Do Bananas Help With Diarrhea? Doctor Explains.
Our content is not intended nor recommended as a substitute for medical advice by your doctor. Use for informational purposes only.
How do Bananas Help with Diarrhea?
- Regarding home treatments for diarrhea, it would be unfair not to mention the BRAT diet. The four food components of BRAT are bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast.
- The BRAT diet is a bland diet or low residue diet.
- Banana is an essential component of the BRAT diet. For decades, many doctors have recommended the BRAT diet for diarrhea and other gut illnesses.
- However, presently its use is not recommended because it is considered unnecessarily restricting, and no scientific evidence supports its benefits. (1) (2)
- According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), children should resume their usual diet on the first day after diarrheal illness. BRAT diet can be added as additional to regular diet but should not be the only diet because it restricts other vital nutrients and may also be low on calories.
Why Banana is a Component of the BRAT Diet and Not Any Other Fruit?
Banana’s composition and nutritional value make it unique. Before mentioning its proper use as a home treatment for diarrhea, let’s go through the nutritional values and composition of this incredibly healthy fruit:
Nutritional value and composition of banana:
A medium-sized raw banana or 100 grams of edible portion contains (USDA)
- 75 percent water
- 23 percent carbohydrates
- 1 percent protein
- 6 grams of fiber.
- An insignificant amount of fat and a total of approx. 100 calories
It is also loaded with: (USDA)
- Vitamin B6: 33% of the RDI
- Manganese: 14% of the RDI
- Vitamin C: 11% of the RDI
- Copper:10% of the RDI
- Potassium: 9% of the RDI
- Magnesium: 8% of the RDI
- Bananas have two vital components that are particularly helpful in relieving diarrhea and its consequences: Dietary fiber and potassium.
- Dietary fiber: it is well evidenced that fiber is the indigestible part of food and has two types, soluble (pectin) and insoluble (resistant starches). Bananas contain both types of fiber (3). In addition to regulating large gut health, dietary fiber also decreases blood sugar and cholesterol.
- Potassium: with other electrolytes, potassium is also lost in large amounts due to diarrheal illness. Bananas are an excellent source of potassium.
- Potassium consumption improves cardiovascular health and decreases the risk of heart diseases (4)
How should I choose bananas when experiencing diarrhea?
In general, bananas are consumed in two forms: unripe or green bananas and ripen or yellow bananas. Both types are slightly different in taste, texture, and composition.
Both are almost the same in other nutritional values that are mentioned above.
- Taste: Green bananas are not sweet and may taste bitter. Ripening causes the breakdown of complex carbs, and so yellow type is sweet and pleasant to taste.
- Texture: Green bananas are hard and waxy in texture. Yellow banana is soft and easy to peel.
- Composition: green bananas are rich in resistant starches (70-80% of dry weight) and pectin. (5) As the banana ripens, pectin breaks down into simple sugars.
So, yellow bananas have a moderate amount of dietary fiber content when compared to green bananas.
- When you are in a healthy state, doctors and health personals usually encourage taking plenty of dietary fiber and water because it prevents the formation of over-hardened stools (constipation).
- Whereas this high fiber diet, if taken in diarrhea, can worsen the condition. Because fiber helps retain water inside the gut and increases gut movements, taking a relatively low-fiber diet in diarrhea is helpful.
- It will help your body to make more formed stools and thus relieves loose stools.
- So, green bananas, with a tremendous amount of insoluble dietary fiber, are helpful in diarrhea. (6)
- Green bananas help the gut to make more formed stools due to their resistant starch content.
- Although bananas are used to relieve diarrheal illness, they are also beneficial for constipation. (7) The insoluble fiber also helps to retain water inside the gut and decreases over-hardened stools.
Summary: Green bananas are helpful to relieve diarrhea. Yellow bananas are a good choice when having constipation.
Does banana trigger IBS diarrhea?
- IBS or irritable bowel syndrome is a common condition that affects the digestive system. Symptoms are bouts of bloating, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and constipation. Slightly different symptoms may be present in different people.
- Although no exact cause of this disease is known, gut bacteria are thought to play some role in IBS.
- If a person has IBS diarrhea, certain foods may trigger it, especially foods with high amounts of fat and FODMAP.
- FODMAP symbolizesFermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and P
- These are short-chain carbohydrates and sugars produced by rapid fermentation by gut bacteria and poorly absorbed by the gut.
- High FODMAP diet causes increased abdominal distress, flatulence, and diarrhea in IBS. So, a diet with low FODMAP content is recommended.
- FODMAP content of bananas depends upon ripeness. As bananas ripen from green to yellow, their complex carbs are converted into simple sugars, i.e., more FODMAPS. So yellow bananas have more FODMAP content.
