How legitimate is the BRAT (banana, rice, applesauce, toast) diet for relieving diarrhea?
-- Celia (last name withheld)
New York, NY
The actual reasoning behind the BRAT "diet" is legitimate.
The idea is that, when consumed for approximately four consecutive days, these foods help thicken stools, thereby assuring a speedy recovery.
Although thousands of pediatricians still recommend it to parents whose children are going through gastrointestinal distress, I don't find adherence to BRAT to be of such critical importance.
When someone is sick, nutrition plays a very important role. This means getting as many nutrients as possible.
The BRAT diet falls short for me because it is very low in protein, zinc, calcium, and other vitamins and minerals.
Besides, other foods can be just as effective at treating diarrhea -- particularly oat-based products.
Remember, oat bran contains soluble fiber (the type that, apart from helping lower cholesterol levels, thickens stools.)
Plain non-fat yogurt -- particularly if it contains live and active cultures -- is another great food for battling these symptoms.
I don't think anyone should be restricted to the four foods suggested by the BRAT diet.
I lean more towards incorporating them, along with other choices low fat and insoluble fiber (i.e.: oat-based cereals, grilled chicken breast, plain non-fat yogurt, tofu, egg whites, etc.)