Hopefully, the title will make sense by the end of this post! Those of us with active Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis often have constipation or diarrhea, and while neither is pleasant, diarrhea can be a real show-stopper if urgency and the fear of crapping yourself becomes an everyday occurrence.  Crohn’s Disease had me in the bathroom 20+ times a day, and it was a nightmare to manage. It often took a while for things to settle down, but a friend of mine (who also has Crohn’s) mentioned a trick that she uses to calm her gut and slow things down: Green Bananas.

Now, I love bananas as much as the next guy, but I only eat ripe bananas; for me it’s a yellow banana with black spots or GTFO! I would have never considered eating green bananas until she mentioned that they’ve been extremely helpful to her, halting her bowel movements for hours at a time (like 6 hours!).  Her secret is to eat 3-4 “greenish” bananas in the morning, and she’s able to go most of the day without a bowel movement.  She’s been doing this for the last year or so! One caveat, though: eating 8-10 green bananas a day gets old really fast, and if you can’t stomach that many, then you won’t find all-day relief.  I asked if making a green banana smoothie might help, but she said it only works for her when they are eaten whole. That’s a bummer, but I’m sure there’s something that can be done to make them more palatable (maple syrup anyone?).

I thought that this has to be an anecdote; I know that bananas are good to help with the shits, but stopping Crohn’s (and a short-bowel) induced diarrhea sounds too good to be true! So I started researching, and what do you know? This stuff can actually help to relieve diarrhea! In the published article “Clinical studies in persistent diarrhea: dietary management with green banana or pectin in Bangladeshi children.” found in the journal Gastroenterology Sept 2001, it’s noted that:

Green banana and pectin are useful in the dietary management of persistent diarrhea in hospitalized children and may also be useful to treat children at home. [SOURCE]

But how useful is useful??

Most children (60%) had no pathogens isolated from stools, 17% had rotavirus, 5% Vibrio cholerae, 4% Salmonella group B, and 11% had enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli infections. By day 3 post treatment, significantly (P < 0.001) more children recovered from diarrhea receiving pectin or banana than controls (59%, 55%, and 15%, respectively). By day 4, these proportions correspondingly increased to 82%, 78%, and 23%, respectively, the study diet groups being significantly (P < 0.001) different than controls. Green banana and pectin significantly (P < 0.05) reduced amounts of stool, oral rehydration solution, intravenous fluid, and numbers of vomiting, and diarrheal duration.”

Pectin, in case you didn’t know, is stuff you use in jam to jellify it. It’s found naturally in apples, which is why applesauce is often recommended for diarrhea – but applesauce  can sometimes cause diarrhea or stomach discomfort (at least it did for me!), so green bananas can be a great alternative.  In this study, researchers added both pectin and cooked green bananas to separate rice mixtures, then compared it to a rice-only mixture; the rice-only diet wasn’t doing much good compared to the green bananas or pectin groups.

The study speculates as to what exactly causes these green bananas to halt diarrhea, suggesting that it could be the short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) produced through bacterial fermentation in the colon which might be responsible. Regardless of the mechanism, they seem to work well!

Considering many IBDers rely on Imodium to control diarrhea, green bananas can be a more natural way to slow things down.

A few things to consider:

If you decide to try the green banana trick, please check with your doctor first or at least take it slow! If you’ve had any blockages , there’s no saying what slowing down your bowel movements could do.  That study mentioned above was not specifically testing the outcome for IBD patients, so keep that mind before you ditch your current treatment (which I do NOT recommend without your doctor’s blessing).

Also, I have no idea if this will help ileostomates to slow down their output, since it seems that most of the “magic” happens in the colon.  If you’ve got an ileostomy and have tried this, let me know! But that being said, regular bananas or rice will often help to slow output down (a full guide to dealing with liquid output can be found HERE).

QUESTION: Have you tried green bananas to help with diarrhea? Did they help?