Banana Baby Follow-Up: Making Connections

Banana Baby Follow-Up: Making Connections

In Honor of Celiac Disease Awareness Month, Gluten Free Watchdog is writing a series of articles (the goal is one per day during the month of May) related to the gluten-free diet–currently the ONLY treatment for celiac disease. 

Post #6…

This is not the article that was supposed to post today. But I have been very privileged to help connect two “banana babies” (for information on the banana diet see This makes me incredibly happy. There are others of you out there—babies born in the 1920s, 30s, 40s, and 50s who may have been patients of Dr. Sidney Haas or his son or physicians who knew of the work of Dr. Haas. Please reach out if you are able.

While it is true that in the end Dr. Haas’ dietary protocol for celiac disease was on the right track but didn’t quite have it right (carbohydrate restricted diet with the exception of bananas), he and the physicians who treated children with celiac disease with the “banana diet” saved lives. Many of these children were literally starving to death. The banana diet was unintentionally gluten-free. And thanks to multiple bananas a day, it was high in calories.

Sometimes treatments work even when the rationale isn’t quite right. The banana diet worked because it was gluten-free before gluten had been identified as the problematic food component in celiac disease. This is an important lesson for all of us to remember, including doctors and dietitians. When patients report that a particular diet helps them feel better, even if the “why” doesn’t necessarily make sense, the medical community has a responsibility to listen and figure out why inclusion or exclusion of a particular food is helping.

The stories that banana babies have to share are precious. They should be written down. They have a lot to teach us, including what the patient experience for celiac disease felt like in the first half of the 20th century.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart to those of you who were banana babies. It is a tremendous privilege to hear your stories.

Tomorrow’s Post: Controversial Aspects of the Gluten-Free Diet Dating Back Decades

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Comments (24)

  • Lindy Redmond Reply

    Oh Tricia, thank you so much for these posts. Yes, two of us banana babies have connected through YOU! We are now sharing our stories with one another and hope to meet in the future. Thank you for your help in getting us connected. We both feel such gratitude to you because we are no longer walking this walk alone.
    Brightest blessings to you
    Lindy Redmond

    May 7, 2017 at 1:43 am
    • Tricia Thompson Reply

      Lindy, It makes me happy beyond words to know that the two of you connected. Thank you so very much for sharing your story with me.

      May 7, 2017 at 10:12 am
  • Bonnie Reply

    Dear Tricia, I find myself responding strongly, from an emotional standpoint, to your postings, including yesterday’s. Though I am not a “banana baby”, I can identify with part of their experience and I am grateful for the knowledge gained throughout the past 80 years. Thank you Tricia, and thanks to those who came before me.

    May 7, 2017 at 8:36 pm
    • Tricia Thompson Reply

      Me too, Bonnie. Writing about the early dietary history of celiac disease and the children who went through what they did, including those involved in early feeding trails with Dr. Dicke and those who ate multiple bananas a day has touched me in ways that are very difficult to express.

      May 7, 2017 at 8:56 pm
      • Bonnie Reply

        Yes….words fall short.

        May 7, 2017 at 9:38 pm
  • Jean Reply

    Tricia – thanks so much for doing the articles regarding the early history of celiac disease. I love the “banana babies” stories and it is so neat that two of them were connected through you!!! I was diagnosed in 1996 and was not aware of the history of the disease – in fact my doctors knew very little about it and that included the diet.
    Thanks again.

    May 10, 2017 at 3:16 am
    • Tricia Thompson Reply

      My pleasure, Jean. Very little seems to be written about the history of the diet for celiac disease but it is so important to know where we’ve been so we can see how far we’ve come! And it is important to honor the children who endured so much. Thank goodness your doctors were able to properly diagnose you given that they did not know much about celiac disease!

      May 10, 2017 at 12:48 pm
  • Claudia Silverman Reply

    I was born in 1953 and was a banana baby. My pediatricians were Drs. Tulski is Chicago. Not sure spelling is correct. Supposedly I outgrew it but have suffered with rashes, psoriasis, miscarriages, amenorrhea, migraines. A few years ago my doctor did a test that came out negative. I have avoided gluten, but not strictly, for about 3 years. I notice improvements.

