Why Do Bananas Make My Stomach Hurt?

Bananas are commonly recommended during periods of nausea. They stimulate mucus production from the stomach lining, which acts as a barrier from acidic substances that can cause nausea.

Bananas are also used to replenish potassium and other essential nutrients lost due to vomiting or diarrhea. Despite being easy to digest, people still can experience gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms when eating bananas.

Potential causes of stomach discomfort experienced after eating bananas include irritable bowel syndrome (IBS, a common disorder causing abdominal pain, cramping, gas, bloating, and other GI problems), a banana allergy, or fructose intolerance.

This article will explore why bananas may cause GI symptoms and discuss ways to minimize them.

Bananas

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Bananas, Bloating, and Gas

Bananas are a key component of the BRAT (bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast) diet, which is a very bland diet once recommended by pediatricians for children with an upset stomach.

Although bananas are generally well-tolerated, some people experience bloating and gas after eating them.

One reason a person may experience discomfort after eating bananas is due to their soluble fiber content. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and is more readily fermented in the colon than insoluble fiber. This can lead to gas and bloating in some people.

Bananas also contain sorbitol. Sorbitol is a naturally occurring sugar that acts as a laxative and can cause gas, bloating, and diarrhea when consumed in large amounts.

What Is Sorbitol?

Sorbitol is a sugar alcohol that is naturally found in fruits such as dates, berries, bananas, peaches, and plums. Sorbitol is also used as a sugar substitute in sugar-free chewing gum, desserts, and candies.

Bananas and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Bananas are a common trigger food for people with IBS because, when bananas break down in the stomach, they can cause excess gas.

Bananas are also high in fructose (a type of simple sugar), especially when they're overripe. Many people who have IBS are advised to avoid bananas because they can trigger many of the same side effects as undigested lactose (the sugar in milk).

In fact, ripe bananas are considered to be high in FODMAPS (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols). If you're following a low FODMAP diet to manage your IBS, you may want to avoid or limit them. However, unripe bananas are considered to be a low FODMAP food.

Banana Allergy

Banana allergies are rare, affecting less than 1.2% of people globally. Many people with a banana allergy are also allergic to pollen or latex because they share similar protein structures.

A person with a banana allergy may experience wheezing, narrowing of the throat, or hives within minutes of eating the fruit. They may also experience nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Bananas and Fructose Intolerance

A person with fructose intolerance has difficulty digesting fructose. People with this intolerance should restrict or limit fructose in their diet.

Fructose malabsorption occurs when the body cannot digest or absorb fructose the way it should. This causes bloating gas and abdominal discomfort.

Hereditary fructose intolerance is very rare. It happens when the liver cannot help the body break down fructose. This condition often causes more severe symptoms and requires additional treatment besides removing fructose from the diet.

Most people can tolerate small amounts of fructose found in fruits like bananas. They often have more difficulty tolerating large amounts of fructose found in honey and high fructose corn syrup.

What Is Fructose?

Fructose is a very sweet, simple sugar found in fruit, fruit juice, and honey. It's also found in table sugar.

How to Prevent GI Symptoms From Bananas

If you experience gas, bloating, or abdominal discomfort after eating bananas, consider limiting your portion size. For example, instead of eating one or more bananas a day, begin by eating half of a banana to see if your symptoms resolve.

Alternatively, if you believe you have fructose malabsorption, you can also try temporarily removing high fructose foods, including bananas, from your diet. Once you begin to feel better, you can slowly add foods that contain fructose back in. This can help you pinpoint the foods that are causing the problem.

If you're eating bananas that are too green or unripe, you may also experience stomach discomfort. Unripened bananas contain high amounts of resistant starch, which, in large quantities, may cause mild symptoms such as gas and bloating.

However, resistant starch is fermented slowly, so it usually does not cause as much gas as other types of fiber. Ripe or cooked bananas have less starch and more simple sugars, making them easier to digest.

Drinking more water and gradually increasing your fiber intake can also reduce GI side effects.

Summary

Although bananas are generally easy to digest and often recommended for nausea and diarrhea, everyone may not tolerate them. Bananas are high in fructose, sorbitol, and soluble fiber, making them a common trigger for people with existing gastrointestinal issues.

Additionally, if you are not used to eating a high-fiber diet, you may find it helpful to gradually increase your fiber intake and drink more water to alleviate unpleasant symptoms. If you suspect you have an intolerance, IBS, or malabsorption, it is essential to speak with your healthcare provider for an evaluation.

A Word From Verywell

Bananas are chock-full of important nutrients and have many benefits. Experiencing stomach pain after eating them can be frustrating. Thankfully, true banana allergies are rare. There are ways to adjust your diet and lifestyle to allow room for eating bananas. It's important to remember that every person is different and what may work for one person may not work for another.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Do bananas cause gas?

    Bananas contain soluble fiber and sorbitol, which may cause gas and abdominal discomfort in people with existing digestive issues.

  • Should you eat bananas on an empty stomach?

    Bananas are high in carbohydrates and natural sugars, which may lead to increased hunger and overall blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. Consider pairing bananas with protein and healthy fats to feel full and better manage your blood sugar.

  • What fruits cause the most gas?

    Fruits such as bananas, peaches, apples, pears, apricots, and dried fruit all contain sorbitol, which the body has difficulty digesting. Excess sorbitol intake can lead to gas and bloating.

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12 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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