by mouth.
With Leah, I’ve learned that if she wants water, I give her a (tiny) drink and set the timer for 5 or 10 minutes, then another sip. If she’s hungry, we feed that belly a small amount of food then set the timer for more. It seems that an empty belly, rather than full, makes her throw up again.
For example: Once a child has been well 24 hours, most schools allow them back.
I won’t send Leah! That first throw-up experience when she was two went like this:
- Friday morning: threw up every 10 minutes for 4 hours.
- More or less better by dinnertime.
- Saturday: woke up feeling great, threw up at 2:00.
- Felt perfectly fine all day Saturday and Sunday.
- Monday: We went to Bible study and nursery.
- Around 2:00 – and she knew it was coming! – she threw up again. Yes, that’s 48 hours well and then it was back. There’s the revolving door!
- She felt great the rest of the day and then threw up at midnight.
- Tuesday: Felt great, had an appetite, played normally all day. Threw up at midnight.
- I started wondering if we’d ever be able to send her anywhere again. How would we know when she was well?
- Wednesday: Normal day, great appetite…I was tired of changing sheets by this point and announced, “I’m going to go sit in her room at quarter to midnight so I can get it in the bucket.”
- 20 minutes to midnight: she threw up on her sheets.
I wish I could say I was exaggerating some of this for comedy’s sake, but I haven’t embellished a word. There’s a reason I’m so adept at the sick kid clean-up tips at the bottom of this post.
Every time she gets a throw-up bug, it plays the come-and-go game, and we’re always thankful she has that hit-the-bucket skill!. We feel like we never really know when she’s finally well (and we can take the sheets off the couch and stop making her carry a bucket around).
Since I know that for Leah, an empty belly is an unhappy belly, I do allow her food when she’s hungry – I trust her body. The tricky part is what to allow her to eat and drink.
What is in the BRATY Diet?
Common wisdom says a few things:
1. Any tummy troubles (diarrhea, nausea) should be served the BRATY diet:
B – bananas
R – rice (white)
A – applesauce
T – toast (white)
Y – yogurt
2. Dairy ought to be avoided.
A saltine cracker is the classic food to nibble on as a stomach pain remedy, but I just can’t fathom giving my girl white flour, gluten, and trans fats when she’s ill – all things we try to avoid when she’s well!
What to Feed Someone with Stomach Pain or Upset Tummy
In fact, most of the BRATY diet consists of things I don’t usually stock in my house, for one reason or another:
- bananas – we do eat bananas, and that’s something I’ll give a sick child, in small doses. The amylase in bananas is an enzyme that assists in digestion, so although bananas are high in natural sugars, they still seem like a gentle choice for an upset tummy.
- white rice – when we eat rice, it’s (soaked) brown rice. In the BRATY diet, the refined grain is supposed to firm up your stool – any wonder why most of America is probably constipated all the time on their diet of white bread and refined flours?
- applesauce – I like applesauce and even can it in the fall, or we have raw applesauce, but I include the skins of the apples. I believe the idea in the BRATY diet is that the applesauce has no skins, no fiber to keep the system moving properly. Plus, it’s supposed to be cooked, so my raw applesauce fruit rolls wouldn’t fit the bill.
- toast – as a family who eats “low gluten” all the time, bread isn’t something we have on hand anymore. When we did, it was a hearty homemade soaked whole wheat bread or a dense honey whole wheat sourdough bread. Neither would accomplish the “firming up” that the white bread (or saltines) of the BRATY diet is supposed to achieve.
- yogurt – now this one, we can do. Our family of 6 eaters goes through about a gallon and a bit of homemade yogurt every week. It’s definitely a staple in our days. It’s interesting to me, however, that dairy yogurt sort of flies in the face of the other popular “what to feed a sick kid” advice, which is to avoid dairy.
What REAL Food Helps an Upset Tummy?
When someone in the Kimball house is laid out sick on the couch, the first thing I want to give them is nourishing bone broth, no matter what they have.
It’s the perfect stomach pain remedy: a liquid, easy to get down, gentle tasting, chock full of easily assimilated minerals, contains gelatin (use the coupon KS10 for 10% off!), which is a digestive aid, and even has immunity-boosting properties if you leave the fat in.
It’s vitally important to note that all this goodness only applies to properly prepared homemade chicken stock with bones, and preferably a vinegar soak at the beginning of the process to draw the minerals and calcium out.
