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Are Bananas Good for IBS?

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Are Bananas Good for IBS?

Table of Contents

Key Takeaways

  • Firm, unripened bananas contain high amounts of resistant starch, which is a prebiotic that stimulates the growth of good bacteria in the gut.
  • One medium unripened banana is considered low FODMAP and is a good choice for people with IBS.
  • The FODMAP content of bananas increases as they ripen. Low FODMAP alternatives to ripe bananas include plantains, blueberries, cantaloupe, kiwi fruit, and strawberries.

If you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), you may have noticed that certain foods make your symptoms worse. Often, foods that are high in FODMAPs trigger symptoms in people with IBS, and following a low FODMAP diet can help with symptom management.

Bananas are often recommended to people with an upset stomach because they are soft and easy to digest. But are bananas good for IBS? This article looks at whether bananas are good for IBS, plus suggests alternative fruits to try if you don’t enjoy bananas.

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Are Bananas Good for IBS?

To determine whether bananas are good for IBS, it’s important to review their different components. Two of the most important components to look at are resistant starch and fiber.

Resistant Starch

Firm, unripened bananas contain high amounts of resistant starch. Most starches are broken down into glucose (sugar) by enzymes called amylases. However, resistant starch is able to “resist” digestion in the small intestine and travels into the large intestine undigested.  

Resistant starch is considered a prebiotic. Prebiotics are foods that promote the growth of good bacteria in the gut. Resistant starch is slowly fermented in the large intestine. As it’s fermented, helpful compounds called short-chain fatty acids are produced. These compounds have many health benefits, including promoting a healthy large intestine.

However, it’s important to note that gas is also produced when resistant starch is fermented. For people with IBS, who have extra-sensitive guts, this could lead to pain, bloating, and distention. Therefore, large portions of resistant starch may not be good for people with IBS.

It’s important to weigh the pros and cons of resistant starch when deciding whether to include bananas in your diet. While resistant starch can lead to the production of compounds that support a healthy large intestine, too much resistant starch could trigger IBS symptoms. If you’re struggling to figure out how much banana to include in your IBS diet, working with a registered dietitian could be helpful.

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Fiber

Bananas are a good source of fiber, with one medium banana containing about three grams of fiber. For context, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that adults consume about 28 grams of fiber per day (based on a 2,000-calorie daily diet). 

The benefit of banana over other fruits is that for a good source of fiber, it’s also relatively easy to digest because of its soft texture. If you’re in the middle of an IBS flare, choosing a banana may help soothe your intestitiness because of its easy digestibility.

Are Bananas High or Low FODMAP?

FODMAPs stands for “Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols.” They are a type of carbohydrate that is not digested by the human digestive system. The undigested carbohydrates move into the large intestine, where they are then rapidly fermented by the gut bacteria. For people with IBS, this can lead to symptoms like gas, bloating, and abdominal pain.

Many people with IBS find that following a low FODMAP diet helps with symptom management. But are bananas high or low FODMAP? 

It depends. Unripe, firm bananas are considered a low FODMAP food, while ripe bananas are considered a high FODMAP food. As bananas ripen, their content of fructans (a type of FODMAP) increases. For people with IBS, foods that are high in fructans can cause symptoms because they are fermented by the gut bacteria.

If you enjoy bananas and are following the low FODMAP diet, it’s best to choose unripe, firm bananas to ensure you’re not eating too many FODMAPs. According to the Monash FODMAP app, one medium unripe, firm banana is considered low FODMAP. 

Alternatively, you may wish to enjoy a small portion of ripe banana. According to the Monash FODMAP app, one-third of a ripe banana is considered low FODMAP.

Alternative to Bananas

If you don’t enjoy bananas, there are several other low FODMAP fruits that you can enjoy.

Plantains

Plantains are a variety of bananas but are less sweet than a banana. The edible fruit portion contains more starch than a regular banana and is typically cooked before eating. When used in savory dishes, they’re typically cooked while still green (unripe), but they can also be used ripe by cooking them with coconut juice or sugar.

According to the Monash FODMAP app, one medium plantain is considered low FODMAP.

If you’ve never tried plantains before, baked plantain chips are an easy option to start with. Peel then thinly slice the plantain. Toss with olive oil and place slices on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and bake at 350oF for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the edges turn golden.

Blueberries

Blueberries are considered low FODMAP at a serving size of one cup. One cup of blueberries contains four grams of fiber, making it a great source of this important nutrient.

Try throwing a handful of blueberries into your smoothie, baking them into low FODMAP muffins, or sprinkle them over a bowl of yogurt (choose lactose-free if you’re in the elimination phase of the low FODMAP diet).

Cantaloupe

Cantaloupe is considered low FODMAP at a serving size of three-quarters of a cup. It doesn’t contain a lot of fiber like some other low FODMAP fruits but is rich in potassium and vitamin A. Potassium helps your nerves and muscles function properly, while vitamin A is important for eye health, immune health, and reproductive health.

Cantaloupe tastes great alone as a snack, as part of a fruit salad, or in a smoothie.

Kiwi Fruit

Kiwi fruit is considered low FODMAP at a serving size of two small, peeled fruits. Kiwi fruit may be particularly helpful for people with constipation-predominant IBS (IBS-C). A systematic review and meta-analysis showed that eating at least two kiwi fruit per day helps waste move through the gut and improves constipation.

Kiwi fruit is a great on-the-go snack. Simply slice in half using a knife and scoop out the flesh and seeds with a spoon.

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Strawberries

Strawberries are considered low FODMAP at a serving size of five medium strawberries. They are an excellent source of vitamin C and are also high in fiber and antioxidants. 

Enjoy strawberries with yogurt (choose lactose-free if you’re in the elimination phase of the low FODMAP diet), in a smoothie or as a salad topping.

Takeaway

Firm, unripe bananas are low in FODMAPs and can be safely included in an IBS diet. As bananas ripen, they become high in FODMAPs, so you may need to avoid ripe bananas if you’re on the elimination phase of the low FODMAP diet.

Luckily, you can include many other delicious fruits in your diet with IBS, including plantains, blueberries, cantaloupe, kiwi fruit, and strawberries.

How a Dietitian Can Help

Trying to figure out which foods to eat with IBS can be challenging. Nourish offers personalized, IBS nutrition counseling and accepts the most popular insurance carriers. If you’re looking for guidance for your IBS diet, consider booking a virtual appointment with a registered dietitian.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much bananas can I eat with IBS?

One medium unripe, firm banana is considered low FODMAP. One-third of a ripe banana is also considered low FODMAP. If you’re in the elimination phase of the low FODMAP diet, stick to these portion sizes to avoid consuming too many FODMAPs.

Should I eat bananas during an IBS flareup?

Choose unripe, firm bananas if you’re in the middle of an IBS flareup. Ripe bananas are high in FODMAPs, which could worsen your flareup. Stick to one medium, unripe, firm banana per sitting.

What fruits are best for IBS?

If you’re following the low FODMAP diet, the best fruits for IBS are fruits that do not contain large amounts of FODMAPs. Some low FODMAP fruits you could eat include: 

  • Banana (unripe, firm, one medium)
  • Blueberries (one cup)
  • Cantaloupe (three-quarters of a cup)
  • Dragon fruit (one medium)
  • Kiwi fruit (green, two small)
  • Orange (one medium)
  • Pineapple (one cup, chopped)
  • Strawberries (5 medium)

Be sure to stick to the recommended serving size per meal, as some of the fruits listed are high FODMAP in larger serving sizes.

References

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