I recently made the difficult decision to give up bananas.
I love bananas. They just have so much going for them. They taste delicious, they’re excellent nutritionally, and they’re convenient since there’s no preparation involved. They’re the perfect snack fruit.
Unfortunately for me, they also exacerbate my GERD. I’ve known this for some time, but I continued to eat bananas for the aforementioned reasons. I commonly would eat them as an afternoon snack, but they all too often sent me reaching for the antacids.
Since I’ve decided to do everything I can to reduce my GERD, I decided the bananas had to go. There has been such a marked improvement since giving them up that I feel compelled to share my findings. It has made a surprisingly big difference.
There are many websites out there that actually recommend bananas as a way of calming an upset stomach. Here’s a quote from eHow.com: “Bananas are among the healthiest foods for your body and are recommended by most health care professionals as a safe, natural remedy for heartburn. In rare cases, however, bananas can have the opposite effect and cause heartburn shortly after consumption.”
I don’t think the cases of bananas causing heartburn are all that rare. In another article, in which bananas are recommended to pregnant women as a way of reducing heartburn, the comments run about 10:1 from people saying bananas actually cause heartburn for them.
So why do bananas cause heartburn? I have two theories. Bananas do contain quite a bit of citric acid, which I know gives me heartburn. According to ESHA Research, bananas contain 319 mg of citric acid per 118 g banana, or about a quarter that of an orange. I do know that citric acid causes me severe heartburn in sufficient quantities, so that might be the problem right there. (They also contain about 420 mg of malic acid, but that’s not a problem for me.) A second possibility is that bananas contain proteins similar to those in latex, proteins which are known to cause allergies in some people. I seem to be okay with latex, though.
(By the way, sources for the amount of citric acid in a banana vary widely. Another sources lists 150 mg / 100 g and yet another gives around 400 mg / 100 g. There are many, many websites that claim there is no citric acid in bananas. They’re just plain wrong.)
All I know for sure is that bananas do give me heartburn and giving them up has led to a significant improvement in my overall symptoms.
For now my afternoon snack is crackers. I hope to find a replacement fruit one of these days. I guess a big part of the problem is that bananas are so convenient. It seems that other fruits I like, such as kiwi and cantaloupe, require preparation time. They can also be difficult to determine ripeness of. They contain citric acid as well, so I’ll have to look into how much. Maybe I’ll get desperate and start eating apples. They’re convenient, but I just don’t like them.
UPDATE: For more on GERD, see my newer article: How to Cure GERD