The commercially prepared canned chicken noodle soup that I used to reach for when a family member fell ill five years ago – I cringe at the memory – doesn’t hold a candle to the real thing.
Part of me want to stop writing right here and rename the post “Bone Broth Heals Everything.” It’s absolutely the perfect choice, and all of the health benefits of homemade chicken stock align with what someone with an upset tummy (or cold or flu) needs.
But I like to offer many options, too – what if you don’t have bone broth on hand? What if it’s all frozen and will take an hour to thaw in a pot of warm water, and you need something now?
(That’s why I freeze homemade chicken broth in ice cube trays, by the way – throw one in a pot with some salt and thyme, maybe ginger, garlic, or red pepper to fight infection, and it’s thawed and ready to eat in less than 5 minutes.)
Natural Stomach Pain Remedies
When your tummy is feeling upset, sometimes you just don’t want to eat at all. There are a few natural remedies for stomach problems that our family has tried and others corroborate, including:
- Activated charcoal for diarrhea or nausea/vomiting
- Redmond Clay for diarrhea or nausea/vomiting or indigestion
- Homeopathic options including Natrum Sulphuricum or Nux Vomica (from Washington Homeopathics, Boiron or Hyland’s)
- Tummy Plus from TriLight Health – I really like having it on hand for those times when children say, “I have a tummy ache,” and you’re not sure the origin. Along with a rest on the couch, a half teaspoon of Tummy Plus seems to do the trick. It tastes good, which can be a real help with young children, as I’m sure you know.
- Good probiotics to help fight the bad bugs.
- Essential oil blends to soothe tummy aches, in a diffuser or diluted and rubbed on the belly.
Is There a Real Food Alternative to the BRATY Diet?
When I asked for ideas for natural remedies for stomach pain and digestive issues, a few readers mentioned the BRAT diet, and one said:
Plenty of readers also said they would use some or all of the “BRAT” diet. But why should we give our sick kids foods we wouldn’t normally eat?
I propose a new definition to the BRATY diet, a real foods definition that will nourish our systems rather than break them down when we have stomach problems, colds, flus, or are otherwise down and out.
These foods and natural remedies are easy on the stomach, have healing properties, and best of all, I actually have them in my kitchen most of the time:
B – bone broth (& bentonite clay)
R – ripe bananas
A – activated charcoal
T – tea: peppermint, ginger, chamomile
Y – yogurt (& other gentle probiotic foods)
If you don’t like tea, another peppermint and chamomile option for soothing stomach problems is right HERE, and you wouldn’t have to heat it up like you do tea.
One last thing I do when anyone is sick with anything is cut sugar, especially any refined white sugar that might sneak in. Sugar feeds the bad guys, and I want to starve them.
My chicken stock “cubes” are just about out, as a matter of fact, so I’m making a mental note to make sure I freeze more the next time I make stock. Now is the time of year I don’t want to be caught without!
Natural Remedies to Aid an Upset Stomach and Diarrhea
I’m grateful to all my readers for such amazing ideas last week I queried on Facebook and Twitter about what real food remedies folks give their kids for tummy troubles. Here is the list that helped me refine my idea of the new BRATY diet:
- Broth (lots!)
- Soup with ginger
- Fermented foods
- Brown rice
- Crackers (hopefully homemade crackers)
- Peppermint and ginger tea, chamomile tea
- Water kefir
- Activated charcoal
- No dairy
- Coconut water (replaces electrolytes and fluids)
- Chicken stock, ginger tea, and a drink made with raw honey (use the code Katie15 for 15% off at that site!), sea salt, and lemon (sounds weird, I know) to replace fluids and trace minerals. Other than that I give them what they want (real foods, of course) because I think our bodies know what they want when they’re sick. I got e. coli once from bad water and all I wanted was real, raw, fermented sauerkraut straight from the jar. I credit it with kicking the infection in just under two days, and having it to a much lesser intent than the others who got it.
- Chicken broth made with extra garlic and ginger and a pinch of red pepper flakes; yogurt, broth, creamy rice, zoku quick pops made with diluted juice, egg drop soup, chicken soup, toast from homemade bread
- Yogurt. So much yogurt. Easily digested veggies like squash.
