As an avid researcher since my diagnosis with celiac disease almost eight years ago, I was pleasantly surprised to learn some valuable points I had not known before reading Gluten Freedom by Dr. Alessio Fasano, founder and director of the Center for Celiac Research at Massachusetts General Hospital.  I had been told that celiac’s developed in childhood, and that my late-developing case was rare.  In Dr. Fasano’s introduction, he points out that, “As research shows, celiac disease and gluten-related disorders are not simply diseases of childhood, but they can develop at any time.”  This was news to me, and he went on throughout most of the book to explain how this discovery came about.

Gluten Freedom

Gluten Freedom by Alessio Fasano, MD

There were so many things the doctors hadn’t told me, or hadn’t known, but Gluten Freedom helped fill in many cracks. Dr. Fasano also explained celiac disease in such a simple way that anyone could understand, as on page 8:  “Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder caused by the abnormal functioning of the immune system that produces antibodies against your own tissue.  If you have celiac disease, you have it for life.”

History of Celiac Disease

Grain by Peter Pearson

Grain. Photo by Peter Pearson

I found Dr. Fasano’s historical assessment of celiac disease and gluten challenges informative and thorough.  He takes the reader from the Banana Babies of the 1920’s, to observations of World War II’s decrease in schizophrenia due to wheat shortages, to Dicke’s clinical and research work in the 1950’s (that the typical child with celiac disease “…was described as fair-skinned, with blue eyes and blond hair, and with Northern European ancestry”), to more recent discoveries that celiac disease sufferers can now be subjected to far fewer tests due to the development of better determinants.

Throughout the book, I learned that huge strides have been made during the past century in understanding gluten and the problems it can create in non-allergenic and non-sensitive people as well as hypo-allergenic, gluten-intolerant, and celiac sufferers.  The history fascinated me the most because it showed how easy it had been to overlook and misunderstand an extremely debilitating disease until enough sufferers came forward to facilitate more research.

Recipes and Living Gluten Free

The few recipes in the book were useful, but I found myself thinking that a small cookbook or appendix would have served better than breaking up the stories and interesting observations with food ideas. (See below for one of Dr. Fasano's recipes from the book.)

Chocolate Date Protein Balls by Amazing Almonds

Chocolate Date Protein Balls. Photo by Amazing Almonds

I found the portion about how to live gluten-free very helpful, especially for those who may be new to the process.   The section on new treatments and therapies not only gave me hope, but surprised me.  Many of the options Dr. Fasano mentioned I had never heard before.  I went straight to my doctor and asked about a special bacteria-derived enzyme pill to help my body break gluten down more easily.  She is searching for an answer for me.

Celiac Research

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder caused by the abnormal functioning of the immune system that produces antibodies against your own tissue. If you have celiac disease, you have it for life.

I was also impressed with the thoroughness of Dr. Fasano’s research in understanding the different indicators for celiac’s in order to find a vaccine or treatment.  For example, Dr. Fasano explained that individuals who carry the DQ2 gene are more likely to have the disease or develop it later in life.  I was also shocked to learn that the celiac tests I had my doctor perform on my children were null and void because I had already enforced a gluten-free diet on everyone at home for my own protection.  The doctor was unaware that full testing for the disease needed to be done before launching my kids on a gluten-free diet.  Their tests came up negative, and possibly for good reason. They were administered incorrectly.

My Review

I found much to applaud in Gluten Freedom.  It truly gave me the freedom to find more answers to questions my doctors had never addressed.  I found all of Dr. Fasano’s points about celiac disease to be enlightening.  However, I also had more unanswered questions about the other gluten challenges he briefly addresses, like gluten intolerance and gluten sensitivity.  Although he touches on the differences between sensitivity and celiac’s, I found myself wanting to understand more. I would still recommend Gluten Freedom to those diagnosed with gluten sensitivity or intolerance—not to aid in a deeper understanding of the sensitivity, but for the therapies, history, recipes, and lifestyle change recommendations.

Research shows that one in every 133 Americans is affected by celiac’s disease.

Overall, I found Gluten Freedom very clear and interesting.  I would love to see a follow-up book that covers other gluten challenges in more detail and any new research that has come along since he wrote this book.  His studies have shown that one in every 133 Americans is affected by celiac’s.  This is a startling number indeed!  I hope this book finds its way to the majority of sufferers in order to aid them in understanding and accepting that their disease is not as rare as many doctors originally thought, and that there is hope for a treatment in the future.

Sample Recipe

Mushroom Rice Risotto

  • 1½ cups uncooked Superfino Arborio Rice
  • 1 large white onion, chopped fine
  • 4 cups Shitake mushrooms
  • 4 oz white wine
  • 2 cubes gluten-free vegetable bouillon
  • 2 TBLS extra virgin olive oil
  1. Prepare bouillon by adding four cups of boiling water to two vegetable bouillon cubes in a medium size saucepan. Turn the heat as low as possible on the bouillon to keep it simmering.
  2. Prepare the vegetable base: Using a sharp knife, cut the ends off the onion, remove top layer and discard. Slice onion in half lengthwise and chop fine.
  3. Heat a deep saucepan to medium heat (you'll cook the risotto in this pan).
  4. Heat the olive oil to sauté the onion.
  5. When the oil is hot, add onion and cook just until golden brown.
  6. Add the wine and cook on low for an additional 5 minutes.
  7. Wipe the mushrooms clean with a mushroom brush or paper towel and chop finely. Add them to the saucepan oil and sauté until soft.
  8. Now it's time to add the rice to the mushroom base. Stir the rice into the mushroom mixture and stir for 2-3 minutes.
  9. The next stop is adding the broth. You must add the broth slowly, a half cup or so at a time, so the rice can absorb the broth after each addition.
  10. After you add the broth, continuously stir over low to medium heat. This will take about 30 to 40 minutes. You might not need to add all the broth. Start tasting the rice when you've added most of the broth. The risotto is done when the texture of the rice is a little firm with a smooth texture overall.

Risotto is best eaten immediately. Serves four.

Buy the Book

Gluten Freedom: The Nation's Leading Expert Offers the Essential Guide to a Healthy, Gluten-Free Lifestyle
by Dr. Alessio Fasano, MD.
May 2014, Turner Publishing
$24.95 retail hardcover; $19.05 Amazon; $11.99 Kindle

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