Banana Allergy

The Truth about a Banana Allergy

Since it is one of the first foods that are generally introduced to babies as a solid food, it may be difficult to imagine that anyone could harbor a banana allergy.  In fact, few people are actually allergic to the sweet white fruit, but likely possess a food intolerance instead.

Banana facts

There are actually two types of banana:  the sweet banana and a plantain banana.  From these two, hundreds of varieties have emerged.  Bananas have been in existence for approximately 4,000 years, and thought to be native to Malaysia.  Soldiers from various revolutions and insurgences discovered the delicious nature of the elongated yellow fruit and carried it to their home countries.  Eventually, bananas made their way to the locations where they are now known as top exports; Mexico, Costa Rica, Brazil and Ecuador.  


While the bright yellow color of the outer skin of the banana has become its most identifiable feature, bananas can be any one of several colors.  Black, red, pink and purple skins are also quite common on sweet bananas.  Regardless of the color on the outside, bananas always feature a white creamy fruit on the inside.  This soft flesh is highly nutritious.  The fruit is one of the best sources for potassium, with the average banana delivering over 400 milligrams of potassium.  The nutritional value of the fruit assists in fighting high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, ulcer pain and macular degeneration as well as helping to build stronger bones. 

Banana allergy concerns

In addition to the potassium, provitamin A carotenoids, vitamin B6, fiber and other nutritional elements that bananas contain, there is another element that may not be as advantageous for some to consume.  A substance called chitinases is found in certain foods; avocados, kiwi, chestnuts and bananas, and is related to enzymes found in latex.   People who are known to have a latex allergy could also have an allergy to bananas.  This is due to the fact that latex is produced from tree sap that possesses the same protein that is in these fruits.  Fruit that is picked green from the trees are exposed to ethylene gas to assist the maturing process; this gas actually increases the amount of chitinase enzymes, causing even stronger symptoms for those who have a true allergy to this substance.  Eating even a minute amount of banana will produce an allergic reaction for people with a true banana allergy.

There are also a number of people whose systems lack a particular enzyme that is necessary to break down one of the proteins contained within bananas.  These individuals have a condition called food intolerance for the fruit rather than an actual allergy.  When these individuals eat a banana, the symptoms they exhibit do not involve the immune system at all.  They are able to eat a small amount of banana without experiencing a reaction.  Larger amounts will produce watery eyes, congestion, headache and cramping. 


Symptoms for a true allergy to bananas will include tingling lips and tongue, breathing problems, swelling, congestion, watery eyes, cramping and headaches.  Some cases could also involve nausea, vomiting and bouts of diarrhea.    For severe cases, individuals can go into shock.  Eating a banana is not the only method of experiencing the symptoms for those with a true allergy; even the pollen from the banana tree is sufficient to triggering symptoms. 


Avoiding bananas is the best way to deal with an allergy or intolerance.  When someone accidently eats bananas who is allergic to the fruit, they must be prepared to deal with the allergic reaction immediately.  Prescription antihistamines provide instantaneous relief for respiratory issues, and cortisone creams are used for rashes, hives and swellings.

While intolerances can make you feel miserable, allergies can be truly life threatening.  If any type of reaction is experienced after eating a banana, it is wise to consult with your physician to determine whether you have an allergy or intolerance.