The gut is the seat of all health. Believe it. There is plenty of research spanning decades that states that your gut influences almost every other system in the body- including your mental health. Truth be told, if that is the case, you need to pay a lot more attention to what you eat, as the food you eat directly impacts your well-being.
There are several ways that your diet could influence your gut and overall health. But how does that work? How can some hollow organs influence your entire body? Actually, it isn’t the digestive system per se but what lives there that affects you. In the large intestine, there live fungi, yeasts, a few viruses, and close to a trillion bacteria. The bacteria are the prima donna. They are the ones that ensure that you have a healthy digestive system, a functioning immune system, that neurotransmitters are produced in the right amounts, that skin is healthy, that you get enough sleep and that you are alert, motivated, and happy. That is a lot of work for a single-celled organism. But they do it so that the host – you, continues to be a hospitable home for them to live in.
When you eat certain foods or develop habits that upset these beneficial bacteria, they retaliate by giving you a host of unsavory health conditions like something small- gas or bloating to biggies like type 2 diabetes or ulcerative colitis.
If you have to face high-stress situations on a daily basis, don’t exercise often enough, are a regular drinker or smoker, or if you let sleep take a back seat, you are already hurting this ecosystem in your digestive tract. But what hurts it more are your eating habits.
You Are What You Eat.
This is as true as it gets. There may be dietary habits that you follow that hurt your gut and you may not be aware of it.
- Time is valuable and no one has the time to spend hours planning a meal. You eat what you can. Last-minute decisions usually mean take-out restaurants or frozen processed foods – which is bad for you. Take a few minutes out every day to plan meals that include fruit, vegetables, and healthy meats. Find out the list of gut-healthy foods here!
- Portion control is another issue. Between restaurants competing for your attention, portions have gotten ridiculously large – more food than what you need. It tastes good so you eat it. Stop and eat only till you are sated.
- The processed foods section at the grocery sees the most movement on a daily basis. These foods are easy, need the least amount of effort, and are cheaper. Processed foods mean high levels of additives, preservatives, too much salt or sugar, and reduced nutrition value. Instead, try the digestive superfoods that can nourish your gut.
- America is the sugar rush capital of the world. Candy aside, cookies, soda, baked goods, etc. all carry a lot of sugar in them. Sugar feeds the unhealthy bacteria in the gut, causing inflammation and upset stomachs.
- Eating because you are bored is another habit that could be hurting you. Your body needs only so much food in a day, and eating because you have nothing else to do means your digestive system has to go into overdrive to process all that food. Eat during meals and replace snacking with herbal tea or juice.
- Calories from liquids are just as bad. Most of us count the calories of what we eat and not what we drink. You may drink soda, energy or sports drinks, or coffee loaded with sugar, caffeine, and additives. Switch to plain water or clear liquids.
- At the other extreme is not eating enough. Losing weight is good but doing so by starving yourself means that your body does not get the nutrition it needs. Eat in small portions instead and for a healthy gut, learn more about diet plans
- When sated, the stomach sends you signals telling you that it is full but if you are too distracted you may miss the message. Working lunches, eating while watching T.V, or surfing the net may lead to overeating and eventually obesity.
When dietary habits are unhealthy, it begins to affect all facets of your life. You may now be too loaded on caffeine or sugar to get a good night’s rest. Or your body is too sluggish from a large meal that you may not want to go for a walk. Your digestive system may be working overtime, which means that you are sleepy and lethargic. Eating too much sugar can lead to leaky gut, irritable bowel syndrome, or diabetes, further hampering your lifestyle.
Ideally, a varied diet is good for you. The more diverse and natural your intake, the more diverse the strains of bacteria in the gut that promote health. Include salads, soups, fermented vegetables, or foods like kombucha, miso, or yogurt. Eat lots of fiber and eat in small portions so that the stomach can relax and recover between meals. If this is not what you do, then you may need to reset the gut. The BRAT diet is just one of the many suggested diets that may help stomach issues. You can also enlighten yourself with remedies that help improve gut health naturally.
The BRAT Diet: Does the BRAT Diet Keep the Stomach Happy?
BRAT is an acronym for b-ananas, r-ice, a-pplesauce, and t-oast. The BRAT diet was initially used by pediatricians for children with upset stomachs. The logic behind the diet was that the food recommended was bland and easy to digest giving the stomach a well-deserved rest and this would reduce the severity of stomach issues and would also curb the amount of stool produced. However, the medical society now no longer promotes the diet as it could have caused nutritional deficiencies in children.
To begin with, the BRAT diet was suggested as an alternative to medicine in cases of toddlers and children with acute diarrhea. The diet endorses the consumption of bland foods with low fiber content to ease a stomach upset. To a certain extent, eating bland foods does help check nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea quicker and without the help of medication. However, when this diet is followed for a long period, there are serious risks of protein, fiber, fat, and calcium deficiencies.
