NPR

Doctors Once Thought Bananas Cured Celiac Disease. They Saved Kids' Lives — At A Cost

In the early 20th century, kids with the disease faced severe malnutrition, even death. The banana-based diet doctors came up with seemed to cure them — but led kids back to foods that made them sick.
The unusual prescription that Lindy Thomson (now Lindy Redmond) received from Dr. Douglas Arnold when she was 2 to treat her celiac disease: It recommended moving to clean mountain air and following a high-calorie, banana-based diet. Source: Courtesy of Lindy Redmond

The year was 1945, and 2-year-old Lindy Thomson had been given a few weeks to live. She suffered from diarrhea and projectile vomiting, and she was so thin and weak, she could no longer walk. Her parents had taken her from doctor to doctor. Finally, Dr. Douglas Arnold in Buffalo, N.Y., offered a most unusual prescription: She was to eat bananas.

"At least seven bananas a day," recalls the patient, who now goes by her married name, Lindy Redmond.

"To whom it may concern," the doctor wrote on a prescription pad that Lindy still has as a keepsake. Lindy Thomson "has celiac disease (a

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