Because ulcers aren't caused by food, a bland diet is no longer recommended for people with an ulcer, according to the American College of Gastroenterology (ACG), an association of doctors specially trained in treating your digestive system. However, acidic foods can make ulcer symptoms worse.
That's why bananas — a low-acid fruit — are safe to eat if you have an ulcer and a better choice than acidic citrus fruits such as oranges or grapefruit, notes the American Gastroenterological Association.
Still, bananas also have not always been considered the best food choice. The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health notes that bananas were once on an Internet list of the "5 worst foods," mainly because bananas were blamed for weight gain, indigestion and constipation. However, health experts today generally agree that bananas are a healthy food with many key nutrients.
"A small serving of low-acid fruits like bananas, pears, or apples about 10 to 15 minutes before a meal helps your stomach prepare for digestion, and can reduce symptoms of indigestion," says Andrew L. Rubman, ND, a naturopathic physician and the director of the Southbury Clinic for Traditional Medicines in Southbury, Connecticut.
"Bananas have a lot of benefits, including vitamin K, which is important," Rubman says. "But coating the stomach is probably not much of a benefit because bananas really don't do a good job of absorbing acid. A few people do get indigestion from bananas, but most don't."
Read more: Top 10 Health Benefits of Bananas
Possible Benefits of Fiber from Bananas for Ulcers
An ulcer, which is an open sore in the stomach or beginning of the small intestine, most often is caused by an infection from H__elicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacteria or long-term use of aspirin or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), according to the Mayo Clinic. Spicy or acidic foods don't cause an ulcer but can exacerbate the pain an ulcer brings.
That said, research done years ago suggests that a diet high in fiber can reduce the risk of ulcer disease. For instance, a review published in the medical journal Canadian Family Physician in 2004 searched the medical literature for studies on how diet might affect the most common type of ulcer. Called duodenal ulcers, they form in the beginning of the small intestine. The review found that a diet high in fiber from fruits and vegetables may make the development of a duodenal ulcer less likely.
Another study, involving nearly 50,000 men and published in the American Journal of Epidemiology in 1997, found the same link between fiber and duodenal ulcer disease. Over a six-year span, men whose diets had the most fiber from fruits and vegetables had a 45 percent lower risk for duodenal ulcer.
"It's believed that this fiber helps to regulate the function of the valve that releases stomach contents into the duodenum, protecting it from developing ulcers," Rubman says.
A ripe banana has 3 grams of fiber, according to nutrition data from the Harvard School of Public Health.
Read more: Is Eating a Banana a Day Healthy?
Other Health Benefits From Bananas
Even if you don't have an ulcer, you should consider adding bananas to your diet for general health, as long as they don't give you indigestion. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, bananas are a good source of vitamin B6, fiber, potassium, magnesium and vitamin C. Health benefits include:
- Heart health. Bananas are a good source of potassium, which is essential for maintaining a normal heartbeat. Potassium carries a small electrical charge that the heart uses to trigger muscles to beat at the right time. Potassium also balances sodium, another important body mineral. The right balance between these two electrolytes helps regulate fluid in the blood and blood pressure.
- Digestive health. Because bananas are easy to digest, they're often recommended for replacement of potassium and other nutrients in people who have diarrhea. Starch in bananas, like fiber, is slowly digested, especially in bananas that aren't ripe. Starch is good for healthy bacteria that live in the digestive tract. These bacteria may help people with digestive diseases that cause diarrhea.
- Healthy weight. Contrary to some claims, there's no evidence that bananas cause an increase in weight. Much research has shown that a diet that includes bananas and other fruits like berries, pears and apples is linked to less weight gain.
Is This an Emergency?
- American College of Gastroenterology, “Peptic Ulcer Disease,”
- American Gastroenterological Association, “Peptic Ulcer Disease,”
- Andrew L. Rubman, ND, naturopathic physician and director, Southbury Clinic for Traditional Medicines, Southbury, Connecticut, and founder and member House of Delegates, American Association of Naturopathic Physicians
- Harvard T.S. Chan School of Public Health: “Bananas”
- Canadian Family Physician: “How Diet and Lifestyle Affect Duodenal Ulcers. Review of the Evidence”
- American Journal of Epidemiology: “Prospective Study of Diet and the Risk of Duodenal Ulcer in Men”
- Mayo Clinic: "Peptic Ulcers"