Have you ever experienced a heartburn?
You’re not the only one. According to WebMD, almost sixty million Americans have heartburn once a month, and at least 15 million have it daily (1).
Some foods may decrease the risk of heartburn, but some may increase it. Bananas are one of them.
We will explain why bananas cause heartburn and what you can do to prevent heartburn.
What is Heartburn?
People suffering from heartburn feel a burning sensation in their chest (2). Heartburn is an irritation in your food pipe, called the esophagus.
According to the National Health Service, this occurs due to acid from the stomach entering the food pipe (acid reflux), and if it becomes occasional, it is referred to as Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) (3).
Symptoms of Heartburn
The symptoms of heartburn can include:
- A burning sensation in the chest
- Bitter taste in the mouth
- Prolonged hiccups
- Difficulty swallowing
- Bad breath
- Hoarse voice
Heartburn Risk Factors
A common reason for heartburn is a lower esophageal sphincter (LES) problem. The LES is located at the end of the esophagus and is responsible for keeping stomach acid from entering the esophagus. It opens to allow food to pass through the esophagus into the stomach and then closes again.
The problem occurs when the LES is not closing tightly enough, allowing stomach acid to pass into your esophagus. This is primarily due to over-eating or pressure on your stomach (either because of obesity, constipation, or pregnancy).
Certain foods can be responsible for this as well. These foods either loosen your LES or increase stomach acid. Food such as this includes coffee, alcohol, citric fruits, and fatty food.
Increased stress and anxiety levels can also increase the amount of acid your stomach makes. During pregnancy, the women’s endocrine system releases the hormone progesterone, which can relax the LES.
Smoking can also increase the risk of heartburn as it contains nicotine that relaxes the smooth muscles inside your body, relaxing the LES.
How to Ease Heartburn?
Heartburn can cause intense pain in your chest. This pain can last several minutes for most people, but for some people, it can last for several hours. Here are some ways you can ease the pain of heartburn:
- Chew sugar-free gum. Chewing gum leads to the production of saliva. A study shows that saliva can promote swallowing, keeping the acid down (4). It also neutralizes the stomach acid as the saliva has a neutral pH (6.7 to 7.3).
- Loosen your clothes. Tight clothes and belts can increase the pressure on the stomach, pushing the acid into the esophagus.
- Drink Ginger tea. According to a study, ginger can reduce inflammation (5). It contains phenolics that can reduce gastric contraction, reducing acid flow into the esophagus.
- Drink water with baking soda in it. According to the Canadian Society of Intestinal Research, baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) has an alkaline pH that can neutralize stomach acid (6).
When to See a Doctor
Most people confuse heartburn with a heart attack. The same is true for the opposite. It is essential to seek help if you feel severe pain in your chest along with your arm or jaw. Seeks the help of a doctor if:
- Heartburn occurs several times a week.
- The symptoms don’t go away even after taking medication.
- You feel nauseous.
- You have lost weight or have a poor appetite.
Why Do Bananas Give You Heartburn?
Do bananas give you heartburn? Yes and no. Bananas have a diverse life cycle; not every type of banana can cause heartburn.
The Lifecycle and pH of Bananas
When harvested, bananas are usually green but start ripening from the stores to your kitchen soon after. As the bananas ripen, they go from green to yellow and black.
Green bananas are starchy and do not taste good. They are eighty percent starch (7) and are difficult to digest. The pH of green, unripe bananas lies between 4.4 to 5.2, making them acidic.
Green bananas ripe to form yellow bananas, which have a pH of 5.0 to 5.29, making them slightly acidic. Yellow bananas are easy to digest. They also have highnutritional value.
Bananas continue to ripe and start blackening. The starch breaks down to glucose and dextrin, making bananas soft and easy to digest. Completely ripe bananas have a pH of about 6.5 to 6.6, making them very little acidic.
Determining the pH Level of Your Banana
If you feel uneasy and wish to know the pH of the banana that you will be eating, it’s effortless to do so.
Just follow these easy steps:
- Cut a thin slice from the banana.
- Cut a piece of litmus paper and put it on the slice. Litmus paper is available in stores and online.
- If the litmus paper turns blue, the banana is alkaline. If the litmus paper turns red, the banana is red. You can see how acidic a banana is by how red the paper turns.
Bananas and Heartburn
Unripe bananas are the most acidic in pH and increase the risk of acid reflux. They are also high in potassium nitrate, catalyzing fermentation in the intestine and causing gas to build up. This results in inflammation and acid reflux.
