When you have gastritis, one of the last things you want to do is eat, especially if the foods you're eating aggravate your condition even more. But if you're reaching for a banana for gastric upset, there's good news: bananas are one of the foods that don't affect gastritis.
Of course, every person is different and, while bananas may be stomach-soothing in theory, that doesn't mean they will be for you. Always direct your medical questions to your doctor or to a qualified nutritionist who has access to your medical history.
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In most cases, bananas don't aggravate gastritis. In fact, because they're soft and low in fiber, bananas are actually recommended as part of the dietary treatment (along with other bland foods like rice and toast) to ease heartburn when gastritis is causing active symptoms.
What Is Gastritis?
Gastritis is a general term that describes an inflammation of the stomach lining, called the mucosa. When the mucosa is inflamed, it's not able to produce pepsin, an enzyme that breaks down the proteins you eat, or stomach acid, the digestive juice that's a major player in the digestive process. Gastritis also negatively affects the stomach's protective barrier, which prevents stomach acid from breaking down the mucosa.
There are two major forms of gastritis: erosive and nonerosive. In erosive gastritis, the mucosal layer of the stomach starts to break down so much that ulcers, or open wounds, form in the stomach lining. In nonerosive gastritis, the lining of the stomach is inflamed, and uncomfortable symptoms may be present, but ulcers don't form.
Symptoms of Gastritis
General symptoms of gastritis include indigestion, pain in the upper abdomen, nausea and vomiting. If you have erosive gastritis and ulcers that are causing the stomach to bleed, you may experience more severe symptoms, like:
- Shortness of breath
- Pale skin
- Blood in the stool
- Blood in your vomit
The symptoms associated with erosive gastritis can lead to complications, like anemia, vitamin B12 deficiency and growths (either benign or malignant) in the stomach lining. If you have any of these symptoms, it's important that you check with your doctor to develop a course of treatment.
Read more: 7 Signs Your Gut is Out of Whack
The BRAT Diet
The specific treatment for gastritis depends on the underlying cause, but when you're in the middle of a flare-up of symptoms, your doctor may recommend a diet full of soft, bland foods that reduce stomach acid and are easy on your digestion. This diet, called the BRAT diet, claims bananas as one of its central foods.
The BRAT diet, which stands for bananas, rice, applesauce and toast, is designed to use bland foods to help soothe your stomach while also providing nutrition after possible bouts of vomiting and diarrhea. Because bananas and the other foods on the BRAT diet are bland and soft, they don't irritate your stomach or gastritis.
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, bananas and the other BRAT foods are also considered "binding" foods, which help make your stool firmer and can reduce or eliminate diarrhea, if that's one of your symptoms. They also help you hold food down, which is especially important if you've been vomiting for an extended period of time.
Other Benefits of Bananas
But the banana's benign relationship with gastritis isn't the only reason why the fruit is good for digestive troubles. Bananas also contain a specific type of carbohydrate, called resistant starch, and are high in potassium, a mineral that also acts as an electrolyte.
Like fiber, resistant starch is a specific type of carbohydrate that your body doesn't really break down. Instead of being absorbed in the small intestine and entering the blood, resistant starch bypasses digestion in the stomach and small intestine and travels to the large intestine.
In the large intestine, the good bacteria start to feed on the resistant starch, breaking it down, or fermenting it, and creating byproducts called short-chain fatty acids, or SCFAs. According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, these SCFAs may help prevent digestive disorders, like gastritis, and other chronic diseases.
Unripe bananas are high in resistant starch, but as the bananas ripen and start to yellow or even develop some brown spots, that resistant starch turns into sugar. Because of this, it's best to eat bananas with some green in their peel if you're looking to obtain the benefits from the resistant starch.
Bananas and Dehydration
Because gastritis can induce vomiting, dehydration may be an issue, especially if you're vomiting a lot and you're not replenishing any of the lost water or electrolytes. In addition to being soft and easy to digest, bananas are also high in potassium, one of the minerals that gets thrown out of balance when you're dehydrated.
Once your stomach has settled a bit, eating a banana and drinking adequate amounts of water, or around 6 to 8 cups per day, as recommended by the Cleveland Clinic, can help replenish minerals and electrolytes and stave off dehydration. Although you can sip water and other clear liquids when you're sick, it's a good idea to eat solids only after you're done vomiting and feel like you'll be able to keep the food down.
Read more: Foods to Avoid for Gastritis
Eating Bananas for Gastritis
It's also a good idea to eat only a little bit at a time, which can ease the effects of stomach acid and help alleviate symptoms. Instead of eating a whole banana, take just a few bites, wait a little while to see how your stomach feels and then go from there. If you're feeling better and you're able to keep the small bit of banana down, you can have more.
If your stomach is really upset, you can also make bananas even easier on your digestion by pureeing them or blending them before you eat them. This starts the process of breaking down the banana so your stomach has less work to do. You can also achieve the same effect by adequately and thoroughly chewing pieces of banana before swallowing them.
- Cleveland Clinic: "Gastrointestinal Soft Diet Overview"
- Cedars-Sinai Blog: "Esophageal Soft Food Diet Guidelines"
- Mayo Clinic: "Gastritis"
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: "Gastritis"
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Bananas"
- American Academy of Family Physicians: "BRAT Diet: Recovering From an Upset Stomach"
- Piedmont Healthcare: "The BRAT Diet"
- Lab Tests Online: "Dehydration"