We all know what gut flora is. To revise you with the basics, gut flora refers to the presence of good bacteria over bad bacteria in one’s body. It refers to the positive balance that makes your body healthy and free from toxins and negative substances. So that you are fit enough to live a fulfilled life.
But can diets affect gut flora? Our straightaway answer would be affirmative, but still, we would like you to back our response with scientific studies. It has been observed in a scientific study that the food we consume affects the gut microbiome, positively or negatively, depending on the kind of food you consume over an extended period. For instance, a diet with low fiber and high in saturated fats can cause an unfavorable impact on the gut flora. But when you consume more dietary fiber and balance out the consumption of nutrients and antioxidants, your gut microbiota receives all the essential nutrients. The good bacteria in your body receive a nourishing boost. Even fatty acids are in much control.
Scientific Studies on the Role of Diet on Gut Health
In a 2017 NCBI study, it was observed that diet influences the microbiome, and even minor alterations in the diet can cause huge changes in the microbial shift within a day. Hence, when you don’t pay attention to the diet and the food you consume, you can notice changes in your gut health and bowel movements in the span of 24 hours.
In another 2019 NCBI study, it was proven that habitual diet routines influence gut flora. Though more research on long-term diets will be appreciated, short-term diets certainly have a great influence on one’s gut microbiome.
What are the various diets out there for a healthy gut?
If you browse the internet, you can find a great variety of diets recommended by experts and nutritionists. And even some YouTubers have come up with short-term diets that provide instant and temporary relief for gut health. But some of the popular gut diet plans are as follows:
- The Leaky Gut Diet Plan.
- 7-Day Meal Plan for a Healthy Gut.
- The Microbiome Diet.
- Gut Health Diet Plan – 4-week diet plan.
- BRAT Diet Plan – which stands for B-ananas, R-ice, A-pplesauce and T-oast.
But today we will discuss the BRAT Diet Plan in more detail.
What is the BRAT Diet?
A widely known diet plan recommended by healthcare experts for children and adults after an episode of diarrhea and other stomach-related issues is the BRAT Diet. BRAT is the acronym for the following diet that consists of these foods:
- B – Bananas
- R – Rice
- A – Applesauce
- T – Toast.
Yeah, the first thing that might have come to your mind after reading this is that all of these are bland foods. But please note that bland foods can be digested easily and are perfect for chewing after several stomach issues. These foods will help your stomach rest as you don’t have to worry about visiting the washroom often. But still, experts need more evidence to prove that the BRAT Diet is a good diet to relieve symptoms of stomach issues.
The BRAT diet is comprised of bland foods that can be easily found in your kitchen pantry. They are low in fiber and avoid your bowels from flaring up and lightening the load on the digestive system. It is recommended to follow this diet plan of bland foods for the short term and not for longer durations. It will surely relieve you from digestive issues, but if you follow it for a long time, your gut will suffer from other concerns. Since it is low in fiber and does not comprise the essential nutrients, it is better to follow this routine when your stomach health is unwell.
What are the protocols of the BRAT Diet?
- Meal times – Better adhere to the 3-day meal structure. You need to follow your regular meal times, but ensure that you don’t eat anything spicy or heavy beside the foods mentioned in the BRAT Diet itself. Sip on the liquids, including water, whenever possible.
If you have vomiting or stomach concerns, then do not eat anything for the first 6 hours. Later, sip water or suck ice chips, and then the next day, start with the BRAT diet but stick to liquids first.
- Meal portions – On the second day, you can start having certain foods such as rice, mashed bananas, toast, and other foods mentioned in the BRAT Diet plan. Eat after every few hours and keep small portions. As you are recovering from stomach upset issues, it is obvious that you won’t have a huge appetite. Hence, it is better to keep a limited size of portions and eat them after a gap of a few hours.
What do the studies show about BRAT Diet?
Earlier, the BRAT diet was popular and often suggested by doctors for children and adults after bouts of diarrhea or stomach bug, but it is not always the best thing to do. Recovery is also possible after other treatment options, so it is not always wise to follow the BRAT Diet.
Moreover, we are not very satisfied with the research part and would appreciate extensive research on this diet plan. According to AAP, this is not a suggested diet plan for children; hence, this needs to be clarified first. The diet lacks in terms of nourishment and should not be administered to children without a doctor’s approval. It can result in nutrient and calorie deficiencies in children and adults. Even if separate clinical trials on the BRAT Diet are not conducted, we can find studies on the foods consumed during this diet routine.
- Bananas contain pectin and potassium. The pectin substance is excellent for the digestive system, while potassium helps you in absorbing water into the system. In a 2019 study, it was noted that the green banana pulp helps toddlers to recover from symptoms of diarrhea, stomach bug, and other stomach illness.
- Similarly, the 2016 study emphasizes the benefits of rice soup in treating stomach issues amongst children.