Generally, most ripe bananas do not cause heartburn. They have properties that can alleviate heartburn. They are rich in potassium, a mineral that can make food alkaline.
If eating bananas gives you heartburn, there may be an underline cause. People suffering from GRED or those with sensitive stomachs may experience heartburn from eating too many bananas.
Bananas and Health
As long as you’re not eating raw bananas, you’re safe. Bananas have a lot of nutritional value and can help your body in many ways.
Bananas do not cause acid reflux. On the contrary, they help form the mucous layer inside your stomach that prevents your stomach wall from getting damaged. Furthermore, Bananas also improve the working of the Sphincter muscles, the gateways to your stomach. Sphincters can prevent food from going back into your esophagus from the stomach.
Bananas are an excellent nutritional food that should be consumed to give your body a balanced diet. Bananas are high in fiber content, improving the peristalsis movement of your intestines and digestion. They also contain carbohydrates, proteins, potassium, calcium, iron, vitamin A and C.
Bananas are an instant and natural energy source, especially for exercise or sporty people. They also help improve electrolyte imbalance in the body.
How to Prevent Heartburn?
There are many things you can do and many things you shouldn’t do to prevent heartburn.
What to do:
- Avoid your trigger food. You would know best what kind of food causes your heartburn. These foods are probably ones your stomach has a hard time digesting. If it’s bananas, avoid them for a few months
- Eat low-fat food.
- Lose weight if you are overweight. Increased weight can put pressure on the stomach.
- Avoid eating bananas on an empty stomach.
- Sleep on your left side to ease the pressure on your stomach.
- Get enough sleep to decrease stress.
- Make sure the head of your bed is elevated six to eight inches to prevent acid from entering the esophagus.
- Seek professional help if the symptoms last for a long time.
What not to do:
- Avoid Over-eating. Eating large amounts can pressure the LES, preventing it from closing. Eat smaller portions and eat slowly, taking time to chew your food.
- Avoid eating citric fruits as they have high amounts of citric acid. Avoid eating bananas too. The smallest amount of acid can trigger acid reflux.
- Avoid drinking coffee. Caffeine in the coffee can relax the smooth muscles, relaxing the LES.
- Avoid smoking. Cigarettes have nicotine that can relax the smooth muscles, relaxing the LES.
- Avoid drinking alcohol. Alcohol can increase the production of stomach acid.
- Avoid eating three to four hours before going to sleep.
- DO not take un-prescribed medicine.
Food that Can Reduce Stomach Acid
With an increase in unhealthy food and a decrease in fiber consumption, many people suffer from heartburn. Most people rely on medication to alleviate the symptoms of heartburn. But more often than not, some dietary changes can improve digestion.
- High-Fiber Foods: Insoluble fibers such as help with the peristalsis movement of the gut, helping food move along. Bananas are high in fibers, but many other substitutes exist if you cannot digest them. Oatmeal is one of them as it is low in acid, easy to digest, and high in fiber.
- Alkaline food: food containing calcium, potassium, and magnesium is great for neutralizing stomach acid. Green vegetables such as spinach, kale, and fruits like melons and almonds are excellent sources of alkaline compounds.
- Yogurt: Yogurt is one of the best alkaline-forming meals you can take. However, avoid milk. Milk is high in fat and can aggravate the symptoms of heartburn. Yogurt also contains probiotics which can help improve digestion.
Ripe bananas, if not over-indulged, are not a risk of heartburn. But it can be a trigger food for people already suffering from heartburn. This means that there is an underlining issue that must be addressed.
In which case, it would be best to consult with a doctor.
1. Should I Take Antacids?
Antacids should be taken when you feel at risk of heartburn. Take antacids with or soon after a meal. Antacids are quick to relieve heartburn. However, consult with your doctor before taking prolonged doses.
2. Can I Eat Blackening Bananas if I Suffer from Acid Reflux?
Yes. Blackening banana is easy to digest and is slightly acidic, so it does not aggravate acid reflux. However, if eating blackening bananas cause you to have acid reflux, it would be best to avoid them.
3. When Should I See a Doctor?
You should check in with a doctor if you feel heartburn two or three times a week and if the pain is too much. If your heartburn occurs due to specific food, try avoiding such food to see if it helps before going to a doctor.
4. How is Heartburn Diagnosed?
Heartburn can be diagnosed through different methods. An X-ray can be conducted, which shows the upper gastrointestinal tract to look for wear or tear. The doctor can also perform an endoscopy, which consists of putting a tiny camera down your throat to look at the upper gastrointestinal tract.