- Regardless of FODMAPs, bananas can also be consumed in IBS in small quantities. And even on the low FODMAP diet plan, you should not consume too much banana.
- It is always good to consult a registered dietitian if you need a low FODMAP diet plan.
Summary: green bananas have low FODMAPs and can be consumed in IBS; yellow bananas have more FODMAPs, so they should be avoided.
How can I utilize bananas to relieve loose motion?
While sick with an upset stomach and loose motion, you may not feel good enough to eat plain bananas.
Here are some nice tricks to make this healthy fruit more tempting and tastier:
- Plantains: This is a distinct type of banana used in cooking. Several types of dishes are cooked with Plantains in many different countries. Although both have different flavor profiles, nutritional elements are the same in both.
- Breakfast: Boost up your morning oat or cereal meal with slices of bananas to make it nutritious.
- Banana Smoothie: Add roughly chopped bananas to blender and top up with yogurt or milk. Blend until it becomes smooth and milky. If you are using less ripen bananas, add some honey to make it sweet and delicious.
- Take one or two bananas to your work, a healthy snack.
- Use bananas to make cakes, muffins, and cookies.
- Banana chips and banana powder can also be used.
Be cautious; these products may be processed and may contain added sugar, salt, or fat.
Summary: besides eating plain bananas, you can try sliced bananas for breakfast, plantains, banana smoothies, and banana chips.
How many bananas should I consume per day?
- Choose and eat bananas wisely because too much consumption can be detrimental to both health and disease conditions.
- One to two bananas per day is thought a moderate intake for healthy people.
- If you have loose motion, more than two bananas can be consumed per day but keep an eye on your bowel moments and avoid too much consumption. Consult your doctor if it makes your condition worse.
What other foods can I have in diarrhea?
- Bland foods are typically recommended in diarrhea and abdominal distress. These are low fiber diets, easy to digest, and give rest to the gut. Here some bland foods are mentioned.
- White Rice or Rice porridge
- Cream of wheat
- Boiled potatoes
- Lean meat and Eggs
- Bland vegetables (beet, bean, spinach, carrot, etc.)
Drink plenty of fluids, so that risk of dehydration is minimized.
You can try drinking soup broth, coconut water, and fresh fruit juices.
Non-bland diets should be avoided, including
- High fiber foods, e.g., cereals, nuts, and whole grains.
- Fried and spicy food
- Seeds and nuts
- Acidic fruits (oranges, lemons, etc.)
- Non-lean meat
- Pickles and sauces
- Tea and coffee
- Anything with high sugar content, g., cold drinks and alcoholic beverages
- Flatulence causing vegetables, e.g., cabbage, cauliflower, onion, etc.
- Dairy products like cheese, whipped cream, and ice cream. Notable exceptions are kefir and yogurt. Yogurt has a probiotic effect on the gut and helps to replenish good bacteria in your gut. Research shows probiotic use decreases the duration of diarrhea. (8)
- Sheila Mackell, Traveler’s Diarrhea in the Pediatric Population: Etiology and Impact, Clinical Infectious Diseases, Volume 41, Issue Supplement_8, December 2005, Pages S547–S552, https://doi.org/10.1086/432950
- King, C. K., Glass, R., Bresee, J. S., Duggan, C., & Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2003). Managing acute gastroenteritis among children: oral rehydration, maintenance, and nutritional therapy. , 52(RR-16), 1–16. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14627948
- Buttriss, J. L., & Stokes, C. S. (2008). Dietary fibre and health: An overview. Nutrition Bulletin, 33(3), 186-200. doi:10.1111/j.1467-3010.2008.00705.x
- Weaver, C. (2013). Potassium and Health. Advances In Nutrition, 4(3), 368S-377S. DOI: 10.3945/an.112.003533
- Falcomer, A., Riquette, R., de Lima, B., Ginani, V., & Zandonadi, R. (2019). Health Benefits of Green Banana Consumption: A Systematic Review. Nutrients, 11(6), 1222. doi: 10.3390/nu11061222
- Gunasekaran, D., Chandramohan, A., Karthikeyan, K., Balasubramaniam, B., Jagadeesan, P., & Soundararajan, P. (2020). Effect of Green Banana (Musa paradisiaca) on Recovery in Children with Acute Watery Diarrhea with No Dehydration: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Indian pediatrics, 57(12), 1114–1118.
- Bae, S. (2014). Diets for Constipation. Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology & Nutrition, 17(4), 203. doi: 10.5223/pghn.2014.17.4.203
- Salfi, S. F., & Holt, K. (2012). The role of probiotics in diarrheal management. Holistic nursing practice, 26(3), 142–149. https://doi.org/10.1097/HNP.0b013e31824ef5a3