Do bananas help you poop? Well — two types of fiber typically make up food — soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber, such as that found in oatmeal, dissolves in water and soaks up moisture. On the other hand, insoluble fiber can’t break down, like much of the fiber in carrots.
Your gut can pass pretty interesting objects, as your childhood likely evidenced, but stomach acid can’t deconstruct fiber. Your gut health benefits from producing metabolites, but fiber just passes through.
Many people stay away from bananas because they think the fruit makes them poop more, but do they? Bananas contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, but food labels only list “dietary fiber” as the combined total of the two. Most of a banana’s fiber is insoluble, which means it does make up the bulk of your poop. It also makes a rush-hour circuit through your intestines to get to the other side.
Bananas make you poop more if you have a sensitivity to them or eat more than you should. Your body will adjust, and you get a staycation on the toilet — especially if you’re backed up.
The Ripeness Factor
When choosing bananas, always go for yellow over green, since the ripeness factor influences the onset of side effects in your bowel. Green bananas hold a third “fiber” called resistant starch which is anti-digestion, but your gut flora eventually eliminate it. Resistant starch acts similarly to fiber and increases the bulk of your poo and how fast it processes through your digestive system.
So, the less ripe bananas are, the more likely they will cause digestive issues.
Choose Your Digestive Path
Remember those choose-your-own-adventure books? Here’s a new one to choosing your digestive path. It’s called “Defecation or Constipation? You Decide.”
Just because bananas contain a high degree of insoluble fiber doesn’t mean they can’t help regulate your system. Do you regularly take a laxative to do a number two?
Why not turn to whole foods to save money and get the job done instead? One banana holds a degree of soluble fiber similar to a tablespoon of Metamucil, and Metamucil also contains psyllium husk as its active ingredient, which comes from the plantago ovata plant — yup, it’s in the banana plant family. Psyllium soaks up water to create more bulk and promote regular bowel movements without flatulence.
Wait for it. Let it sink in. Aha — yes, you can use bananas to help regulate your digestion. When you take Metamucil, the instructions say to dissolve the pill in a glass of water. You get constipation if you don’t get enough water in and eat too much soluble fiber.
Compare it to oatmeal, which is soluble, as you remember. Dense poo backs you up and slows your plumbing, but bananas bulk up your stool by absorbing water, therefore making it easier to poop. Bananas are a part of the BRAT diet to calm diarrhea, which stands for “banana, rice, applesauce, toast” — so, be a brat and nosh on a banana loaded with fiber and potassium.
Bananas can cause constipation, but if you ingest healthy degrees of fiber moderately, you’ll poop more regularly. If you eat too many bananas, you’ll poop more than usual if you drink a bunch of water with it — producing loose stools. If you eat too many bananas without water, you get backed up.
Choose your digestive path, and your fluid intake will determine your compass direction. So, toss a banana into your morning smoothie for a good fiber-to-liquid ratio, but don’t give into your inner ape and destroy the bananas you just bought at the grocery store in one sitting.
Remember other fruits have similar degrees of soluble and insoluble fiber. An unpeeled apple holds more insoluble fiber at 70 percent in the peel, with 30 percent of soluble fiber in the flesh. Eating the peel helps regulate your digestive system. Low-cellulose fruits, like watermelon and cantaloupe, will have different levels.
Watch out for unripe bananas, and yes, eating bananas will bulk up your poo due to insoluble fiber. You may want to trust more in bananas if you have problems with irregular bowel movements. Use water as your pooping compass.
When you eat a bowl of banana pudding for dessert, make sure the pudding part is represented well, and drink a glass of water afterward.