- Cooked carrots can cause constipation, so I give those to my kids for loose stools (sorry to be direct!) along with rice, cooked rice water with honey & salt, and bananas. For constipation, the key for us is eating the 3F’s: fat, fluids, and fiber. Raw fruits and veggies (eating several tomatoes whole in one sitting, for example, or cucumbers…whatever fruit or veggie you usually don’t let your kids eat “too much” of) and whole grain bread dipped in olive oil are helpful. Caffeine is a diuretic, so some diluted black tea or iced tea may help draw water into the bowels to make using the loo easier.
- Real ginger ale
- Watered down ACV (apple cider vinegar)
- Crystalized ginger to settle the tummy
RELATED: Home Remedies for Vomiting
Other Natural Health Posts:
- How to Get Rid of an Infection without Antibiotics
- Are Hand Sanitizers Safe?
- Get Rid of Warts Naturally
- Natural Remedies for Ear Infections
- How We Kicked Whooping Cough
- You Probably Need a Parasite Cleanse
- Pneumonia Home Remedies
- Natural Remedies for Croup
55 thoughts on “Is the BRATY Diet Compatible with Real Food?”
My daughter is having unusual ongoing nausea/cramping/vomiting. The ER had no solutions and I’m searching for other answers, remedies, etc. I found this page very helpful and plan to try your recommendations. However I have two questions and I read in your contact to ask the question in the comment section on the page in question.
Nux vomica contains small amounts of strychnine which can build up in the system, especially if ones liver is not functioning well. With your research on the product, would you still recommend it for nausea?
It seems like most bone broth comes from Brazil whether organic or not. I read something written by someone who said they came from Brazil, specifically the area where said cows are raised, and they said the cows were not grass fed/healthy confines. (I can’t remember where I read that but I’m hoping I saved it somewhere). Because of it I stopped buying the collagen powder I’d been using. How thorough is your research on the company that you recommend, and is there a way to prove the cattle are grass fed, healthy, and organic?
Please don’t take offense at my questions, I’m just asking because I’m hoping you already have answers for this very busy mom who doesn’t have the time or energy right now to research…and wouldn’t know where to start!
Thank you very much!
Hi Leigh, I’m sorry to hear your daughter has been having trouble.
Here is a study on PubMed which found that there weren’t detectable amounts of strychnine in nux vomica homeopathic remedies. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34181973/
Perfect Supplements, the company Katie recommends for collagen says their collagen comes from “only Brazilian Grass Pastured Cows. The cows spend their life in Brazil free grazing on grass.” You would have to contact the company to see if they have further proof of their claims. It’s so tricky when you hear things like that but there’s really no way to know for sure without trusting what the company says. For bone broth, the safest way to know is to make it yourself with bones from a farmer you can speak with. It’s much more cost effective than buying a really high-quality bone broth as well.
I hope you’re able to find some answers for your daughter. If the problem persists you may want to search for a functional medical doctor or naturopath in your area if you aren’t getting anywhere with conventional medicine.
Thank you for your information and your quick response!
Thank you very much for your information and quick response!
Probably part of your confusion is that there’s no Y in BRAT, at least as far as medical recommendations go. The “avoiding dairy” thing, though, is usually in regards to respiratory illnesses. Tummy bugs don’t have the same issues with mucus that respiratory bugs do. I’m guessing people discuss avoiding dairy from the standpoints of not wanting to see it curdled when vomiting (which having done that a few times is perfectly understandable), and fat being difficult to digest, but that’s a bigger issue than just “dairy.” In fact that’s exactly what the BRAT diet is intended to prevent–not excluding dairy specifically, but excluding ALL lipids and slow-digestive foods.
Another huge part is that the refined grains aren’t supposed to help bind you up (which never would if you were well so I’m not sure why they would when you’re sick…) anymore than the fact that they’re solid food. The BRAT diet specifically avoids a lot of fiber, so “binding you up” should be pretty clearly NOT the point.
The BRAT foods are supposed to give your body lots of fast energy to fight the illness! Your body goes through a lot of energy fighting things off, you need to replenish it quickly and in ways that don’t take a lot of EXTRA energy to process because you don’t have that energy to spare. Especially ways that don’t require a lot of extra fluid to process, like the bran of rice and other grains, because that fluid is precious during tummy bugs. These are not things our body needs when we’re well, so it’s reasonable to avoid them. But sick bodies have different needs than well bodies, and you can’t always use the same values systems to meet them. Evaluate the needs first, then determine the best way to meet them.
