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Stomach Upset? Skip the BRAT Diet

By Stephanie Vuolo, B.A.
January 19, 2015
Stomach Upset? Skip the BRAT Diet image

It’s the time of year when the highly contagious stomach virus starts to run its course. Gastroenteritis, inflammation of the digestive tract, can be viral or bacterial and also caused by food poisoning. The two most common symptoms are vomiting and/ or diarrhea, along with lethargy, dizziness, cramping, and fever. It can be potentially lethal if dehydration occurs.1 Fortunately, with the right protocol you can recover safely at home and avoid spreading it to others with proper hand washing.

Our first thought is to reach for saltine crackers and sugary ginger ale to calm the stomach. Bland foods are commonly prescribed during such situations, as they are easy to digest and palatable with nausea and queasiness. Although, the BRAT (banana, rice, applesauce, toast) diet is still recommended, many experts suggest it is outdated and moot. The American Academy of Pediatrics states that most children can continue to eat a normal diet while they have mild diarrhea.2

The Paleo Diet® can still be safely followed during times of illness and compared to the BRAT diet offers more immune boosting nutrients to allow your body to heal. Follow these tips for success and you’ll be back on your feet before you know it.

Stay Hydrated

Lost body fluids must be replaced first, with small sips of water every 5-15 minutes. 3

Electrolyte sports beverages are often used during illness to maintain hydration. Don’t be fooled into thinking most of these beverages are Paleo or are even necessary for treating dehydration. The majority of commercially produced sports drinks are highly processed, contain toxic brominated vegetable oils, 4 refined sugars, sodium and artificial food colorings. If you prefer an alternative to water, go with an energy drink which is entirely natural, organic, without added sugars, and provide the human body with all 5 electrolytes naturally found in the body at a level that is exactly isotonic and can be absorbed into the blood stream at maximal efficiency.

As you graduate from plain water, consider drinking the water directly from a fresh, young coconut. Coconut water has been used orally, as well as an intravenously to rehydrate patients with gastroenteritis. 5,6 It has been shown to rehydrate equally to carbohydrate- electrolyte beverages, but with significantly less nausea and stomach upset. 7

Rather than reaching for flat soda pop or ginger ale, turn to medicinal herbal teas, such as ginger, chamomile, peppermint, or fennel. They have been traditionally used for their antispasmodic effects, ability to delay intestinal transit, suppression of gut motility, and they stimulate water absorption and reduce electrolyte secretion. 8

Homemade Paleo bone broth, which is easy to sip from a mug, also supports rehydration and also contains the key nutrients collagen, glucosamine, and gelatin that are essential for maintaining a healthy digestive tract.

Slowly reintroduce solid food, once liquids have proven well tolerated, beginning with very small amounts of easy to digest foods to aid in an efficient and speedy recovery.9


Plantains are similar to bananas but pack more of a nutritional punch. They contain more Vitamin A, C, zinc, magnesium and potassium.10 Green plantains have more starch and less sugar than very ripe ones.

Plantains have to be cooked- our favorite way is to fry them in coconut oil, either thinly sliced to make them crispy or thicker where they taste like a sweeter white potato.


One cup of butternut squash provides 437% of the daily requirement for Vitamin A, often depleted by diarrhea.11 In addition to having more potassium than a banana, it also provides vitamins C, B-6 and E, thiamin, niacin, folate, pantothenic acid, magnesium and manganese.12 Any winter squash, like butternut, delicata or carnival, can be steamed, baked or mashed.

Scrambled Eggs and Chicken

Lower fat animal proteins tend to be more appealing to sensitive stomachs while reintroducing solids. Scrambled eggs and poached or baked chicken are two simple choices to provide protein into the transitional diet.

In the event you can't replace fluids faster than they are lost or your symptoms are more serious, it is important to seek professional medical care.

Stephanie Vuolo


[1] LeBaron, Charles W., et al. "Viral agents of gastroenteritis. Public health importance and outbreak management." MMWR. Recommendations and reports: Morbidity and mortality weekly report. Recommendations and reports/Centers for Disease Control 39.RR-5 (1990): 1-24.

[2] Available at: // Accessed on January 12, 2015.

[3] King, Caleb K., et al. "Managing acute gastroenteritis among children." MMWR Recomm Rep 52.1 (2003): 16.

[4] Munro, I. C., et al. "Toxic effects of brominated vegetable oils in rats."Toxicology and applied pharmacology 22.3 (1972): 432-439.

[5] Campbell-Falck, Darilyn, et al. "The intravenous use of coconut water." The American journal of emergency medicine 18.1 (2000): 108-111.

[6] Kuberski, T., et al. "Coconut water as a rehydration fluid." The New Zealand medical journal 90.641 (1979): 98-100.

[7] Saat, Mohamed, et al. "Rehydration after exercise with fresh young coconut water, carbohydrate-electrolyte beverage and plain water." Journal of physiological anthropology and applied human science 21.2 (2002): 93-104.

[8] Palombo, Enzo A. "Phytochemicals from traditional medicinal plants used in the treatment of diarrhoea: modes of action and effects on intestinal function."Phytotherapy Research 20.9 (2006): 717-724.

[9] Boxman, Ingeborg LA, et al. "An efficient and rapid method for recovery of norovirus from food associated with outbreaks of gastroenteritis." Journal of Food Protection® 70.2 (2007): 504-508.

[10] Available at: // Accessed on January 12, 2015.

[11] Available at: // . Accessed on January 12, 2015.

[12] Available at: // Accessed on January 12, 2015.

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