Bananas might trigger both chest and stomach pain after eating in a few surprising ways.
Bananas can aggravate digestive problems. like irritable bowel syndrome, they can interact with certain medications, and some people might be allergic to bananas.
Why do bananas make your stomach hurt?
For most people, bananas don’t cause stomach problems. The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center lists bananas as one of the best foods for digestion.
However, bananas do trigger stomach cramps, diarrhea, bloating, nausea, or indigestion after eating for a few people. These are the most common causes:
- eating unripe bananas
- digestive problems (most commonly IBS)
- allergy or intolerance
- heartburn, indigestion
Stomach pain and ripe vs unripe banana
This study found that unripe bananas contain more fiber (~18g/100g vs 4–5g/100g) and starch (21g/100g vs 1g/100g) than ripe ones. Too much fiber might cause unwanted side effects, like stomach cramps, bloating, etc.
On the other hand, ripe bananas contain more sugar (4g/100g vs 16g/100g, according to the study mentioned above). Even though the sugars in a banana is easily digested, it might still cause symptoms for those, whose gut is sensitive to sugar. Gas and bloating are the most common causes of stomach discomfort after eating ripe bananas.
Can bananas cause IBS?
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.
Upper stomach pain after eating bananas
Acid reflux and pancreatitis are the most common culprits causing upper stomach pain after eating bananas.
If bananas trigger an acid reflux episode, people usually feel a burning sensation around the center of the chest. Sometimes the pain might radiate down to the upper stomach or feel like upper stomach pain.
Pancreatic enzymes and hormones help to break down starch and regulate blood glucose levels. People with an inflamed pancreas might experience upper left abdominal pain when eating too many unripe bananas:
It also confirms recent findings suggesting that starch digestion is impaired in some patients with pancreatic disease.(source)
Why does 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.
Is banana good for chest pain?
Bananas often can help to relieve chest pain, however, sometimes they might exacerbate existing symptoms, depending on the underlying conditions.
Common conditions to watch out for:
- acid reflux
- potassium levels
Do bananas soothe heartburn?
As discussed below, in most cases, they do. However, in some cases bananas might make reflux symptoms worse.
Those who have IBS and are prone to acid reflux can easily have reflux flare-ups after bananas.
Bananas and potassium
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. However, both too high (hyperkalemia) and too low (hypokalemia) potassium levels might cause chest pain.
So if your potassium level is low, eating bananas might be beneficial, however, if your potassium level is high, you should probably avoid bananas.
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.
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
- chest tightness
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!
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 food – 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 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.
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.
Frequently asked questions
The more ripe a banana is, the higher its sugar content. Those who are prone to experiencing gas and bloating after sugar intake might experience bloating after eating a banana.
Back pain after eating is a possible symptom of acid reflux. However, since bananas might interfere with the potassium level in the blood, people suffering from kidney disease might also experience back pain when eating too many bananas.