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The B.R.A.T. anti-diarreah diet

The stomach bug my son had a week or so ago made its way to my daughter. Whereas he started off with vomiting (he’s the champion vomiter in our house — will puke at the drop of a hat) and moved into diarreah, she kicked it off with a series of explosive poops.

“Are you loose?” my southern friend’s mother would say, in that genteel** ladylike way that makes you think she’s wearing white gloves. We don’t mince words in our house. “She’s pooping AGAIN!” my son announces. The theme for the week was “anal leakage.” Ah, fun times.

Anyway, at the first sign of “loose stools”, I immediately enforced the B.R.A.T. diet: Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, Toast. Why? All of these foods are “binding” and will help calm the intestines by decreasing motility. If the body is so desperate to rid itself of something inside, I want to be sure I don’t interfere by using something as drastic as an anti-diarreahal medication that would stop it up, but I also want to help my kids retain some nutrition and be more comfortable while its working its way through.

And, especially with diarreah, the key is to stay hydrated. Bad things can happen with dehydration — that’s how babies die from diarreah. I have been known to spoon-feed liquid to sick children.

Interestingly, when I offer the BRAT diet to a suffering child, there are no complaints initially. They dutifully eat their rice and slurp down the applesauce as if they know they will help them feel better. Times like these call for a treat of cinnamon toast, I believe.

While the toast and the rice don’t necessarily need to be whole grain for this to work, whole grains are always preferred, of course. I also choose organic, no-sugar-added applesauce, which now conveniently comes in little single-serving cups. I’ve never understood why big companies started adding sugar to applesauce in the first place: it’s sweet enough without it. Same with peanut butter — Why do they do it?

If you stick to the diet, the diarreah should clear up in 24-48 hours. This will be extended if you mix in something that’s not on the diet, like when my mother unwittingly gave my daughter an ice cream cone, and it triggered an enormous explosion. Grandparents. They don’t have to deal with the consequences of their actions, they just hand the kid back over and say goodbye!

The big thing is not to think applesauce is the same as apple juice. While applesauce contains the pectin from the fruit to help bind, apple juice is a laxative and can make things worse. I made this mistake once when my son was one and I couldn’t figure out why the diarreah wasn’t ending. Turns out it was because I was offering him lots of apple juice in an effort to avoid dehydration. I had the best of intentions, just the wrong ingredients!

**Full disclosure: When first posted, I had inadvertently included an Italian word, gen-ti-le, which means kind, gentle and refined, for the word I had intended to use, genteel. Many apologies! Sometimes languages get mixed up in my head and spill out onto the page. Huge thanks to my eagle-eyed cousin Emily for picking that up! 🙂

Posted in: Kids, Natural remedies

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