How to soothe an upset stomach…by being a BRAT

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It’s Dead Week at Cal Poly, also known as the last week before final exams. The skies turn darker, Starbucks employees set up hourly barricades–and to be perfectly honest, the campus resembles one of the more grotesque scenes from The Walking Dead. Just as the undead plague spreads across post-apocalyptic America, so spreads a host of other unwelcome illnesses for us:

Cold
Flu
Fever
General disorientation

…and the stomach virus.

If you are one of the unfortunate few experiencing the pleasant sensations of sudden nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea, you may want to consider adopting a short-term BRAT diet.

(Me.)

No, this does not give you license to cry out and make demands of your poor roommate/mother/significant other. Instead, the BRAT diet outlines simple, digestion-friendly foods to help ease stomach pain and…any other uncomfortable side effects of a stomach ailment.

BRAT stands for:
Bananas
Rice
Applesauce
Toast

Yes it sounds bland and nutritionally unvaried, but together these foods can return your digestion to its regular patterns. They all have low fat and fiber content–two nutrients that can upset an already irritated system.

Bananas contain potassium, which helps to replace any electrolytes lost through vomiting or diarrhea.
Rice and Toast are easy-to-digest carbohydrates which help to cure diarrhea. Other simple grains are just as effective, like crackers, pasta, and cereals like Cream of Wheat. White potatoes fit into this category as well.
Applesauce contains pectin, which helps to harden loose stool. If you can tolerate raw apples, they are best consumed without the skin. Be careful with how much you eat: Excess sugar can continue digestive distress.

Here are a few alternative foods that follow the same guidelines as the BRAT diet, if you can tolerate them:

Low-fiber cereal
Eggs (especially to ensure adequate protein intake)
Well-cooked vegetables (for micronutrients)
Blended soups (but avoid those that are rich and creamy)

Here are the foods you ought to avoid until your system returns to normal:

Sugar
Dairy
Nuts/Seeds
High-fiber whole grains
Lentils, beans and corn
Raw vegetables
Dried fruit
Prunes or prune juice
Any high fat or fried foods.

*Note: it is important to choose low-fiber grain sources like white rice and pasta. Whole grains have a higher fiber content, which means more indigestible foods will pass through your system. The BRAT diet only lasts until symptoms subside, so you can return to your regular, high-nutrient foods after one to two days.

For those of you lucky enough to escape the plague, I salute you. For the rest of you poor undead souls, I raise my bowl of white rice to the sweet pleasure that will be Spring Break.

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