Almost 70 years ago, a diet plan for celiac patients that eliminates the most indigestible processed carbohydrates in grains, sugars, and homogenized milk products was created. When these aggressive factors are taken away, the intestine heals itself within a year or less, relieving signs and symptoms of celiac disease and other intestinal problems.
Only gluten effects might not be enough to explain celiac disease, since not all symptoms disappear when gluten is removed from the diet. Of course that avoiding gluten alleviates most of the troubling symptoms, but in many cases there is no complete healing in the small intestine, which makes many patients highly susceptible to having additional problems in the long run.
That plan was created by Dr. Sidney Valentine Haas, who by the late 1940’s, early 1950’s, was well-known for his treatment of celiac patients with the so-called Specific Carbohydrate Diet.
When a celiac person follows this diet and avoids all chemically processed starches and the polysaccharides (complex sugars), his intestinal wall is going to in fact heal itself. Cells will repair and become normal after a period of one to five years when sticking to the diet. Dr. Hass also believed that these carbohydrates were feeding a gut flora that was causing disease, and removing those carbohydrates starved out those fungus and bacteria, allowing the patient to heal completely and more rapidly. When mainstream medicine dumped the SCD in favor of the easier to follow gluten-free diet (read below), Dr. Haas still insisted it was the type of carbohydrates, not just the gluten. Modern research is now beginning to catch up to Dr. Haas, in both intestinal disorders and autism.
In those early years “research had shown that the elimination of carbohydrates brought about dramatic improvement in the condition known as celiac disease today. However, there was a need for some tolerable carbohydrate in the diet of these children. Dr. Haas was interested in learning if some form of carbohydrate could be added to the diet to hasten recovery and provide a more varied and nutritious diet. He had noted reports throughout the years whereby children with severe diarrhea had done very well on banana flour (made of 70% ripe banana) and plantain meal. He soon discovered that celiacs could tolerate this carbohydrate and, more than that, the banana could be fed in large quantities with beneficial effects. He further experimented with carbohydrate containing fruits and some vegetables and found that they, too, could be tolerated and celiac patients could regain health on a far more varied diet than just protein and fat.
During the next few years, Dr. Haas treated over 600 cases of celiac disease with his Specific Carbohydrate Diet, maintaining his patients on it for at least twelve months, and found that the prognosis of celiac disease was excellent. “There is complete recovery with no relapses, no deaths, no crisis, no pulmonary involvement and no stunting of growth.”
In 1951, Dr. Haas, together with his son, Dr, Merrill P. Haas, published The Management of Celiac Disease, the most comprehensive medical text that had ever been written on celiac disease. With 670 references to published research, the book described celiac disease more completely than had ever been done before. [Editor’s note: this book is available in some university libraries and can often be found in online bookstores.]”
But something happened in 1952 that changed how Dr. Haas’ theory of celiac disease should be known by the general public, despite great success with his patients and some acclaim. A 1952 Lancet report (based on only 10 test subjects), suggested that gluten protein intolerance might be “the real culprit” of celiac disease. Researchers concluded that over simplicity was an attractive factor for the medical community’s linking of celiac disease only with gluten intolerance, which continues to the present day.
Fortunately, one of Dr. Hass’ patient (a mother in fact) created a legacy honoring his work and spreading the word with another book called “Breaking the Vicious Cycle” by Elaine Gottschall. Dr. Hass saved her daughter Judy in the 1950’s after she struggled for many years with celiac disease. But this one is another story, for another post.