Go ahead and make your own applesauce, just strain the skins out for a couple jars so you have them around when people are sick. Or, immediately available, try straining the jars you already have. It might take a little while, but it’ll work (I don’t usually strain my skins out til the end anyway, because they add too much flavor and the pectin is helpful too).
Bread: White wheat flour isn’t the point, it’s avoiding whole grains. If you have to avoid gluten, there are plenty of gluten-free baking mixes that don’t use the bran of the grains. For that matter, there are lots of pre-made versions hanging out in stores now that are exactly as convenient as picking up a loaf of potato bread or sourdough would be. If you have the space, it’s probably worth it to make or buy some “tummy bug” bread and freeze it in packages of a slice or two. It toasts up from frozen just fine, so you don’t need to worry about thawing it or going to the store if tummy bugs hit at midnight.
Interesting…lots of ways to look at the same equation I guess. Thanks for the insight! 🙂 Katie
Is the applesauce you can raw, with skins? Raw applesauce is new to me. Thanks.
Hi guys, wondering if some suggestions could be made for groups, blogs etc for moms raising their kids on whole foods diet, holistically, etc. in not a mom yet but I’m so conflicted on how I feel and how to raise my kids how I know is right, in a world so generic. Id like some support on how to handle parties and festivals, and what you say when your kids ask why! Thanks in advance!!
I agree with much of what you’ve said here. But, back when I was pregnant with my first child (now over 30), I was told to eat/give bran to counteract diarrhea, as it helps to even out the consistency of the stool. I was incredulous, but it has worked well over the years. Vomiting is different, of course, but I have offered bananas, applesauce, and brown rice as wanted, and whole wheat toast after things begin to settle down (before I went gluten free).
I have also found Smart Water to be a good source of electrolytes and it has helped calm down many the upset stomach for adults and children alike. I’ll have to give coconut water a try at some point as well.
I also am working to incorporate more fermented foods into my diet, which I know help with many health problems, especially those related to the digestive tract.
Thank you for encouraging readers to set their own course. This post is awesome as we head into the fall season. I think my husband will be most excited since he always gets the stomach big when one of the kids do too.
Sorry to hear about your daughter. My son had this too, not to her extreme but enough that we took him to sick kids for almost 5 years. To no real result. They thought he had reflux, milk or wheat allergy, hormones, ulcer, etc. but after he had surgery for an ulcer & it wasn’t, that pretty much ended our quest. They tried numerous medications, adult medications, on a 10 year old. We finally think he has a weak stomach valve. He tries not to eat too much at each meal & usually has a frozen popsicle after each meal. He’s now 21 & still does. Same thing he knows when he’s going to throw up & usually makes it. With us it didn’t start till about Grade 1. Although when he was a baby we took him off milk totally at 13 months, so he really never had many bottles & went straight to a cup. He was really a good kid except for this & he really controlled it by himself, the specialists never really helped. They said it was hormones & he would grow out of it. He still throws up when ever he over does something, eating or drinking, and is much better after. That’s just the way it is!
Okay, I cannot believe all you natural, home-made goodness, no-additives, etc. people don’t know about apples! Come on guys! The reason applesauce is reccomended for people with stomach bugs or diarrhea is that it has PECTIN in it! You know, the stuff you use to firm up jelly with? It’s very mild, and if it’s homemade, there aren’t any of the bad things in it you want to avoid. The only caveat here is a family like mine, absolutely no apple skins in anything because it has the opposite effect. They are a little strange, what can I say! When I was little it was sweet tea and crackers when you were sick, and when my kids were little I used Gatorade. If you don’t want the commercial one you can make a homemade version that cuts out the chemicals and has been used successfully in places that don’t have access to Gatorade.
That’s cool – I didn’t know that. I wonder if pectin is related to the gelatin in good homemade broth, or if the functions are different when it comes to diarrhea – since homemade broth “gels up” as well. Very interesting, thank you! 🙂 Katie
It’s pretty much the same thing in bone marrow. Seems like very old recipes used it to firm sauces, and they made consomme’s, or aspic, or what we call Jello out of it. In fact, if you read the label on Jello it probably mentions it. Here’s a description from Wiki of gelatin—Gelatin, a protein produced from collagen extracted from the boiled bones, connective tissues, and other animal products, has been a component of food, particularly desserts, since the 1400s. Pretty much the same thing in my book. They both have the same result, just different forms. I remember reading in romance novels about “Calf’s Foot Jelly” used as a restorative for those who were ill. It’s also a component of glue, so it probably firms things up pretty well!!! LOL!