    May 26, 2017 at 11:28 am
    • Tricia Thompson Reply

      Thanks for sharing, Claudia. I am sorry to hear about what you’ve been through. Do you remember what test you had and whether you were following a gluten reduced diet at the time of this testing?

      May 26, 2017 at 4:43 pm
      • William Wald Reply

        I’m also a BB. Mother has a picture of me pre bb. I also looked like a concentration camp refugee. I am a 66 year old Male. I had 60 years without symptoms of celiac.

        April 17, 2019 at 2:56 pm
        • Tricia Thompson Reply

          Thanks so much for sharing, William. If you feel like sharing, have you been on a gluten-free diet since you were a toddler?

          April 22, 2019 at 5:22 pm
  • jeanne Reply

    I was a banana baby born in 1944. I have a photo of my uncle and I with a huge stalk of bananas flown into a small rural airport during the war. In and out of hospital until I was about six. When I was twelve, I was 12 I was proclaimed free of the disorder and was a “poster child” for the hospital where I had been treated. My mom suffered from severe psoriasis, but that link was not known then. I had three successful pregnancies with no major illnesses, and while there were maybe some relapses over the years, they were minor, and I wasn’t diagnosed until last summer (2016) after several tests which were prompted by an elevation of liver enzymes in a routine blood test and weight loss. I have other autoimmune things going on, but for over 65 years I ate with impunity. I was never a big carb lover, but I did eat baked things, cakes, cookies, breads, etc, and had no disruptions,. I am now gluten free. and just stumbled over these comments.

    June 15, 2017 at 7:57 pm
    • Tricia Thompson Reply

      Thanks so much for sharing, Jeanne. Your story is fascinating. Have you noticed any differences in how you are feeling now that you are gluten-free or did you never experience much in the way of symptoms?

      June 15, 2017 at 8:31 pm
  • Glesney Gillies Reply

    Hi there.
    I was a banana baby born 1949.
    I had never heard of any other banana baby before now.
    I had a very swollen tummy like a Bihaferan baby ( spelling may be incorrect).
    At that time bananas were on ration, so they had to be specially transported in the country.
    I was a very sickly baby. And suffered with anemia. Denied gluten free diet though my teens.
    I was so anemic In my first pregnancy. I was given iron intravenously, and had a very bad reaction.
    I’ve been on a gluten free diet ever since, and 70 years on, been healthy ever since.

    December 28, 2018 at 8:48 am
    • Tricia Thompson Reply

      Hi Glesney, Thank you so very much for sharing your story. It is so good to hear that you have been healthy since starting a gluten-free diet. It is curious why you were denied a gluten-free diet in your teens?

      December 28, 2018 at 12:06 pm
      • Glesney Gillies Reply

        Well I think being a teenager and didn’t want to be different from the rest, was the core of the denial of gluten free food back in the day.
        I’ve since then have microscopic colitis and on a lactose free diet. So I have to watch what I really eat….
        But I do try and have a healthy and active lifestyle ..

        March 24, 2023 at 1:48 pm
    • Clare Lynch Reply

      I was born in 1956. When my belly swelled and I was very sick, my parents took me to Children’s Hospital in Boston. My mother said I looked like a starving child of BiAfra((sp*). They told my parents that I had celiac disease. I was fed bananas and boiled skim milk. They would send my older sisters outside if she gave them a cookie or pop. I was too young to remember anything about this. I got better and grew up eating a normal diet with no further digestive problems. I always wonder if I had celiac or not.

