I have been having some tummy rumblings this week which made me think about the BRAT diet and what I would eat now that I’m eating a completely different diet from what I was eating the last time I had intestinal distress.
The BRAT diet is for diarrhea and intestinal upset. It’s an acronym standing for Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, and Toast. It’s supposed consist of foods that are soothing to the intestinal tract and easy to digest. To that end people are told to avoid things like milk, and all dairy products like butter, cheese, yogurt, kefir, and ice cream. Also, anything acidic like citrus, orange juice included (I think pineapple juice is excluded from that. ) Plus all fats and proteins because they are thought to be difficult to digest.
Unfortunately, the first time I was told to go on the BRAT diet I had some issues with it. I was trying to eat low carbohydrate and I absolutely can’t stand bananas or applesauce. Apples, yes, but not applesauce. Because I figured bowel health was paramount at that point, I gave up trying to keep my sugars low and focused on eating what the diet allowed for. I modified the BRAT diet to boiled eggs, homemade bone broth, rice, slices of apple, and whatever bread I had around. Unfortunately for me I had not baked recently so that consisted of the only store bought bread I can buy that does not contain oils: Jasmine pita pockets. They are not terribly exciting plain and there was nothing I could put on them. I cheated and allowed soy sauce for the rice. It was hellishly boring but the diarrhea cleared up in a few days. Considering that I’d been sick for over a week I was willing to believe that the diet really aided in my recovery.
The only thing was it was very hard to get back on my low sugar diet and so I wondered if there were some other foods that were less sugary that I could use instead of the high carbohydrate rice and bread.
I read a lot and it turns out there is quite a disagreement in the medical community about whether fats and protein are easily digested or not. There is also some disagreement about if sugar is necessary for sick people. Like most things, I think the BRAT diet is an oversimplification and in real life more attention to detail is a good idea.
Last week I read about something called pemmican. It was made by the native Americans. It’s a food which is made up of 60% dried and powdered lean buffalo meat and 40% buffalo fat mixed together and made into a kind of bar that was sewn in a skin and kept airtight. It lasted for years and was considered a superior food. Now people are making it out of beef. I read about someone using it, along with rice and coconut milk, to help his guts heal up. Which made me sure that that fat is not as hard on the guts as it could be. Still I will error on the side of caution.
I don’t eat strict paleo or Atkins, nor do I eat completely gluten or grain free. I try to stick to more traditionally processed foods (as opposed to conventionally processed foods) in my diet and my choices are sort of a mishmash of all of the above diets. From what I’ve been reading, most of these diets agree, protein is not hard to digest if its cooked right. They also seem to indicate that sugar is not a good thing for a sick person, and that grains and dairy are a problem for a compromised gut. A sick person definitely counts as compromised, so I figured I would avoid any grains and/or dairy and limit sugar as much as possible. There was little about fats however. They all seem to agree that eggs are a nutrient dense food that is safe for a compromised gut and as long as you are not allergic, great for sick people. Eggs and bone broth.
I have had a couple of bouts of intestinal distress and I’ve found that with food, less actually can be better. My new plan combines what’s worked for me in the past and what I’ve read works.
So the way I have decided to go is, if I’m nauseous, to avoid food and eating until I can tolerate water without vomiting. At that point I can introduce fluids slowly. No chugging. I will stick to herbal tea (probably ginger which works well for me) and bone broth (which I tolerate fairly well). Then once I’m hungr,y which will be pretty soon knowing me, I will start with eggs. I like eggs and they go over well. I read a nice recipe for egg drop soup with just eggs and broth which I think I would try first. I’ve eaten boiled eggs very successfully with a tender tummy. When I’m sick of gentle foods, and I felt up to it I have successfully moved on to eat protein like chicken or beef. But I might try and stick to meat that has been slow cooked and is very tender. I’ve read that the more tender it is the easier it is to digest. Also that the tinier the partials of protein are the less work your stomach has to do to digest them fully and gain more nutrition. So I’m going to try and remember to chew well. Throughout this first phase I’m going to try to keep taking probiotics. They are supposed to be your best friend after an event like this and last time I found they didn’t cause any tummy upset, even in pill form.
From the sound of it, rice, apples, and potatoes can be eaten once you are on solid food, and I’ve found that they cause no tummy issues. But I’m going to limit them to under 25 carbohydrates at a sitting because they can spike the blood sugar. When I was ill last time too much sugar gave me a headache and made me nauseous.
I don’t like plain rice, so I will have to decide if I can have butter or soy sauce on it. I’m thinking that because I’ll be eating chicken and or beef with fat I might be okay eating butter and I had no issues with soy last time.
After I have my first solid … er, evidence that my insides are on the mend, I figure I can start introducing more fruit and veggies into my diet, but I’m thinking it makes sense to just stick with introducing one a day so as not to upset the new intestinal flora balance. The last few times I was sick I introduced foods far too fast and ended up setting myself back a day or so. Nuts and cheese are going to be added back in only when I am totally sure I’m back up to par.
Dose anyone have any other ideas about what else I might do?
This plan worked out pretty well although the limited diet was hard to stick to. I was back on solid food much faster than the last few tummy issue times though so it was really worth it.