When we have digestive upsets, we reach for Heritage Essential Oils Digestion Support. Rub a few drops on the child’s abdomen, or mix a drop in a teensy amount of drink. Just a drop or two on the tongue held to the roof of the mouth has kicked several bugs for me before they got started. I carry a bottle with me everywhere now! It’s best to use as soon as the child starts to complain. Once when my daughter had a really bad episode, we rubbed it on her earlobes and stomache, which did the trick within minutes. You can use this on the earlobes for morning sickness 🙂
Katie, I’m trying to find info about the vinegar soaked bones for the broth. Hubby is stomach sick right now and I actually have a huge pot going right now, but I’d like to know for next time 🙂 Thanks
Do you just mean how to utilize the vinegar soak? Just add a splash of vinegar to cold water covering the bones and wait 30 mins before you turn on the heat. Hope that helps! (more here http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/2009/03/30/monday-mission-how-to-make-your-own-homemade-chicken-stockbroth/)
Hope hubby feels better!
Thanks Katie! I will do that next time – I usually go through it really quickly so it won’t be too long.
Oh and I LOVE the size of your pot. Mine is about 1/2 that size, I don’t think your’s would fit on my stove!
When I was young my pediatrician (who was my mom’s pediatrician and for a few teen years even my grandfather’s) told parents NOT to follow the BRAT diet. His reason had nothing to do with real food, though growing up in farm country when he did real food was the norm, but rather he didn’t agree that any four magical food could treat every digestive ailment since many have different causes and effects on the body. Not to mention different people starting off with different states of health. He taught parents (most of whom were once his patients) how to learn to read what their kids’ bodies were trying to tell them- food or no, rest or activity, sunshine or cool dark room, etc. The older I get the the more I appreciate the wisdom from his old school upbringing and 60+ years of practicing healthcare (rather than medicine).
Just to make the different people/different approach thing more clear- when my mother and I would be sick with the same stomach bug we would deal with the vomiting and general ill-ness of it differently. While I needed a constant stream of small (for me) amounts of food and lots of sleep in a cool, dark room my mother needed absolutely no food or drink whatsoever and mild activity in the sunshine to get better. Even when it isn’t a stomach bug but rather morning sickness, we still found the same. While an empty stomach made my nausea worse, food made hers worse. I’m finding my two kids also have different needs when they are sick. Same parents and daily life, but different needs just the same.
What a great perspective – I love that you differentiated this: “practicing healthcare (rather than medicine)” — so true.
We have great success with DiGize essential oil blend from Young Living. Topped with Peppermint oil on the stomach and soles of feet…lots of relief. I like to add Thieves oil (antibiotic oil blend), oregano, and thyme–even quicker relief. My son still remembers sipping on YL’s NRed right after an “episode”…how it soothed his throat. We love how YL “nips it in the bud”very nicely, and we’re usually ready to move on very quickly.
Timely post! I pinned it and looked it up this morning to remember the A and T after spending 10 PM – 3:45 AM with my three yr old vomiting (well, dry heaving after the first round, poor kid).
I’m also curious about Leah’s normal cycle. I have a baby who did something similar a few months ago (at 6 months). I decided it must be violent spit-up due to a food intolerance instead of a stomach bug because it took about a week of once a day projectile vomiting for it it pass and she would eat fine the whole time. At the time I was trying out goat and sheep milk products as the baby is cow dairy intolerant. Now I’m wondering if my assumption was correct. I didn’t know a bug could stretch out like that. We shall see…
This is so helpful! Although I don’t normally get sick, my boyfriend gets SICK. And by that I mean he doesn’t normally get sick either, but when he finally does, everyone else will have a mild cough or something, and he’ll be at the toilet all day. Poor dear.
Here’s what I normally do for sicknesses: echinacea extract, soup (with a raw pastured egg yolk added), and honeyed ginger. Its like crystalized ginger, except no sugar. You cube up the ginger, put it in a jar, cover it with honey, and let it sit in the fridge for a few weeks. Then you can either have the ginger, or the honey.
When I have an upset tummy, all I want is homemade potato soup and saltine crackers. (Store bought or homemade.) And I drink a lot of peppermint tea. Hot or cold. I also keep some water (room temp) close to me. This is a really good article for everyone! Thank you so much for sharing with us.