BRAT Diet Foods
There is a difference between bland foods and the BRAT diet foods. Acceptable BRAT foods are those that can bind with water in the stomach – meaning that foods like rice and bananas are low in fiber and this may stop diarrhea by firming up waste in the intestines. Also, BRAT foods are easier to digest and the digestive system doesn’t have to work half as hard to metabolize them. Foods that can be included in the BRAT diet include:
- Broth – preferably vegetable
- Boiled or baked potatoes with no butter
- Oats or cream of wheat, cooked cereals
- Saltine crackers
- Flat soda or apple juice
- Weak tea without milk.
A normal diet of vegetables, fruit, dairy products, and meat is to be avoided. The theory is that such a diet would irritate a stomach bug-ridden tummy and this would cause loose and runny stools leading to dehydration and other ills.
Other foods to be avoided include:
- Caffeine – coffee, sodas, or energy/ sports drinks
- Raw vegetables
- Fried foods, greasy foods, or spicy foods
- High protein foods like steak, pork, salmon, or sardines
- Drinks that are too hot or cold
- Acidic fruits like berries, grapes, oranges, lime
- Dairy products.
Foods like the ones mentioned above would make stomach flu symptoms worse. The same goes for large and heavy meals.
Even though used for treating diarrhea and stomach illness, the BRAT diet must be followed only with the consent and advice of a healthcare provider. If diarrhea has signs of blood or mucous in it, the diet must be stopped, and taking medication would be the obvious next step.
Even though the BRAT diet restricts the use of the usual ingredients, you can use other bland foods when trying to put together a meal. Tea and yogurt are easy additions. When planning a day’s meal, you could use the following recipes:
Banana Ice Cream:
BRAT Diet Soup:
A day’s typical meal could look something like this
|1 bowl of probiotic yogurt and one banana. A piece of toast, if needed.
|Baked potato, 1 cup of broth, and applesauce for dessert
|Saltine crackers and tea
|Freshly cooked rice with yogurt and fruit for dessert.
There isn’t really a medical guide as to how long one must follow the BRAT diet but the agreed duration is 3 days. It is suggested that you adopt the diet at the onset of stomach illnesses like nausea, diarrhea, or vomiting. For the first 6 to 8 hours after the stomach problems make an appearance, don’t eat anything. Post which, you should start to consume only those foods that are gentle on the stomach. While waiting for your stomach to settle down suck on ice chips or a neutrally flavored popsicle.
Cautiously add light liquids like apple juice or water but stop if the symptoms return. Try again after a few hours.
On day 2, start the diet and stick to the foods mentioned on the list. The diet is not very nutritious so stay with the BRAT diet for only as long as you have the stomach bug.
By day 3, your stomach should have settled and you can return to your normal diet but with care. Avoid red meats, greasy foods, or spice foods – anything that can trigger the stomach flu again. Listen to your tummy, if it’s upset, it will let you know.
- Amidst the simplicity of the BRAT diet, which focuses on bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast, Biotics 8 could be considered a beneficial complement. Its inclusion may provide a broader nutritional spectrum and support a more diverse microbiome than the BRAT diet alone can offer, potentially mitigating the diet’s inherent limitations.
- For women contemplating the BRAT diet, particularly during the digestive upset, Yourbiology Gut+ may serve as a valuable adjunct. Its specialized blend of prebiotic fibers and probiotics can enhance the diet’s effectiveness, fostering a more resilient and healthier gut environment during and after this restrictive dietary plan.
Does the BRAT Diet Work?
The BRAT diet is not the most researched as there isn’t much to be researched. The AAP does not recommend the diet anymore for children. The diet is so restrictive that there isn’t enough intake of protein, fats, or nutrients that support healing and optimum functioning. Consequently, the BRAT diet causes nutrient and calorie deficiencies.
There is no evidence that a bland diet can correct or treat diarrhea and vomiting. These symptoms can be brought on by a number of factors – food poisoning, parasites, gastroenteric illness, allergies, or other issues that require immediate medical attention. The BRAT diet suggests self-diagnosis and remedy. The BRAT diet can only help with the severity of the symptoms but not the underlying cause itself.
Rice and banana can help with managing diarrhea and vomiting, yes but no research on the BRAT diet as an effective remedy. Because of the restrictive nature of the diet, BRAT was found to severely malnutrition participants within 2 weeks of administration of the diet. That is not very promising. The restrictions cause more harm than good.
The BRAT diet may have its advantages too. Not too many, though. The BRAT diet consists of bananas which are a very good source of pectin. Pectin is prebiotic and can help with the health of the probiotics in the gut.
One could follow the BRAT protocol for short-term relief from a gastrointestinal illness. Easy-to-digest foods like rice, soup, etc. can relieve the stomach of heavy lifting and can soften the stool. It could ease the symptoms of the distress enough to get yourself to a doctor.
The diet could help you with weight loss as there is almost no fat intake and the calorie count is low. This is not recommended, though, as you will be starved of vital nutrients necessary for a healthy life.
The bottom line is that the BRAT diet does not provide you with enough nutrients to sustain you for an extended period of time. The BRAT foods are bland and your tastebuds would complain sooner than your body. For immediate relief from diarrhea or vomiting, you could adopt the protocol for weight loss or long-term gut health, BRAT is not the diet for you; in such case, you can either consult wellness professionals and, after recovery, check out the list of 10 best prebiotic and probiotic supplements that you help you, in the long run, to keep digestive issues away.