      August 22, 2019 at 12:26 am
      • jeanne melhior Reply

        I too was a banana baby, born in 1944. My problems began after my mom quit breastfeeding and put me on solid food. I was diagnosed as having celiac disease at Children’s Hospital in Louisville, KY, put on the banana diet (along with buttermilk), and little by little, introduced to a high protein diet. Over the years I took many vitamins, especially B vitamins, had few sweets, but was eating pretty normally by the time I was about 7. I saw a pediatrician until I was 12, when I was pronounced free of the disease. I went on to have three healthy successful pregnancies, and while I tended toward anemia, and when I was pregnant I took iron, and often took B vitamins over the years, though I had no major digestive problems despite eating a regular diet complete with large amounts of gluten for most of my life. About 5 years ago, a routine test showed elevated liver enzymes, and I was sent to a gastroenterologist. After much testing, my antibody count showed a reaction to gluten, and though the small intestine was pronounced as “looking pretty good”, I was put on a gluten free diet which I continue to follow. I have been retested since the, and always have a slightly elevated antibody count, probably because I live with others who are not gluten free. I have read that there is an asymptomatic celiac, and I imagine that is what I had. I can’t say that the gluten free diet makes any difference in how I feel, and I can envision a time when other things go wrong, that I might go back to crusty french bread and an occasional slice of cherry pie with real crust. A friend and I have a pact, that when either of us gets close to the end, we will head to the Blue Dog Bakery (a local place notable for their crusty artisanal breads), and go hog wild!

        August 22, 2019 at 3:35 pm
  • Claudia Shukis Reply

    Hi. By all accounts (my mom and oldest sibling), I was a banana baby. I was told that I’d had “celiac syndrome”. Is that a thing? BTW, I was born in 1953, and my pediatrician was. Dr. Larkin in NYC. My dad was, at the time, a General Practitioner, aka GP, aka “family doctor”. Ive had a weight problem my whole life; I’ve often wondered if I should be on a gluten-free diet. Any helpful info would be appreciated.

    September 29, 2019 at 10:53 pm
    • Tricia Thompson Reply

      Hi Claudia, My deepest apologies for the delay in responding. Are you still located in NYC? My suggestion is to meet with a gastroenterologist well-versed in diagnosing and treating folks with celiac disease. If you let me know where you are located I will try to help.

      October 8, 2019 at 2:14 pm
  • Guadalupe R. Green Reply

    Thanks for sharing, kinds of information. This is an important lesson for all of us to remember, including doctors and dietitians. “why” doesn’t necessarily make sense, the medical community has a responsibility to listen and figure out why inclusion or exclusion of a particular food is helping.

    September 14, 2020 at 5:41 am
  • Marilyn Murray (nee Kaufman) Reply

    Hi Tricia, This is Marilyn Murray (nee Kaufman) writing once again to you. I was Dr. Haass’ patient in 1944 – 1949. I wrote to you 8n 2017 just as I was moving to New York City. I was the lady who told you that my Mother had lost a baby girl from dehydration in 1940. When I was born in 1943, my Mother like so many at that time went from doctor to doctor. Fortunately, our parents found Dr. Haas. I can still smell the mix of flakes and bananas my Mom prepared. I am so honored to write once and tell you how I so much admire all you’ve done both in Education and Research. I also recently (now 79 y.o.) found out that I am lactose intolerant. Celiac Disease is a never ending journey and I am still learning more and more. Living in Manhattan , having a social life and a significant other is difficult since nobody cooks and everyone eats out. My solution is finding a good restaurant, a chef who is knowledgeable about gluten and knows about contamination. Also, I am fortunate that the new man in my life learned about and is still learning about gluten free foods and labels. Are you still celebrating May as Celiac awareness month? I wold love to donate to the cause. Thank you again for all that you do. With much gratitude, Marilyn

    March 23, 2023 at 6:13 pm
    • Tricia Thompson Reply

      Hi Marilyn, It is so wonderful to hear from you! It sounds like you are handling life in NYC well. I continue to be in awe of you and the other “banana babies” (and all the bananas you ate!). Thank you so much for your kind words. I’m not sure what Gluten Free Watchdog will be doing for celiac awareness month but there are so many worthy causes that could use donations. I will circle back. Kindest regards, Tricia

      March 24, 2023 at 12:30 pm
  • saiful khan Reply

    What a heartwarming and enlightening article! It’s incredible to learn about the pioneering work of Dr. Sidney Haas and the “banana diet” in treating celiac disease, especially during a time when gluten’s role wasn’t yet understood. The fact that this unconventional approach saved lives underscores the importance of listening to patient experiences and being open-minded in medical practice. The author’s dedication to connecting with “banana babies” and preserving their stories is truly commendable. This article serves as a reminder of the resilience of the human spirit and the transformative power of innovative approaches to healthcare.

    June 8, 2024 at 3:27 pm

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