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 to Feed Someone with Stomach Pain or Upset Tummy
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!
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 4-and-a-half 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?
It’s the perfect stomach pain remedy: a liquid, easy to get down, gentle tasting, chock full of easily assimilated minerals, contains, 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, the kind with the 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 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:
“Brat diet. Man I hate the brat diet, but it works.”
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)
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
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, 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
How to Clean Up Vomit
One of my worst fears is vomit getting on things that are hard to clean. It used to be vomit in general, but having kids lowers your standards for bodily excretions.
Tip #1: Double sheet the beds
I never thought this tip would be something worth sharing because I thought everyone knew it, but last year at a friend’s twin’s baby shower I discovered that almost none of my friends knew this trick. For quick and easy clean up of not just throw-up, but baby spit-up, wetting the bed, and poopy blow-outs, double sheets are imperative. You can get a messy crib ready for a fussy baby with one hand within 15 seconds. Please don’t think I’m speaking down to you when I explain exactly how this is done. Again, I wouldn’t do it if my dear friend and mother of three hadn’t said, “Double sheeting never works for me because the pee always goes through to the second sheet anyway.” Dear friends, you need TWO waterproof pads. This is key.
First the waterproof pad on top of the mattress……then sheet number one……then another waterproof pad (this is a nice one that goes all the way around the mattress, but any old crib-sized pad will do)……and finally your top sheet. Ta da!
Added Bonus: If you worry about your child’s mattress off-gassing because you can’t afford organic, there are now more layers between your baby and the chemicals.
Timesaver: When the top sheet gets messed on, you just pull it and the pad underneath off, bunch them off and use tip #2.
Tip #2: Throw yucky clothes in the bathtub
When babies, toddlers, and preschoolers throw up, you never quite know where it will go. The toilet is a long shot for this age group. Clothing, carpet, couches, and blankets are all likely targets, and children aren’t about to be calm and content while you take care of germ-infested, stench-filled garments. You can’t always get them right to the washing machine and address the vomit issue right away. You don’t want to spread anything around the house. (I’m convinced that parents of babies get sick when the babies get sick because of poopy diapers and getting thrown up on. How can you avoid the virus when it’s all over you?)
The solution? Use your bathtub as a staging ground. For most people, the bathroom is central enough to the bedrooms that it’s quick and easy to get there. You can wash and sanitize the hard surface easily (later, when the kids are feeling better). Sometimes when babies are sick with a throw-up bug, the pile of clothes (yours + theirs + bedding) can become impressive after a few hours of unpredictable projectile puking. Take it easy on yourself and toss everything in the tub until further notice.
Other Natural Health Posts:
- Fighting 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
- Natural Pneumonia Treatments For Toddlers
- Natural Remedies for Croup