Oh, and it works well for indigestion, too.
I haven’t seen it mentioned, so I’m wondering if I’m the only one who knows about Acidophilus capsules.
When my kids – big or little, my own or the ones I babysat had either vomiting or diarrhea, I’d give them acidophilus capsules.
The ones that were too little to swallow the capsule were given a spoonful of applesauce with the contents of one capsule sprinkled on top and then mixed in. (It has a creamy taste, one that isn’t strong and they’ve all readily taken the applesauce with it in it.) The older kids and myself would take 3 capsules. If the vomiting/diarrhea didn’t stop in 15 minutes, I’d give them another dose. It’s never taken more than 2 doses to stop the problem dead in its tracks. (My kids are now all adults with 2 of the 3 having kids of their own, so I’ve been using this trick for a long time – even on my little grandson when he was about 4 months old. I mixed his with some of his mom’s breastmilk. Worked a treat that way, too!)
I had one little 6 month old girl that had had her mother up all night changing her diaper every 1/2 hr or so. And the closer it came to daybreak, the more frequent the diarrhea. Mom changed her before she left the house and in the 10 minute drive from her house to mine, the baby had messed her diaper again. I gave her one dose with the applesauce and it slowed down the diarrhea. After 15 minutes, gave her another dose and that was the end of the problem. When her older sister who was about 3, started feeling sick, I gave her a dose of acidophilus and she never got the diarrhea that her sister had. Both children still ran a fever for a couple of days, but the tummy troubles never got going again. (No, it wasn’t food poisoning as the sister felt sick several days later and they both ran low-grade fevers for a couple of days each.)
You can not overdose on the acidophilus as it’s a probiotic with all the goodies in yogurt plus some more, in a concentrated, powdered form. It’s nice because you don’t have to consume dairy (my kids are allergic to milk) to get the needed probiotics. As an added benefit, it will neither constipate you nor give you diarrhea. It simply calms the stomach and regulates the bowels. It works for constipation and it also worked well for calming my daughter’s then-boyfriend’s ulcer, too.
I get mine at the health food store, in the refrigerated section. Last time I bought some, I paid about $20 for 100 capsules. I keep mine in the fridge and as long as they are refrigerated, they don’t seem to expire.
Just thought someone might want to know about it.
Awesome info! There’s another “A” for BRATY…
I remember getting a horrible, horrible, stomach bug a few years ago. It was probably food poisoning or something and it was probably the sickest I remember being in a long time. Anyway, I needed calories because I was breastfeeding and famished–but anytime I consumed anything it was bad news. I remember sending my husband out to the store for the only things I could think of to bear to eat. Cantaloupe, coconut water, (I think I broke down and drank Gatorade too!), crackers, and butternut squash. The butternut squash he made into a soup with a chicken stock base and that’s basically what got me through. It was amazing how intense my cravings were for those particular foods. Tea for some reason was repellant in this particular case. I think the sugars in the fruit and juice were probably important for me too.
Also, it’s handy to have on hand a husband who can nourish you with wholesome food when you are the one to fall ill.
I still follow the “BRAT” diet when my kids are sick. However, I follow it more naturally and more loosely than my mom taught me. Bananas, brown rice, organic applesauce, and whole wheat toast. I had never heard of yogurt being a part of it, but if the child is feeling up to it, I encourage it (and here I thought it was my own innovation! 🙂 ). I also do things like homemade chicken soup. I do store-bought whole wheat crackers as well. My main rule of thumb is very small amounts of gentle foods and drinks until it has been shown that the stomach is ready for more.
First, I love your revised BRATY diet. I can’t believe, given how I eat now, how many saltines I used to scarf when I was sick. Second, I used to follow the BRATY diet for stomach bugs, but when I was living in China, I had a very eye-opening experience.
I had food poisoning for the third time, had lost a ton of weight, had no appetite, and didn’t know what to do. I went to a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) doctor, and among other things, he told me to avoid bananas like the plague until my stomach had healed.
He prescribed only white foods — steamed chicken, white rice, yogurt. It was the only thing that worked, and I was back to normal within a week, after months of fighting to eat normally.
One more thing I learned in China: When I couldn’t keep anything down (including water), I was fed congee (rice porridge) with salt and sugar (for the minerals). It worked very well and gave me enough energy to get to the doctor’s office. If I don’t have bone broth on hand, this is what I eat instead.
