Bananas and Trigeminal Neuralgia

Bananas, rich in essential nutrients, can contribute to overall health. However, can these nutrients interfere with neural activity and aggravate trigeminal neuralgia? This article discusses the impact of bananas on neural transmission and how this aggravated trigeminal neuralgia.
Klara Hatinova

Klara Hatinova

Klara is postgraduate researcher in experimental psychology at the
University of Oxford.

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What is Trigeminal Neuralgia?

Trigeminal neuralgia is a painful neurological disorder that affects one or more divisions of the trigeminal nerve, the nerve that carries sensory information from the face and head.

Trigeminal neuralgia is characterized by sudden, usually unilateral, intense, short-lived stabbing pain along the trigeminal nerve [1]. Therefore, trigeminal neuralgia can be pain on one side of the head or face, which may repeat throughout the day [2]. Neuralgia attacks can be triggered by subtle stimulation, such as brushing the face, shaving or eating [3]. Although the pain only lasts 1-2 minutes, trigeminal neuralgia has a profound impact on the quality of life of patients and can increase depression and anxiety in these individuals. In some cases, trigeminal neuralgia can be relieved with exercises.

Causes of Trigeminal Neuralgia

Trigeminal neuralgia is a type of neuropathic pain caused by damage to the nerve fibers that carry sensory information.

One of the leading theories is that a blood vessel at the base of the head compresses the trigeminal nerve where it leaves the brainstem [3].

Other causes include traumatic compression of the nerve by neoplastic or vascular anomalies, infection, and intracranial tumours or conditions that impair nerve myelination, such as multiple sclerosis [4].

How do Bananas Aggravate Trigeminal Neuralgia?

I doubt bananas need a general introduction. This versatile, popular yellow fruit is a staple of your 5-a-day and is rich in nutrients and bioactive compounds.

The active micronutrients in bananas that may contribute to trigeminal neuralgia can be divided into the common and well-known chemicals and the more niche or ‘other’ chemicals [5].

Bananas' chemical composition suggests they have widespread neurocognitive properties, reduce inflammation, and support cognitive function. However, due to potassium and vitamin B6, bananas can aggravate trigeminal neuralgia.

Essential chemicals in bananas that can interfere in trigeminal neuralgia

  • Potassium. Potassium is the first mineral that comes to mind when thinking of bananas. Unfortunately, for trigeminal neuralgia patients, dietary potassium can increase the excitability of neurons, leading to an increased risk of trigeminal pain.
  • Carbohydrates. Carbohydrates can have a sedative effect on the nervous system, shifting it towards rest and digestion. This shift in sympathetic balance can reduce excitability of trigeminal neurons, making them less sensitive to triggers of trigeminal neuralgia.
  • Magnesium. Magnesium is a critical nutrient that signals neural death in situations where the brain's excitation becomes excessive. This can prevent further brain damage [6].
  • Copper. Copper is important in protein synthesis, and so is critical to synthesising neurotransmitters [7]. Neurotransmitter and protein synthesis is a tightly regulated mechanism, so excess copper is unlikely to aggravate trigeminal neuralgia by excess neurotransmitter production.
  • Zinc. Zinc is important to nerve regeneration and can help reduce cognitive impairment, most prominently in the hippocampus. Whether zinc can increase or decrease trigeminal neuralgia remains to be investigated.
  • Vitamin B: Vitamin B is essential for nerve membrane and neurotransmitter synthesis, which play a factor in trigeminal neuralgia [8]. Excess vitamin B6 can contribute to enhanced neural excitability and seizures, which could aggravate trigeminal neuralgia [9].
  • Vitamin C: Vitamin C is found across fruits and vegetables and has recently been found to reduce trigeminal pain [10]. This would suggest that fruits and vegetables, such as bananas, would help with trigeminal neuralgia.
  • Selenium: selenium is another neuroprotective micronutrient that can reduce oxidative stress. No research has focused on its direct link with trigeminal neuralgia, making it difficult to say whether selenium in bananas can help with trigeminal pain.

Other chemicals in bananas that can interfere in trigeminal neuralgia

  • Tannins. Tannins have been shown to have neuroprotective properties and protect against brain injury, reducing inflammation, and brain edema [11].
  • Phenolic Acid: phenolic acid may reduce the risk of depression, which is a common comorbidity in trigeminal neuralgia [12].
  • Quercetin: Quercetin can help nerve regeneration and healing, prevent against toxic damage, making quercetin unlikely to contribute to trigeminal neuralgia.
  • Rutin. Rutins have a spectrum of benefits, including neuroprotection, cell protection, reduction of inflammatory cytokines and reversal of cognitive decline [5].
  • Saporins. Saporins have demonstrable benefits on memory and prevent cognitive decline. Nonetheless, the mechanism through which they do this is unclear. Therefore it is difficult to establish whether memory improvement would facilitate increased risk of trigeminal pain.
  • Phytate. Phytate can influence the absorption of minerals but also reduces the tendency to form amyloid beta plaques, important for Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Myricetin: Myricetin regulates brain-derived neurotrophic factors and is important for nerve regeneration, for example, in neuropathic pain. Therefore, myricetins could be beneficial in alleviating trigeminal neuropathy caused by trigeminal nerve damage.

Its important to note that many of these chemicals are only found in bananas in trace amounts so their beneficial and/or detrimental effects would be scaled correspondingly.

Pros and Cons: Bananas and Trigeminal Neurlagia

Pros: Bananas and Trigeminal Neuralgia

The majority of banana chemicals contribute to a beneficial effect of bananas on trigeminal neuralgia and the nervous system in general. Nonetheless, many of these have not been directly investigated in trigeminal neuralgia, and benefits are only derived.

Beyond their chemical composition, bananas have a simple benefit in trigeminal neuralgia: They are easy to chew and contain lots of nutrients. This can be helpful in cases where excess chewing can aggravate trigeminal pain.

Cons: Bananas and Trigeminal Neuralgia

Bananas also contain several chemicals that can increase neural excitability, most notably potassium and Vitamin B6. Due to these chemicals, individuals with trigeminal neuralgia are advised to avoid bananas.

Summary: Bananas and Trigeminal Neuralgia

Bananas' chemical composition suggests they have widespread neurocognitive properties, reduce inflammation, and support cognitive function. However, due to potassium and vitamin B6, bananas can aggravate trigeminal neuralgia.

The foods that aggravate trigeminal neuralgia are highly individual, so keeping a food diary may be an effective way to establish whether bananas can aggravate trigeminal neuralgia.

Klara Hatinova

Klara Hatinova

Klara is a postgraduate researcher in experimental psychology at the University of Oxford. She has worked across a spectrum of hot topics in neuroscience, including her current project measuring reinforcement learning strategies in Parkinson’s disease. Previously, she studied the efficacy of psilocybin as a therapy for critical mental health conditions and examined molecular circadian rhythms of migraine disorders. She completed her undergraduate degree in Neuroscience at the University of Glasgow and participated in a year abroad at the University of California, where she worked on a clinical trial for spinal cord injury.