- Now, let us look at the downfalls of the BRAT diet. A 2-week study has shown that the BRAT diet lacks vital nutrients and can cause malnutrition amongst kids. This study is not sufficient, and more research is required.
- According to AAP, when children recover from diarrhea, they need to be given a balanced diet and nothing else.
In short, we can find a few studies on the BRAT Diet, but we will need more extensive research to prove its benefits and incorporate it into your life.
How to follow BRAT Diet?
When you suffer from diarrhea symptoms, irritable bowel syndrome, or other stomach illnesses, you need to rest for at least 6 hours and not eat anything. It happens that you might not be able to digest even water or other beverages. After 6 hours, when you feel a little settled down, try sipping on water or sucking on ice chips. Do this for the first day.
On the next day, add a few clear liquids into your diet. For instance, you can try apple juice, rice soup, weak tea, and mashed bananas in water. Do not add toast now because it is categorized into solid foods. Eat after every few hours and do not over-stuff. Eat in small portions.
On the third day, add solids or BRAT foods to your diet. You can eat bananas, rice, and toast and munch on apple slices and soft-cooked eggs.
Return to your normal, balanced diet on the fourth day.
What are the benefits of the BRAT Diet?
- It helps you recover from stomach illnesses, especially loose and runny stools, also known as acute diarrhea.
- When a person undergoes surgery and the digestive system is delicate, you can be on this diet for a while. It will help you to maintain your digestive tract.
- Problems such as acute gastroenteritis in children are a huge thing. Hence, doctors suggest a BRAT diet to get rid of such acute gastroenteritis issues and ease symptoms.
- It is not a weight-loss diet; please note that. But the BRAT foods will help you maintain a healthy weight during recovery.
- It will reduce the fatigue that occurs after a gastrointestinal illness or other digestive health conditions.
What foods must be avoided?
- Toast is a vital component of the BRAT diet plan, but is not recommended immediately in the initial days of recovery. You can munch on a slice or two of toast on the second or third day of recovery, depending on your health condition.
- Stick to apple juice or water when beverages are considered. You should not be consuming black coffee or alcohol during this period. It is better to stay away from teas, sports drinks and sugar-based drinks as well. Eat other bland foods if they work for you.
- Avoid fried foods, spicy and processed foods as they make the symptoms worse, and the amount of stool produced will be beyond your control. Even greasy foods should be avoided. Consume easy-to-digest foods whenever possible.
- If you find apples or rice hard to digest, then do not consume them. BRAT diet doesn’t mean that you need to consume all the specific foods. You should restrict yourself to foods that are easy to digest for you. For instance, it could be hard for you to digest raw vegetables, so don’t consume them.
What results can one expect, and how soon?
Recovery depends entirely on your health situation. For instance, if your symptoms are severe, you will need to take the help of a healthcare provider and not depend solely on the BRAT Diet alone.
Generally, it takes 2-3 days to recover from diarrhea when you are eating bland foods. But if you notice a few symptoms and your immunity is on track, you can recover soon.
You will experience firmer stools than earlier. You will feel that you are not having those aches and uneasiness in the stomach, nor will you be experiencing nausea. Your appetite will be back to normal, and you will digest water, beverages, soups, and other foods and will not throw up easily.
Does BRAT diet work?
To be frank, BRAT Diet is a reasonable diet for treating diarrhea or other stomach problems. However, it is not recommended for a longer duration as it does not contain enough nutrients. Moreover, your gut does not improve; the stomach problem just receives some kind of relief with this diet plan.
You can take a step forward and add fermented vegetables to retain and enhance the number of beneficial bacteria in the gut. Reduce dairy products as it helps in managing diarrhea.
Are there any drawbacks?
- Do not make the BRAT diet plan a long-term diet schedule as it could cause nutritional deficiencies in children and adults alike. Eating bland foods will result in a lack of nutrients and is recommended only after stomach flu.
- This diet is not a replacement for the normal diet.
- It does not guarantee improved gut health in the longer run. It will reduce and treat diarrhea symptoms for the time being, but it won’t solve the issue of a leaky gut or make your gut healthy in the future. For that, you need to add a prebiotic and probiotic supplement to your diet; find out the 10 Best Pre and Probiotic Supplements for Leaky Gut and more such digestive distress.
- It is not a cure for all kinds of stomach issues such as stomach flu. For example, if you have bloating or constipation problems, you cannot be on a bland diet.
- It cannot be followed blindly without the consultation of wellness professionals. So, if you have diarrhea or other problems, seek the help of a healthcare provider to be on a successful BRAT Diet.
In short, the BRAT diet is recommended in certain situations, but not all the time. You cannot depend on it for your entire life ahead. Hence, never call it a sustainable diet routine. However, if you have gastrointestinal issues and you need a full-proof diet that works like a miracle, then the BRAT diet is highly recommended but strictly for a few days only. Ensure that you seek your doctor’s permission for the same and are fit and healthy enough to follow it. We are sure this article will help you in the process.