How interesting! I wonder what it is about bananas that is so terrible (and they’re kind of white, too, in my opinion). So much to learn… 🙂 Katie
Perfect timing for this article. The throwing up bug has hit everyone we know in the last couple of weeks. I am bookmarking this so I can share with whoever gets it next. Probably me!
Thanks for this, I’ve never felt great about the BRAT diet after getting into real foods. I keep organic chicken broth in my food storage for times when I need it quick, I figure it’s better than nothing.
Your daughter sounds like a combination of my two children–my daughter will throw up every 10 minutes to half an hour for about 4 hours and then she’ll be done (for good), and my son will never have that intensity but it will drag on for what seems like forever. Usually in the later stages he throws up right after eating too much. I’ve found that although it kills me to limit the amount he eats after he hasn’t held anything down for a day or two, I’ve found that taking it slow so he can keep some things down is the key for us. I start out with dry things and ginger tea (from fresh ginger with the skin on), and then just what sounds good to him.
For problems on the other end (i.e., loose stools), my German mother in law told us to try eggs and while they didn’t seem to be a magic bullet, they definitely didn’t aggravate it and gave some nourishment.
I would die if I had a kid who got sick like Leah. I am always super stressed by illness and especially if they are throwing up…can’t stand it!
Thankfully mine have never thrown up more than 2 – 3 times with any illness. One of my kids doesn’t even get tummy bugs typically. Stomach rest then water, herbal tea, or pineapple is good for my kids after. Really, pineapple! My oldest always craves it and I learned later it does have some anti-nausea properties. We also do soaked bread if we have some.
Surely you wouldn’t die… 😉 I H.a.t.e. throwup and especially if it gets anywhere unwashable, so I guess I’m just thankful I only have to rinse out buckets…you get used to it and sort of just throw up your hands and raise your eyebrows…
She was a flower girl in August and got sick, too – just as we were buckling her in the carseat to go to the wedding! Oh, yes, talk about worst nightmare! Amazingly, only a few drops got on the dress. She made it down the aisle but sat by me with a bowl, and we did have to leave mid-ceremony. Lasted 4 days…
i just wanted to add, again, that i thought apples were very irritating to the intestines and best avoided when ill that way.
I think raw apples would be irritating, too – Leah definitely had an issue with raw fruit last time she was sick…
oh and the popsicle idea, great! especially with a nice, simple smoothie, or appropriate herbal tea. what kid (or adult) doesn’t relish a popsicle? 🙂
I love your BRATY diet ideas. Definitely more nourishing and sustaining than the traditional BRAT diet. However, I think there is actually a place for the white rice or saltines. Let me explain. During each of my last 2 pregnancies, and then again just a couple weeks ago, I have gotten violently ill–vomiting about every half-hour for 6-14 hours and then diarrhea, both of which lead to dehydration, which then complicates the whole mess. So after vommiting 3 times or more in a 2-hour span, I had nothing left in me, and knew the vomiting might well continue. At that point, I don’t care too much what I’m putting in (because it’s probably going to come back out)–the important thing is to get something in so I don’t dry-heave (been there, done that, and no thanks!). My preference is something salty like tortilla chips or pita chips and some water, but at such a time, saltines are fine. And after my body is depleted of nutrients, I think saltines and white rice are a better option than whole grains (unless they’re soaked) because they’re more digestible. But as soon as I can do it, I like to get some bone broth in me. Soup and kefir banana smoothies are my favorite healing foods when our family has been sick.
The thing that actually soothes my stomach and seems to do the most to help stop vomiting is ginger–fresh in a kefir-based smoothie, in some tea, stirred into some yogurt, whatever. (If I’d had it on hand, I’m sure crystalized would have helped, too.) And for diarrhea, blueberry tea has never failed me. A 1 to 2 ratio of blueberries to water, boiled, cooled, and slightly sweetened. I also find digestive enzymes (such as papaya enzymes) really helpful.
One more note, the “take a bite and a swallow of water, set a timer for 5-10 minutes and do it again practice” is the best way to deal with dehydration which often results from vomiting and diarrhea.
