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Are Bananas a Bladder Irritant?

Kristie Leong M.D. is a family practitioner who believes in the power of nutrition and a healthy lifestyle to prevent and fight illness.

Are bananas a bladder irritant? That’s a question people with interstitial cystitis often ask. Interstitial cystitis (IC) is a chronic inflammatory condition of the bladder that causes bladder pain and discomfort.

The symptoms are like those of a urinary tract infection but there is no evidence of infection. It's also different from bacterial cystitis, which occurs when bacteria infect the bladder.

It’s unclear what causes interstitial cystitis it’s a condition that causes bladder irritation. Some of the symptoms include:

  • Pelvic discomfort
  • Increased urge to urinate
  • Frequent urination
  • The passage of small amounts of urine each time
  • A sense of urgency to urinate

Symptoms vary from person to person and can range from mild to severe. Interstitial cystitis most often affects women in their 30s and 40s. It is not a sexually transmitted disease, nor is it caused by cancer or an infection.

Are Bananas a Bladder Irritant?

People with interstitial cystitis know that certain foods and beverages can irritate their bladder and worsen their bladder symptoms. Some people believe that bananas are a bladder irritant that makes interstitial cystitis symptoms worse. But is there any evidence of this?

At one time, experts believed bananas cause bladder irritation because they’re high in tyramine, a breakdown product of the amino acid tyramine. One of the most common sources of tyramine is aged cheese.

Tyramine is in Other Common Foods Too

Tyramine also occurs in other types of food, including chocolate and cured, fermented, or smoked meats such as bacon, hot dogs, and salami. In fact, any overly ripe or spoiled foods or one that has been stored too long may contain large quantities of tyramine.

But are bananas a bladder irritant? Banana peels contain significant quantities of tyramine, but the inner flesh of banana only contains small quantities of this natural compound.

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As Bananas Ripen, Their Tyramine Content Rises

However, as bananas ripen, their tyramine content increases. So, eating a few ripe bananas, especially if you eat the peels, could create enough of a tyramine load that it irritates your bladder.

Most people who don’t suffer from interstitial cystitis won’t experience bladder irritation from eating bananas, ripe or not. However, those with interstitial cystitis are more sensitive to tyramine and could experience symptoms if they eat too many bananas.

Also, if you take a class of medications called monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors, you should all tyramine-containing foods to avoid a serious reaction.

Tyramine Affects Migraine Sufferers Too

Tyramine can cause problems for people who have migraine headaches too. According to the National Headache Foundation, foods high in tyramine cause blood vessel irritability that can trigger migraine headaches in susceptible individuals.

So, a low tyramine diet may be beneficial for people with migraines or interstitial cystitis and that might include eating fewer ripe bananas and not eating banana peels. Yes, banana peels are edible!

Less Ripe Bananas Are Better

The flesh of less mature bananas doesn’t contain large quantities of tyramine and is unlikely to cause bladder irritation. The best option, if you love bananas and have interstitial cystitis, is to eat less mature bananas that still have some green on their outsides, indicating less maturity.

Track Your Symptoms

The best way to know how your body responds to a particular food, including bananas, is to remove that food from your diet for 2 weeks and monitor your symptoms by keeping a journal. Then, add the food back into your diet and track your symptoms.

If your symptoms go away after removing the food and come back after you add the item back to your diet, you have your answer and should avoid that food.

The take-home message? If you remove bananas from your diet and you get less bladder irritation and the symptom returns when you start eating bananas again, they probably don’t belong in your diet.

References:

  • Walker SE, Shulman KI, Tailor SA, Gardner D. Tyramine content of previously restricted foods in monoamine oxidase inhibitor diets. J Clin Psychopharmacol. 1996 Oct;16(5):383-8. doi: 10.1097/00004714-199610000-00007. PMID: 8889911.
  • "Tyramine buildup in fruits and vegetables, why it is bad." 15 May. 2011, https://www.livingwithmigraines.info/tyramine-buildup/.
  • Walker SE, Shulman KI, Tailor SA, Gardner D. Tyramine content of previously restricted foods in monoamine oxidase inhibitor diets. J Clin Psychopharmacol. 1996 Oct;16(5):383-8. doi: 10.1097/00004714-199610000-00007. PMID: 8889911.
  • Walker SE, Shulman KI, Tailor SA, Gardner D. Tyramine content of previously restricted foods in monoamine oxidase inhibitor diets. J Clin Psychopharmacol. 1996 Oct;16(5):383-8. doi: 10.1097/00004714-199610000-00007. PMID: 8889911.
  • "Tyramine | National Headache Foundation." 25 Oct. 2007, https://headaches.org/tyramine/.
  • "Interstitial Cystitis | Johns Hopkins Medicine." https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/interstitial-cystitis.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

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