Chest pain after eating bananas

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Bananas might trigger chest pain after eating in a few surprising ways.

Bananas can aggravate digestive problems, they can interact with certain medications, and some people might be allergic to bananas.

Why eating bananas cause chest pain?

Banana is a great food that should not cause symptoms when eaten in moderation by healthy people.

However, those who have certain medical conditions might experience problems when eating bananas. These are the most common reasons for experiencing chest pain after bananas:

  • irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • kidney problems
  • acid reflux
  • food allergy
  • certain medications (beta-blockers)

Besides chest pain, eating bananas might also trigger stomach pain, shortness of breath, gas, bloating, and other symptoms.

Irritable bowel syndrome

People with IBS are advised to follow a low-FODMAP diet.

Bananas used to be considered a low-FODMAP food, however, this has changed in 2017. Since then unripe bananas are still low-FODMAP, but ripe ones are considered to be high-FODMAP.

Therefore people with IBS should steer clear of ripe bananas. In fact, this study found that banana is a common IBS trigger food.

Even though chest pain is not a typical IBS symptom, stomach cramps, bloating, or constipation might trigger conditions (e.g. acid reflux) that can cause chest pain.

Kidney problems

Banana is a great source of potassium, it contains about 450mg of potassium, which is 13% of the recommended daily value.

Our nerves and muscles need a certain amount of potassium to function well and we get this potassium from our food.

If there is too much potassium in our bodies, the kidneys are responsible for removing the extra amount from the blood. People suffering from kidney disease may not be able to filter this extra potassium.

Too much potassium in the blood can lead to a condition called hyperkalemia (high potassium). Common symptoms are:

  • muscle weakness
  • numbness
  • tingling
  • nausea

These symptoms are usually mild and take some time to develop and chest pain is not a typical symptom.

However, when the potassium level in the blood is very high, more severe symptoms can develop quickly and chest pain is a possible symptom. According to kidney.org:

If hyperkalemia comes on suddenly and you have very high levels of potassium, you may feel heart palpitations, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, or vomiting. Sudden or severe hyperkalemia is a life-threatening condition. It requires immediate medical care.

(source)

In case of kidney problems, always ask your doctor if you can eat high potassium foods, such as bananas.

Acid reflux

This one is a bit surprising, as bananas are low-acid fruit (unripe bananas are a bit more acidic than ripe ones). According to AARP bananas are one of the best foods for people with acid reflux and have many benefits related to gastrointestinal symptoms.

Yet, some people do experience reflux episodes after eating bananas. Possible explonations are:

  • Unripe bananas are more acidic and contain more starch, which is harder to digest. This might for the stomach to produce more acid.
  • Bananas contain a lot of naturally occurring sugar, which should not cause problems when eaten in moderation. However, some people might react more sensitively to it and they might produce gas, which can trigger reflux symptoms.
  • As mentioned above, bananas can be an IBS trigger food and certain IBS symptoms can lead to acid reflux. This study found that there is a significant overlap between people suffering from IBS and acid reflux.

Banana allergy

Albeit rare, some people might be allergic to bananas. Common allergic reactions are:

  • itching and swelling (usually the mouth, throat, or lips)
  • rashes and hives
  • wheezing
  • chest tightness
  • coughing

Symptoms usually begin right after (within seconds or minutes) eating bananas.

Even though banana allergy is uncommon and symptoms are usually mild, on rare occasions anaphylaxis might occur. This is a medical emergency and requires immediate help!

Certain medications

First and foremost: when taking any kind of medications, make sure to consult with your doctor about what you should not eat!

Bananas are known to interact with certain types of medications. These are the most common ones:

  • ACE inhibitors: Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors are taken by people with high blood pressure and heart problems. Since these drugs retain potassium in the body, eating too much high potassium foods – like bananas – might cause unwanted side effects and lead to dangerously high potassium levels in the blood.
  • Diuretics: Also called water pills, diuretics help your body to lose water and salt. This might lead to low potassium levels and bananas might be a good way to replace the missing potassium. However, certain diuretics are actually potassium-sparing, leaving potassium levels high. Eating bananas with such pills might lead to hyperkalemia.
  • Beta-blockers: Some beta-blockers decrease the amount of potassium cells take from the blood. This might increase the potassium level in the bloodstream. Your doctor might recommend staying away from high-potassium foods in such cases.

As a rule of thumb, bananas should be avoided when taking medications that can cause elevated potassium levels.

Final thoughts

Banana is a healthy fruit and in most cases, it should not trigger chest pain or other symptoms.

However, when experiencing chest pain after eating bananas, the cause is often IBS and/or acid reflux. Banana allergy is also a possible, but less common reason.

When taking medications that affect the potassium level in the body, you should always consult with your doctor about foods you can and cannot eat.