Book Review: Gluten Freedom

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Book Review: Gluten Freedom

By Alessio Fassano, M.D. Founder and Director of the Center for Celiac Research at Massachusetts General Hospital Harvard Medical School with Susie Flaherty

Leading expert in the field of celiac disease and gluten-related disorders, Dr. Alessio Fasano writes a wonderfully thorough treatise about the etiology of celiac disease worldwide and in the U.S.  In the early 1990s, the national medical community thought that celiac disease was an extremely rare condition, practically non-existent in the United States.  Dr. Fasano discusses his ground breaking research that dispelled this myth.  He discusses current research, and the latest diagnostic procedures on the topic of gluten-related disorders.  He spends time separating myth from facts and challenges some accepted scientific research conclusions.  In addition, he offers helpful guidelines about how to live a healthy gluten-free lifestyle. 

Within the Center for Celiac Research and Treatment at Mass General Hospital,  Dr. Fasano, a pediatric  gastroenterologist and research scientist, explains his work looking at the intestinal “microbiome” , a community of microbes in the gut.  He states “The gut is not like Las Vegas.  What happens in the gut doesn’t stay in the gut.”  He discussse the potential for immune cells to travel to other organs and tissues, including the brain and peripheral nerves to create non-gastrointestinal health issues and symptoms.

He introduces the concept of  “gliadorphins”, which are fragments of the gluten molecule that have a structural similarity with endorphins.  Endorphins are chemicals produced in the brain. He theorizies that gliadorphins may cross the intestinal barrier, enter the bloodstream, and cross the blood brain barrier.   Once there, they may react with the endorphin receptors and cause behavioral changes such as: headaches, migraines, anxiety, depression, tingling of the fingertips, foggy mind.  The second theory suggests brain involvement with gluten related disorders may be due to an inflammatory process which does initiate in the gut, but is not necessarily confined to that part of the body.

Gluten Freedom also discusses how gluten may impact behavior-related diseases such as autism and schizophrenia.  Based on the most current research, it clarifies the differences between celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and wheat allergy. 

This book is certainly a reliable and accurate resource for patients, parents, and physicians.

Jan Phillips, M.Ed.