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.
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 https://www.glutenfreewatchdog.org/news/early-dietary-treatment-for-celiac-disease-the-banana-diet/). 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