Can Bananas Cause Heartburn?

Can Bananas Cause Heartburn? (Image: ValentynVolkov/iStock/GettyImages)

Do bananas cause heartburn? Well, yes and no, because few foods ever undergo the flavor and texture evolution of a banana's life cycle as it transitions from the tree to your kitchen. From firm and green to ripe, mushy and sweet, bananas and heartburn have a strange and complicated relationship.

The Life Cycle of Bananas

Bananas, like avocados, ripen throughout their journey to stores, once they're on the shelves and even more while sitting on kitchen counters. When bananas are picked, they're solid green and very hard. Slowly, they become yellow. A perfectly yellow banana is only just ripe, and they continue ripening, becoming blackened and ever softer until they eventually rot.

  • Green bananas: Much like their Caribbean cousin the plantain, green bananas are not very sweet and are extremely starchy. In fact, they can be up to 25 percent straight starch, which makes them difficult to digest for those with sensitive systems. That high starch content and slow digestibility means green bananas can often reach intestines undigested, which in turn can lead to putrefaction and intestinal distress.

  • Yellow bananas: Once ripe, bananas have a pH of about 5.6 percent, which makes them low acid and easily digested by sufferers of GERD. Roughly 1 percent of those prone to acid reflux always find bananas to be problematic, though.

  • Blackening bananas: Bananas aren't fully ripened until some black patches have appeared. The fruit becomes soft and even mushy as starches break down and convert into glucose and dextrin, which are easily digested before they reach the intestines, making ripened bananas unlikely to putrefy and cause digestion issues. At this point, bananas cross the divide from being an exacerbating food to becoming one of the top foods to ease heartburn.

Foods That Reduce Stomach Acid

Heartburn can be so severe that people mistake it for heart attacks. With the modern American diet, fiber consumption has plummeted, and coupled with unhealthy convenience foods, acid reflux is suffered by many. Over-the-counter medicines are popular with those who suffer from acid reflux, but it's highly recommended that dietary tweaks be made so your digestion improves rather than continuing to medicate an ongoing issue.

  • Insoluble and high-fiber foods are ideal for those who suffer from acid reflux issues. Bananas are high in insoluble fibers like pectin, which is known for helping foods move through the intestines. Oatmeal is a high-fiber food that is low in acid, is filling and is fantastic for helping to improve intestinal health. Increasing fiber means needing to hydrate far more, so drink more water but add some lemon for its added alkaline benefits.
  • Alkaline-rich foods (with calcium, magnesium and phosphorous) are super for balancing the pH levels and reducing the toll of acids on the human body. Without alkalines, a high-pH diet means your system will leach alkaline minerals from skin, hair and other organs, which can have long-term and dire health impacts. Look for green vegetables like asparagus, spinach and kale along with healthy fats, melons like cantaloupe and honeydew and almond milk and other nuts.

  • Yogurt: While most meats, grains and dairy are acid-creating foods, yogurt and buttermilk are alkaline-forming and will help put the pH balance back in check. There's a misconception that milk will soothe stomach troubles. This is a false perception because once it breaks down, it can cause issues. Packed with protein and calcium, yogurt also has probiotics, which are known to help improve intestinal performance and in turn improve digestion overall.
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