Why do bananas give me stomach cramps?
Steve Hopson, Creative Commons
Bananas are one of the healthiest fast-foods out there: they are clean nutritional choices for a quick bite on the go. Yet for many, the treat of a banana can end in a whirl of discomfort and pain. Stomach cramping is a malady experienced by some upon the consumption of bananas.
Perhaps the banana was rotten, or you simply ate too many; however, the chances are if you experience repeated cramping from bananas, you likely suffer from a banana allergy or banana intolerance.
Bananas are among the most popularly recognisable fruits in the world; grown sub-tropically, they are now available (through import) in markets on nearly every continent. They are believed to have originated (first discovered for consumption) in Malaysia around 4,000 years ago. Now they are grown most bountifully in South America. Bananas are a wonderful energy food, rich in potassium, sugars and fibre, they are a staple in many ethnic cuisines around the world. But if so organically produced by nature for thousands of years, how can they cause some so much pain?
Banana Allergy (Chitinases)
There are two possible reasons for stomach cramping following the consumption of bananas; the first is a sever banana allergy, and the second a banana intolerance. Those allergic to bananas are allergic to the protein enzyme known as chitinases. For these individuals, when chitinases is consumed the body's immune system reacts as if to a pathogen. The chitinases allergy is part of the latex-fruit allergy group, as the symptoms and reactions cross with latex allergy symptoms. Those with latex-allergies are very likely to have latex-fruit allergies as well, which include allergy to bananas, plantains, avocados, kiwis and chestnuts.
Banana Intolerance (Serotonin)
Banana allergies are somewhat rare and the symptoms can be severe. An alternative malady of banana consumption that would include the symptoms of stomach cramping would be a banana intolerance due to the vasoactive amines (these include histamine, phenyl-ethylamine, serotonin, tyramine and dopamine), of these serotonin is present in a banana. The symptoms of serotonin intolerance include stomach cramping, skin redness, headache and increased heart rate. The severity of reaction depends both on how much is ingested and the level of histamine metabolising enzymes (diamine oxidase) are present in your system. The symptoms occur either within minutes or even hours of banana consumption. Intolerance can develop in severity over time like a progression allergy (such as a bee allergy) and therefore should be monitored and discussed with your doctor.
There really is no remedy for banana allergies and banana intolerance. For those with severe banana allergies, avoid all contact with bananas and products containing bananas. If ingestion or contact should occur, the use of an adrenalin injection should be used to remedy anaphylactic reactions, and in the case of asthmatic reactions, antihistamines should be used.
For those with banana intolerance and mild symptoms of stomach cramping, avoidance is at your own discretion for pain tolerance. Avoidance is the only sure method to relieve banana-induced stomach cramps, however for some individuals heating the banana before consumption has shown lesser degrees of cramps as heating may help reduce the enzyme levels.
Severe banana allergies are rare but can have severe symptoms and consequences, though symptoms can vary, reaction can increase and develop over time. See your doctor or allergen specialist to discuss your banana intolerance even if the symptoms and mild.