Well, I think I actually did it. I ate one too many bananas.
I’m the kind of person who could eat the same food, every day, for the rest of my life and be totally happy. Not to say that I don’t switch it up a little, but for the most part, it’s very similar from day to day.
So for a really long time (like 4 years!) I’ve been eating bananas on a daily basis. And not just one or two, but a lot of bananas. I would make smoothies using a blender full of them. They’re so cheap and you can buy them in bulk. Of course, for someone on a budget, they are ideal!
But I think I’ve actually overdone it, and here’s how I noticed…
I didn’t come down with any crazy ailment or deficiency. But I did notice that my allergies were increasingly getting worse and worse.
During pollen season, I was starting to get allergies, which I had never had before in my life. And for the last 3 years, they have gotten worse. I thought it was really odd but I blamed my pregnancy for causing my hormones to go out of whack. And maybe this does have something to do with it too. But I also knew that I ate a whole LOT of bananas.
Then I read about oral allergy syndrome.
Did you know that fruits like bananas have a very similar looking protein to pollen, and that the body can react in the same manner to both? It’s called oral allergy syndrome or sometimes also referred to as pollen-food allergy. It can (commonly) cause allergic symptoms to the following fruit:
- Birch pollen: apple, almond, carrot, celery, cherry, hazelnut, kiwi, peach, pear, plum
- Grass pollen: celery, melons, oranges, peaches, tomato
- Ragweed pollen: banana, cucumber, melons, sunflower seeds, zucchini
I thought that was really interesting and so I decided to try a little experiment. I stopped eating bananas and tried just eating other fruits, greens, etc. And it was like night and day…my symptoms were dramatically improved. However, it wasn’t ragweed season, so there must have been more to the story.
I had to think back to when I first got the allergies. I noticed that they really came about when I first got pregnant. This was also a time when I a) started eating bananas on the daily and b) got amalgam fillings put in my teeth (ugh! don’t ask!). I was also pregnant which could present a hormonal element to the mix.
Traditionally, allergies have been thought to be the body overreacting to a certain inert protein, and I’ve even seen it likened to being on the opposite side of the spectrum to autoimmune disease. It seems pretty odd to me that the body would just “overreact” to something that isn’t harmful, so I’m glad that there has been an alternative theory presented by Ruslan Medzhitov in an article originally posted on Mosaic in 2015.
Medzhitov proposed that allergies are not an overreaction, but rather a very appropriate reaction to toxicity in the body trying to tell us to move away. Along with Charles Janeway, an immunologist at Yale, they first discovered sensors on certain immunity cells that are much faster acting than the traditional model of immunity.
He went on to suggest that because many allergens are known to cause damage in the body, that perhaps we need a defense against them (makes sense right?). Some allergens are known to rip open cells, irritate membranes and slice proteins apart, so it would be logical that the body would want to stop this from happening. In some of his experiments he found that animals that were previously exposed to an allergen were protected against a fatal reaction during the second exposure.
Now before anyone goes on accusing the bananas, let’s just remind ourselves that it took OVER 4 YEARS of eating them daily for this to happen…and it wasn’t even that bad a reaction. So I think it’s safe you say that bananas are probably one of the least toxic foods to eat. But the story does carry the message that variety is important, even when eating the mildest of foods. If not just for a balanced nutrition, but also to keep our exposure to the same proteins for too long a period of time minimal.
So don’t go giving up your bananas (insert favorite fruit here _____) yet. Most likely you will be fine as fruit has much less toxicity than most greens, nuts and seeds, grains and beans. But I think it was a good lesson to learn and definitely made me realize just how amazing the body is, and how complex a system it really is.
Until next time, enjoy a banana for me, since I’ll be going without for a while! 😉