Sounds like you should keep crystalized ginger on hand! And blueberry tea sounds pretty good…
Your BRATY diet is a huge improvement. I think the old thing is dated and frankly obsolete. Just some doctor who made something up that maybe helped some people, maybe better than other foods, but does not deserve to be in the pantheon of healing with foods that is has somehow become. I think because diarhhea/upset tummy can be so hard on everyone, and you desperately want something to work. but sometimes the bug just has to run its course- of course there are things that can and do help, and every body (or bug) is different. or often there is an underlying issue, such as chronic diarrhea- common is the elderly. there some good probiotics are helpful and addressing what may be serious gut permeability.
though i would even challenge grains, and actually -GASP- i am not a fan of most whole grain products (or many grains at all) especially on a weak gut. believe it or not, i do think his recommendation of white rice and white flour might be best, if grains are tolerated or desired, in moderation. not cheapo store bought, but homemade (organic, not bleached flour- fresh ground and sifter if you are super woman), preferrably soured, at least soaked, and served with some good fats if tolerated. i find the stuff in the bran to be highly irritating, even when i am not sick. chris kresser and author ramiel nagel actually share this view. i know it took me a long while to come around to that, and i am not toally anti-bran or whole grain, but i do see the value of white flour. just some food for thought.
You’re right, whole grains may be harder on the gut than white flour. I wrote about that here: http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/2010/05/27/three-expert-takes-on-the-value-of-white-bread/
Applesauce, yes. Bananas, yes, but not too ripe – the developing essential oils set off certain oral-allergy symptoms. Mint tea? Absolutely. Best stuff in the world for upset tummy. Chicken broth, yes, but I skim mine – I save the fat for cooking things in, but grease is one of the things that UPSETS my digestion. Toast/crackers – great. Homemade bread and crackers (made with olive oil, but not too much) can help a lot, I find.
However. Red pepper for upset stomach and/or diarrhea? Not.
I like mild salsa on my tacos, but hot peppers are a digestive *irritant.* I suppose they might help with constipation, but that’s the last thing I’d ever give someone with any other digestive problem.
I wonder if that reader was thinking about more of a cold/flu type issue? Red pepper can be great for a sore throat or cold-fighting.
Love it. Awesome! I have often wondered about this.
I have never had better success with vomiting/nausea than with Nux Vomica. It is a homeopathic remedy found at most health food stores. The worse the problem the more often or higher potency the dose.
I cook brown rice (usually texmati) in chicken stock instead of water so the “solid” food has the benefits of bone broth.
I was recently diagnosed with Diverticulitis and told to use the BRATY diet for diarrhea,fever, and upset tummy. I also added cream of wheat for mild protein – no milk just water baseed with honey. I got the beef marrow bones and cooked them all day long – to the point that the smell in the kitchen was making me more ill after smelling ALL day. The broth was excellent as I added some vinegar, oregano, celery and tiny bit of onion to flavor it. But now I see that the health food store carries BONE BROTH in both chicken and beef organic for $7. Also something called GUT SHOTS which is only the juice off fermented sauerkraut-salty and briny. Take a few of those a day too to get friendly bacteria back in the digestive system;especially since taking antibiotics. This is the adult version.
For those of us that eat them, there are plenty of cracker and bread options that don’t contain white flour, hydrogenated oils, etc. My personal experience is that I have a much easier time getting a dry, starchy food down first. BRAT can be adapted with real food!
I just thought that the “bread” part was supposed to be white, with the intention of firming you up. ??? So yes, homemade toast or crackers are possibly gentle options, but grains should be harder to digest than things like chicken broth, eggs, meat…
Oh, and great new take on the old BRATY! Love it! Good job!
Yes, the old braty diet bugged me too, cause I just couldn’t see giving Bobby saltines. One thing that does great is a basic ripe banana (frozen optional)/plain yogurt/coconut water smoothie. I just give Bobby a little bit, and then go from there. Then I freeze the rest in popsicle makers. He loves both.
My kids don’t get sick all that often, but my 17 month old had the flu two weeks ago and I was wracking my brain at what to feed him. The “BRAT” diet was all I could think of, but my real food sensibilities were rebelling. I didn’t have time to soak brown rice for him, and there is almost never bread in the house so I let him have bananas and some store-bought but still organic applesauce. When I have an upset stomach (which is ALL THE TIME since I’m expecting baby #3) I take ginger capsules and a probiotic-prebiotic complex, but I’m afraid the baby can’t take pills and won’t drink ginger tea. Kefir water might be a good way to get some probiotics into them but I worry about the sugar content. So hard to know sometimes.