During 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.