How a Miracle Cure for Celiac Disease Backfired
Celiac.com 06/22/2017 – Once upon a time, bananas were thought by many doctors to possess tremendous healing properties. Bananas were used to help diabetics to use weight. Doctors told mothers to feed bananas to their infants starting at 4 weeks. And for a long time, the diet seemed to help people “recover” from celiac disease.
Invented by Dr. Sidney Haas in 1924, the high-calorie, banana-based diet excluded starches, but included bananas, milk, cottage cheese, meat and vegetables.
The diet was so effective in celiac disease patients that it was adopted by numerous doctors, and endorsed in the 1930s by the University of Maryland, according to pediatric gastroenterologist Alessio Fasano, chair of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and a specialist in celiac disease.
The general public picked up the trend, and embraced bananas as one of the great health foods. But, whatever the medical and public perception about bananas may have been, Dr. Haas was wrong about the curative powers of bananas, and that seemingly honest mistake had long-term consequences for numerous patients with celiac disease.
That’s because the bananas did not cure the condition, as was commonly thought. The bodies of the patients involved did not become tolerant to wheat. So, when they reintroduced wheat into their diets, as many did, assuming they were cured, they suffered physical consequences.
One such patient was Lindy Redmond, whose celiac disease was “cured” with the banana diet as a child. “All my life I have told doctors I had celiac as a child,” says Lindy Redmond, “and that I grew out of it. And all my life I have eaten wheat.”
“My intestine was very damaged,” she reports. “My doctor said she didn’t know if it would ever recover.” It was then that Redmond wondered about the possible connection between lifelong, untreated celiac disease and her two miscarriages, frequent bouts of colds and bronchitis, and interminable constipation. Now 74 and off gluten, Redmond says the colds and constipation are gone.
It wasn’t until 1952 that Dutch pediatrician, Willem Karel Dicke, and his colleagues identified gluten as the trigger for celiac disease, and the gluten-free diet was born.
But Haas railed against the gluten-free diet and went on promoting his banana-based cure, claiming that only the banana diet could achieve “a cure which is permanent.”
The European medical community quickly adopted Dicke’s gluten-free diet treatment, but in the United States, at least partly due to these erroneous medical beliefs, celiac disease remained under-diagnosed, and many patients suffered needlessly.
Reda more at NPR.org
Celiac.com welcomes your comments below (registration is NOT required).
Jefferson Adams is a freelance writer living in San Francisco. His poems, essays and photographs have appeared in Antioch Review, Blue Mesa Review, CALIBAN, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Huffington Post, the Mississippi Review, and Slate among others.
He is a member of both the National Writers Union, the International Federation of Journalists, and covers San Francisco Health News for Examiner.com.View all articles by Jefferson Adams
Published at Thu, 22 Jun 2017 15:30:00 +0000