Gluten Freedom — An Essential Guide to Gluten Issues, with Recipes!

glufreeDuring the writing of my own book on cooking to nourish your archetypes, I read Gluten Freedom by Dr. Alessio Fasano, MD, Founder and Director of the Center for Celiac Research at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. Given that many of my own recipes feature gluten-free alternatives, I was eager to read an expert’s version of the history of gluten-related illnesses and to learn more about the current state of treatment. Dr. Fasano’s book did not disappoint. The book contains a comprehensive review of the spectrum of gluten-related disorders, and also includes chapters on discussing leaky gut (you’ll get introduced to zonulin) as well as gluten’s influence on brain chemistry. Gluten Freedom also discusses new treatments and therapies, including enzyme therapy, a “celiac pill” treatment, and the possible development of a therapeutic vaccine. The book also talks about methods for prevention including delaying gluten introduction until one year of age, which is now being studied.

Taking the subject to a richer level of detail and creativity, Gluten Freedom also offers several recipes to remove gluten from the menu including all-time favorites like chocolate chip cookies and gluten-free scones. There is a charming chapter called “Dinner with Dr. Fasano” where we learn about the region, Campania, where Dr. Fasano spent his childhood. He then offers what sounds like a heavenly five-course meal of gluten-free specialties including Capri Salad featuring Mozzarella di bufala di Campania — the soft mozzarella cheese from the Dr.’s home region.

I like how this book provides comprehensive information on gluten issues including an appendix of apps for mobile phones as well as an extensive list for recommended reading. There are also some excellent practical features like a “Wheat Alert” table of menu items that contain wheat, and a stage-by-stage life guide for how to avoid gluten from cradle to grave.

After finishing the book, I was still left with a question, which I posed to the authors: “Is there any value in a low-gluten diet even if you don’t have gluten sensitivity? Does it help to diversify the grains we eat? If gluten calories are substituted with more fruits and vegetables, would that be better for overall health?”

Pam Cureton, one of the contributing writers for the book and a registered dietitian at the Center for Celiac Research and Treatment, responded:

“No, there is no advantage to following a low-gluten diet for those who tolerate gluten. There is, however, an advantage to eating more whole, natural foods and reducing the amount of processed foods to reduce unwanted levels of sodium, sugar, fats and extra calories. For people who tolerate gluten, these are the problem ingredients, not the wheat, rye or barley. Including these as whole grains along with other ancient grains, amaranth, millet, sorghum and others, would benefit everyone.”

I’m glad my own oatmeal-chocolate chip cookie recipe contains sorghum! Thanks, Pam! And thanks to Dr. Fasano and all the contributors to Gluten Freedom — helping us navigate this difficult health and dietary issue.

Link to Gluten Freedom on Amazon

Whitehouse Praises Obamacare for Access to Mental Health

From the Whitehouse press office:

Obamacare Will Help 172,000 Rhode Islanders Gain Access to Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Benefits

Washington, DC– According to data released today by the White House, 172,000 Rhode Islanders will gain access to expanded mental health and substance use disorder benefits and federal parity protections thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), a strong advocate for mental health parity, applauded the announcement as the latest example of the ACA improving care for Rhode Islanders.

“For too long, Americans suffering from mental health conditions have been stigmatized, misdiagnosed, and poorly treated,” said Whitehouse.  “The new benefits provided through the health care law will complement the landmark mental health parity law championed by Congressman Patrick Kennedy in 2008, and are an important step toward improving care for mental health patients.  It’s long past time to recognize that mental health is just as important as physical health by providing equal access to care, and the Affordable Care Act is helping us do so.”

Because of the health care law, for the first time insurance companies in the individual and small group market are required to cover mental health and substance use disorder services as one of ten categories of essential health benefits.  Additionally, insurance companies must cover these services at parity with medical and surgical benefits, which means, for example, out-of-pocket costs for behavioral health services must be comparable to coverage for medical and surgical care.

An estimated one in five adults experiences a mental health problem in any given year.  While most mental health problems are treatable, mental health patients too often cannot access needed treatment if they do not have health insurance that covers mental health services.  The Affordable Care Act requires most health plans to cover recommended preventive services like depression screenings for adults and behavioral assessments for children at no cost to consumers.  And, because of the law, starting in 2014 insurers will not be able to deny coverage or charge individuals more due to pre-existing conditions, including mental health problems.

Over the past several years, Senator Whitehouse has emerged as one of the leaders in Congress on mental health issues.  He strongly supported Congressman Kennedy’s Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act in 2008, and in 2010 Whitehouse and Kennedy teamed up to introduce the Health Information Technology (HIT) Extension for Behavioral Health Services Act.  That bill would have made federal HIT incentives available to behavioral health, mental health, and substance abuse treatment providers who are currently ineligible to receive incentives available to a majority of medical professionals and facilities.  Whitehouse has continued working on that legislation since Kennedy’s retirement, reintroducing it earlier this year.

While I see this as overall good news, I want to caution mental health consumers out there to be aware of your deductibles when you go into treatment, particularly into higher levels of care, and particularly if you have a high deductible health plan.  Remember that you have the right to know the costs of your treatment up front.