National Celiac Awareness Month and History of Celiac Disease
Celiac.com 04/29/2010 - May is designated as National Celiac Awareness Month. As such, I thought it would be a great opportunity to explore the history of celiac disease. Most people think of celiac disease as a modern day ailment, which predominantly affects  those of European descent and in Westernized societies. However in my research, I found that the best place to start when referencing the history of celiac disease, is actually the beginning of humans.

In the beginning of humans, known as the Neolithic Period,  humans were hunters and gatherers and primarily survived on fruits, nuts, and meat when available. During the Neolithic Period,  humans evolved and began cultivating plants which quickly led to the agricultural revolution.

With the agricultural revolution came a myriad of food antigens, such as dairy, eggs and processed grains. It was during this time that celiac disease was born. Some 8,000 years after making its debut, celiac was identified and named by a Greek physician known as Aretaeus of Cappadocia.

In the first century A.D.,  Aretaeus documented information about, “The Coeliac Affection.” He named celiac disease, “koiliakos” derived from the Greek word for “abdomen”. In his descriptions of celiac Aretaeus stated, “If the stomach be  irretentive  of food and if it pass through undigested and crude, and nothing ascends into the body, we call such persons coeliacs”.  While a name had been given to the disease, people with celiac still had no idea how to heal from the condition, and were still vastly unaware of the cause for their ailments.

It wasn't until the early 19th Century that Dr. Mathew Baillie published his observations on celiac disease which he sited as, 'chronic diarrheal disorder causing malnutrition and characterized by a gas-distended abdomen'. In his observations, Dr. Baillie documented that some of his patients appeared to benefit from eating only rice.

However important Dr. Baillie's findings were, they still went largely unnoticed by the medical community until 75 years later when an English doctor known as Dr. Samuel Gee, came into the scene. In 1888  Dr. Gee was working for the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in the United Kingdom when he demonstrated a set of clinical trials performed on children and adults with celiac disease. Dr. Gee was quoted as saying, “To regulate the food is the main part of treatment. The allowance of farinaceous foods must be small, but if the patient can be cured at all, it must be by means of diet.” As an example he sited a very sick child that was fed the best Dutch mussels every day during mussel season. The child thrived during mussel season, but as soon as the season was over, the child regressed and died before the next mussel season.

In the 1920's, Sidney Hass presented the “Banana diet”. Sydney successfully treated 8 out of 10 children suffering with celiac disease using the banana diet. He claimed to have cured the 8 children that were on the banana diet, but the other 2 children not on the banana diet, died. The banana diet included the elimination of all bread, crackers, potatoes and cereals and for several decades, the banana diet was the only cure for celiac disease.

Another important marker in the history of celiac disease were the findings by Dutch pediatrician, Dr. Willem Karel Dicke. In 1953 Dr. Dicke wrote his doctoral thesis for the University of Utrecht based on  his observations that the ingestion of wheat proteins specifically, and not carbohydrates in general, were the cause of celiac disease. He was able to exemplify his findings based on bread shortages in the Netherlands during World War II. During the  bread shortages, he found that the health of children with celiac improved tremendously. However, when the allied planes began dropping bread to the Netherlands, the same children quickly deteriorated.

In the 1960's, it became evident that the best method for testing for celiac disease was to perform a