If you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), you may wonder whether you can safely eat bananas without a recurrence of symptoms.
IBS is a condition characterized by either frequent bouts of constipation, diarrhea, or a combination of both. Although its cause still isn’t fully understood, there appears to be a link between IBS and an imbalance of gut bacteria in the colon (
Regardless of the type of IBS you have, the foods you eat can significantly affect your symptoms, and diet also plays a key role in IBS management and treatment.
The diet that’s often recommended for IBS is the fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols (FODMAP) diet.
This diet eliminates foods high in FODMAPs, which are carbs that are rapidly fermented by your gut bacteria but difficult for your body to digest and absorb. Several small studies have affirmed the benefits of a low FODMAP diet for people with IBS (
This article reviews whether bananas are high or low in FODMAPs and whether you should eat bananas if you have IBS.
The FODMAP content of bananas depends heavily on their degree of ripeness.
Unripe bananas are low in FODMAPS and therefore a better choice for people with IBS — although they’re not as sweet or soft as ripe bananas.
Regardless, you may be able to have up to one-third of a ripe banana at once while following a low FODMAP diet (6).
Ripe bananas are high in a type of FODMAP known as oligofructans, but unripe bananas are considered a low FODMAP food.
Generally, the low FODMAP diet is a helpful way to manage IBS symptoms. Many people with IBS report lasting success following the diet.
Given that ripe bananas are high in FODMAPS, it’s not a good idea to eat large amounts of them if you’re on a low FODMAP diet. Although, a small serving — about one-third of a banana — may be OK.
On the other hand, IBS symptoms can be brought on by trigger foods that vastly differ from person to person. If you know that ripe bananas don’t worsen your IBS symptoms, you can continue to eat them regularly.
Additionally, IBS is often accompanied by an imbalance of gut bacteria that improves on a low FODMAP diet. You may be able to introduce higher FODMAP foods without experiencing IBS symptoms once this healing has taken place (
Because the low FODMAP diet can be a complex one to tackle on your own, it’s a good idea to consult a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) who specializes in low FODMAP diets for guidance.
If you’re following a strict low FODMAP diet, you should avoid large quantities of ripe bananas. However, if bananas don’t exacerbate your IBS, there’s no need to restrict them.
Because ripe bananas are high in FODMAPs and thus should be avoided on a low FODMAP diet, you may wonder what alternatives there are.
Aside from unripe bananas, the most similar low FODMAP substitute for a ripe banana is a plantain. Plantains look like bananas and have a similar texture, but they’re less sweet and have a milder taste.
Although they’re not sweet, they can be swapped in for bananas in cooked dessert recipes if you add a low FODMAP sweetener like maple syrup or pure stevia.
Fortunately, there are several other low FODMAP fruits that you can substitute for bananas if you’re looking for a sweet snack or topping for your cereal or yogurt. Here are a few examples (10):
Plantains are a good low FODMAP substitute for ripe bananas, although they’re much less sweet. Other low FODMAP fruits to eat instead of bananas include strawberries, oranges, grapes, and cantaloupe.
If you’re on a low FODMAP diet for IBS management, you may need to limit or avoid ripe bananas. However, unripe bananas are considered a low FODMAP food.
Additionally, plantains, which are similar to bananas but larger and less sweet, are a low FODMAP option and good alternative to bananas in cooking applications.
If bananas don’t affect you or exacerbate your IBS symptoms, there’s no need to avoid them. However, it’s a good idea to consult a registered dietitian or nutritionist if you need help managing your IBS through diet.