IBS is a disorder of the gut that can cause constipation, diarrhea, or a mix of both (among other uncomfortable symptoms). In IBS-D, trigger foods (like ripe bananas) can cause more frequent diarrhea.
The low-FODMAP diet (by Monash University) is a dietary way to avoid triggering IBS symptoms. This diet focuses on reducing the consumption of fermentable carbohydrates, such as oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols.
FODMAPs are found in many foods, and understanding their levels is crucial for managing IBS symptoms in both children and adults. In general, people with IBS should avoid high-FODMAP foods whenever possible.
Do bananas trigger IBS symptoms?
Ripe bananas trigger IBS symptoms because of the presence of FODMAPs (specifically, oligofructans). Unripe bananas are less likely to cause symptoms like bloating, diarrhea, cramping, or constipation for people with IBS, but should still be consumed in moderation.
Are bananas high-FODMAP?
Firm yellow and green bananas are considered low FODMAP. This means people with IBS can safely consume a serving of medium-sized firm yellow or green bananas daily without triggering gastrointestinal symptoms.
However, ripe bananas, which have higher levels of fermentable carbohydrates called fructans, can trigger IBS symptoms in some people.
Unfortunately, this means banana bread is probably off the table for IBS sufferers.
Ripe vs. Unripe Bananas
A banana’s ripeness determines its FODMAP content and potential effects on IBS symptoms.
Unripe, or green, bananas are low in FODMAPs, making them a safe choice for most IBS sufferers. These bananas are rich in resistant starch, a type of fiber that promotes gut health, feeds beneficial gut bacteria, and reduces inflammation.
If you love peanut butter and bananas, put your peanut butter (a low FODMAP food) on unripe bananas to avoid symptoms.
As bananas ripen, their skin becomes yellow with black spots, and their FODMAP content changes. Ripe bananas contain higher levels of fructans, which can be difficult to digest.
However, not all people with IBS will experience a change in their stool pattern after consuming ripe bananas.
How many bananas can I eat per day if I have IBS?
In general, people with IBS can safely eat about ⅓ to 1 medium-sized unripe banana each day without triggering intestinal discomfort.
If you find that even unripe bananas are a trigger food for you, you may need to remove them from your diet completely.
These low-FODMAP, IBS-friendly fruits are easier on the intestines:
- Strawberries: Strawberries are rich in antioxidants and fiber.
- Blueberries: These berries contain antioxidants, fiber, and essential vitamins.
- Oranges: Oranges are high in vitamin C. Make sure to avoid the white pith, as it contains higher FODMAP levels.
- Kiwi: Another low FODMAP fruit, kiwi contains an enzyme called actinidin, which can aid digestion and reduce constipation.
- Pineapple: This tropical fruit is a good source of vitamin C and manganese. Pineapple fruit and stems contain a protease enzyme called bromelain, which can help you digest proteins into absorbable amino acids.
- Cantaloupe: Cantaloupes are rich in potassium and vitamin C. If you’re worried about getting less potassium when you stop eating bananas, consider cantaloupes instead.
- Plantains: These banana-like fruits are low in FODMAPs and generally well-tolerated by people with IBS.
How To Eat To Improve IBS Symptoms
Here are some tips on how to eat to improve IBS symptoms:
- Follow a low FODMAP diet: As we’ve mentioned, when you limit your intake of fermentable oligosaccharides, you’ll probably experience less intestinal discomfort.
- Consume smaller, more frequent meals: Eating smaller meals frequently throughout the day can help reduce the workload on your digestive system and minimize IBS symptoms.
- Drink plenty of water: Staying hydrated promotes good gut health and can even prevent constipation. Aim to drink at least 8 cups of water daily.
- Incorporate soluble fiber: Soluble fiber, found in foods like oats, psyllium, and flaxseeds, can help regulate your bowel movements and improve overall gut health. Start with small amounts and gradually increase your intake to avoid exacerbating IBS symptoms.
- Avoid trigger foods: Common IBS trigger foods include dairy products, gluten, high-fructose corn syrup, and artificial sweeteners. Keep a food diary to identify and eliminate specific trigger foods from your diet. A gluten-free and/or lactose-free diet may be necessary for managing IBS.
- Try probiotics: These healthy bacteria can support better digestion and may alleviate IBS symptoms. You can get probiotics from fermented foods (kimchi, kombucha, sauerkraut, etc.) or from probiotic supplements.
- Cook at home: Preparing meals at home allows you to have control over ingredients and portion sizes.
- Practice mindful eating: Eating slowly and mindfully can help you tune into your body’s cues and prevent overeating. Overeating or eating too fast can lead to discomfort or rapid gut motility, meaning waste moves through your intestines more rapidly. (In other words: Diarrhea.)
- Consult with a professional: Work with a dietitian, nutritionist, or healthcare provider to develop a personalized plan for managing your IBS symptoms through diet and lifestyle changes.
Every person with IBS has unique triggers and tolerances. Experiment and adjust your diet to find what works best for you.
Foods To Avoid With IBS
- High FODMAP foods: Foods high in fermentable carbs, such as onions, garlic, apples, and honey, can cause bloating and discomfort in some people with IBS.
- Dairy products: Lactose is a sugar found in milk, ice cream, and other dairy products. People with IBS (especially lactose-intolerant individuals) often struggle to digest lactose products. Consider trying lactose-free or plant-based alternatives.
- Gluten-containing grains: Wheat, barley, and rye contain gluten, which can cause gastrointestinal issues for some people with IBS. Opt for gluten-free grains like quinoa, rice, and oats.
- Fried and fatty foods: Greasy, high-fat foods can be difficult to digest. Choose lean proteins and cook using healthier methods like baking, grilling, or steaming.
- Artificial sweeteners: Sugar substitutes, like sorbitol and xylitol, can cause gas, bloating, and diarrhea in some people. Limit your consumption of sugar-free products with these sweeteners.
- Carbonated beverages: The bubbles in carbonated drinks can contribute to gas and bloating. Opt for still water or herbal teas instead.
- Caffeine: Coffee, tea, and other caffeinated beverages can stimulate the gastrointestinal tract and trigger IBS symptoms. Consider decaffeinated alternatives or reduce your caffeine intake.
- Alcohol: Alcoholic beverages, especially beer and wine, can irritate your digestive system. Limit your alcohol intake or avoid it altogether.
- Legumes: Beans, lentils, and other legumes can cause gas and bloating in some people. Experiment with small portions and consider soaking or sprouting legumes to improve digestibility.
IBS doesn’t have to be a life sentence.
While IBS is considered incurable, we’ve helped hundreds of patients reverse their IBS symptoms and regain control of their lives.
If you’re a resident of Colorado, we’d like to help you, too. Set up a free consultation today to find out how we can get you out of the bathroom and back to your life!
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