I remember a few times I got a stomach ache after eating green, unripe bananas. Later, I realized that more ripe bananas didn’t cause the same problem, so I made the switch and didn’t look back… But only recently did I learn the explanation for this issue.
Unripe bananas cause stomach pain for some people due to their high resistant starch content, which can sometimes cause bloating and gas. Some people also experience banana-induced stomach aches due to allergies, banana intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome, or fructose intolerance.
Below, I’ll describe all these underlying conditions in detail to help you assess which issue you might be dealing with. I’ll also share 3 easy remedies for stomach pain after eating bananas!
Why Do Bananas Make My Stomach Hurt?
Let’s explore 6 common reasons why bananas might cause some form of stomach pain, cramp, or nausea—and how to tell which one you’re dealing with.
1. Banana Ripeness
Green, unripe bananas tend to cause more stomach pain issues than ripe bananas (source).
And I actually found this to be true for myself—ripe, spotty bananas are fine, but green bananas give me a bit of a stomach ache.
Why is this? Well, as bananas ripen, the starch gradually turns into sugar. So in a green banana, you have a lot more starch, particularly “resistant starch.” The extra starch content in unripe bananas can cause bloating and gas for some people. (source)
Also, unripe bananas contain more proteins that are similar to the allergy-causing protein in latex. This can cause issues for about 30% to 50% of people who are allergic to natural rubber latex. (This is the latex-fruit syndrome—more on this below.)
2. Banana Allergy
What you might call “banana allergy” could actually be a few different conditions. I just mentioned latex-fruit syndrome above, for example. Some people are allergic to an enzyme found in bananas, as well as in avocados, kiwis, and chestnuts, called chitinase. (source)
Considering this, be extra wary of banana issues you’re having if you know you have a latex allergy. (source)
Bananas can also cause issues if you have pollen food allergy syndrome (PFAS), also known as oral allergy syndrome. This condition results in an itchy mouth, scratchy throat, or swollen lips and tongue while certain fruits or veggies are in your mouth.
If you experience hay fever and have a ragweed allergy, plus you have issues with bananas, you may have PFAS. That said, stomach pain is not a typical symptom of PFAS. (source)
It is also possible for children with nut allergies to have allergic reactions when eating or touching raw bananas. (source)
3. Banana Intolerance
A banana intolerance differs from a banana allergy in that allergies can potentially occur even while the banana is in your hand or mouth—an intolerance requires you to eat the banana. (source)
Sometimes, a banana intolerance can show up much more slowly than an allergy, too. Allergic reactions may happen immediately or within 2 hours, but an intolerance may take up to 72 hours to be felt. (source)
Banana intolerances could lead to cramps, headaches, a bloated stomach, or fatigue. (source)
Some have a banana intolerance because they struggle to digest the amines in bananas (source). To consider if this might be the case, browse a list of high-amine foods. Check if other foods on the list cause you trouble and whether this could be the underlying issue.
If you can eat a small amount of banana without issues but can’t tolerate a whole banana, this may also point toward it being an intolerance rather than an allergy. (source)
4. Irritable Bowel Syndrome
If you have a range of digestive issues with bananas and various other foods, it’s possible you’re dealing with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Different people with IBS have different food triggers for issues like cramps and diarrhea. Bananas are one of many possible IBS trigger foods, as they contain certain kinds of carbs that can create gas as they are broken down in your gut.
People for whom bananas are an IBS trigger will often do worse with ripe bananas than unripe bananas. However, both ripe and unripe bananas can function as IBS triggers in large quantities. (source)
5. Fructose Intolerance
Fructose is a kind of sugar found in many fruits, including bananas. There are some people who have an intolerance to fructose. If you’ve noticed problems with other fruits, as well as foods containing high-fructose corn syrup, then this could be the issue.
There are actually multiple kinds of fructose intolerance:
- Fructose Malabsorption. This is kinda like lactose intolerance, but for fructose. It can cause issues like diarrhea and bloating after fructose consumption. Read this article for more info on fructose malabsorption.
- Hereditary Fructose Intolerance. This is a more severe, rare kind of fructose intolerance. It’s genetic and usually discovered as babies are weaned from breast milk. If it’s not identified, it can lead to organ failure and death. But if you’re an adult who is otherwise healthy, this is probably not the cause of your banana stomach ache.
6. Hypersensitive Gag Reflex
Bananas can trigger a gag reflex in some people, not because of any allergy or intolerance issues, but simply because of the texture.
Soft foods like bananas can cause this issue in people with a hypersensitive gag reflex, even if you like bananas overall. However, there is a funny tactic I found for stopping your gag reflex in this post, if this is the issue you’re dealing with.
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Banana Stomach Ache Remedies
So what can you do if bananas are causing you stomach pain or other digestive problems? Here are 3 possible solutions.
1. Let Your Bananas Ripen More
As noted above, unripe bananas tend to cause more stomach pain and digestive issues compared to ripe, spotty bananas for many people (including me).
So be patient and let your bananas get yellow and start to get some brown spots! They will be sweeter and most likely easier to digest.
2. Cook Your Bananas
If your problem with bananas happens to be from PFAS, then cooking your bananas could help (source). I’ve seen a few people comment online that eating bananas generally makes them feel sick, but not when cooked.
This person who developed a banana intolerance, for example, wrote that broiled or baked bananas do not cause them any symptoms or intolerance.
So if your reaction to bananas has not been dangerous, but just uncomfortable, you may want to try cooking them or having them as part of a baked treat like banana bread instead, to see if they’re more tolerable in that form.
But if you have a serious banana allergy, I am not recommending that you continue to eat bananas in any form.
3. Don’t Eat Bananas
This is kind of obvious, but this is honestly the best solution to a lot of issues with food intolerances. Even if you can’t figure out the exact issue causing your banana stomach ache, you can notice the pattern and just stop eating bananas!
There are many other fruits that can provide even more nutrition than bananas. Berries are packed with many more antioxidants than bananas, with less sugar, so those are a great choice.
If you were eating bananas for the potassium, then consider choosing beet greens, avocado, potatoes, or tomatoes instead, as they are all high-potassium options. (source)
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