Early Dietary Treatment for Celiac Disease: The Banana Diet

Early Dietary Treatment for Celiac Disease: The Banana Diet

In Honor of Celiac Disease Awareness Month, Gluten Free Watchdog will be posting 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 #1…

The Early History of the Diet for Celiac Disease (excerpted from The Gluten-Free Nutrition Guide by Tricia Thompson, McGraw-Hill, 2008)

“The gluten-free diet has not always been the treatment of choice for celiac disease. Before the 1950s and the identification of wheat gluten as the culprit in celiac disease, the thinking was that people with celiac disease could not properly absorb carbohydrates and/or fat. A particularly interesting dietary treatment used during this time was the banana diet, made popular by physician Sidney Haas.

This diet restricted both carbohydrates (with the exception of ripe bananas) and fat. In his famous paper, “The value of the banana in the treatment of celiac disease,” published in 1924, Dr. Haas presented the following foods as a typical diet for a child with celiac disease: albumin milk, pot cheese, bananas (as many as the child would take, usually four to eight each day), oranges, vegetables, gelatin, and meat.

In his paper, Dr. Haas makes the following observation: ‘Of interest in connection with the present paper is the statement that in Porto Rico (sic) the town dwellers who eat much bread suffer from sprue, the farmers who live largely on bananas never.’

It is interesting to note that the farmers’ health was credited to bananas and not the lack of bread in their diet.

Tomorrow’s article: “Banana Baby: A former patient of Dr. Sidney Haas tells her story”

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Comments (8)

  • Bonnie Galayda Reply

    Dear Tricia, Thank you for honoring celiac awareness month with daily articles and postings providing historical perspective and present day information. Reading part of Dr. Haas’ letter makes me shudder, and I am grateful for what the medical and scientific communities have learned and put into practice for the CD community since then. However, we still have distance to travel on the road to better treatments and/or prevention, and you are helping all of us on that journey. — Bonnie

    May 1, 2017 at 3:33 pm
    • Tricia Thompson Reply

      You are most welcome, Bonnie. Thanks so much for your kind words and support.

      May 1, 2017 at 3:36 pm
  • Kathy Anderson Reply

    Thank you, Tricia. I can attest to the fact that we have come a LONG way. I have major food sensitivities which severely restrict my diet. But I eat what I can eat and move on! Interestingly, bananas ARE OUT of my diet! Love them! They do not love me!

    May 1, 2017 at 4:01 pm
  • Marilyn Reply

    I came across your site and was amazed to be reminded of Dr. Haas. My mom told me she “dragged” him out of retirement (or is it my ” adult re-storying) to treat me in 1947 from 6 months – 5 years when I was pronounced “cured.”
    I remember the day very vividly. He handed me a red hard candy in a wrapped and said i could now eat it, to which I replied, “but I don’t eat candy.”

    I’ve had no issues with food or illness but did feel particularly good when i went on a gluten-free diet for 2 years about 15 years ago. I just couldn’t stick with it. Being deprived of goodies as a child left me. When I was 50 and had my first colonoscopy, my doctor, a friend, did an endoscopy and found no sign I had ever had celiac. I also tested negative.
    Did I have something else (early childhood colitis) or was I cured? I guess I may never know. Any thoughts?

    December 3, 2020 at 11:29 pm
  • Laura Ward Reply

    My daughter was just diagnosed with celiac disease. Just 3 months ago she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. I am very worried about her mental health and needing to keep her stress level down. She is only 17 years old and this was all allegedly caused by covid even though she was never sick from covid. I am a little scared and worried for my kid and just don’t know what to do now. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    June 15, 2021 at 5:55 pm

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