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A blog about all things allergen-free and delicious


Just a note to thank you all for following this blog! You may have noticed a gap in the posts, and a few of you have asked me where I've been. I had to take an unexpected and sudden leave in 2014 to deal with a few personal things, but plan to be back on board as soon as possible. Hopefully in a couple of months. So, stay tuned, send good vibes to the community, and use the search to look through the tons of information on the site that could be helpful to you. Feel free to drop comments and questions, I check regularly. (To search look right)==>.


Simple Roasted Sweet Potato Fries

The smell of roasting sweet potatoes with coconut oil has a lovely hint of toasted marshmallow. Maybe that's why I love them so much!

There are a lot of wonderful sweet potato ways. Today, they are big "fries," but tomorrow, it's chips with cinnamon, sea salt and nutmeg, served with a dollop of cashew butter (my favorite).

Give this one a try and share how it goes! So simple, so quick, so delish.




5 organic sweet potatoes, cut lengthwise into quarters, and if a big tater, eigths (I like to use jewel or garnet, but any orange fleshed sweet potato will be yummy.) Make 'em fry size.

2 TBS of coconut oil

2 tsp sea salt (or to taste)

Heat oven to 425 degrees F

1. Line a baking sheet with parchment (I use If You Care's unbleached, compostable parchment)

2. Place the fries on the sheet, and rub each slice with the coconut oil so it is well coated.

3. Sprinkle with sea salt, turning to cover all sides

4. Bake at 425* F for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.

How do you like your sweet potatoes!  Share your wicked skills in the comments!


1. Store sweet potatoes in a cool, dry, ventilated space and they will last up to two weeks. Try not to store in the refrigerator as it could make the core hard. Since I don't have a root cellar, nor air conditioning, I will store mine in the fridge in a basket, but use them in a matter of days.

2. Japanese sweet potatoes work well as fries, too, but they have a very different taste and are much more starchy. So, for those on gut healing diets that need to avoid starch, the orange fleshed potato is a better choice.

 3. Bacon Fat. Instead of coconut oil, bacon fat is simply fabulous with sweet potatoes. If you make bacon this way, the fat is easy to save and is a cleaner draw.

4. If you just want one. You can just make one.



Can We Help Stop the Destruction of Monarch Butterflies?

Me, at the Frederick Meijer Gardens butterfly exhibit several years ago. The butterly stayed in that exact position for an entire hour. Don't remember the type of butterly this is, does anyone happen to know?

"Industrial agricultural giant Dow Chemical unveiled its newest toxic herbicide, Enlist Duo, which would destroy milkweed plants that monarch butterflies need to survive. And monarch populations are crashing from nearly 1 billion butterflies 20 years ago to just 57 million last winter. Tell Dow's CEO to shelve the company's plan for selling this potent chemical cocktail — before it wreaks more destruction on monarchs."

~Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)


I never thought, not in a million years, that I would be saying, "help save the butterflies" or be writing about the destruction of our great pollinators, the honey bees. But I have been, and the quote above prompted me to sign this petition created by the NRDC, an organization that does incredible work to help protect our ecosystem, of which we are a part. I think sometimes we humans forget this. I sign many petitions that I believe in to do my part to protect our health, but today, I thought I'd share what I wrote to the Andrew Livaris, President, CEO, and Chairman of Dow Chemical. If you would like to join me in signing this petition, here is the link. If you would like, help more people understand your thoughts by copying what you wrote in your letter to Mr. Livaris, below in the comments. Thanks for reading and considering a signature.

Click here to sign the NRDC petition.


Dear Mr. Livaris,

I imagine that you have noticed the decline in butterflies in the recent years, and if you haven't, perhaps it would be good if you spent a little more time outside? Butterflies used to flock to fields where I've lived for the last 10 years, where no pesticides were used. Today, seeing a butterfly gives you the feeling that you are sighting the rare white tiger... elation, then sadness. Unlike tigers, butterflies and bees should be commonplace in our (national) ecosystem.

 Also, have you noticed the rise in autoimmune disease and food allergies? If you haven't, perhaps it would be good if you spoke to more actual people. Learned a little more about the gut damage that people are experiencing. Maybe look at some health data and step back to ask, "Could Dow, actually be a part of ruining peoples lives, killing species, and hurting our national and global health?" Even if your experts claim that there is no evidence to support this, you need to ask yourself this question like many of us do every day, when we recycle, when we choose not to litter, when we choose not to eat antibiotic fed chicken. If you haven't asked yourself this question, "Could Dow.. could I.. be a part of hurting entire species and contributing to the serious ill health of people?" Then perhaps you should. You are a powerful man. It is your responsibility to ask this question. If you haven't, then ask yourself this, "Why am I not ashamed?"

[the following is text from the NRDC]

Please shelve your plans for selling Enlist Duo, a new generation of toxic weed killer, in light of the disastrous threat it poses to monarch butterflies. The skyrocketing use of glyphosate, one of the key components in Enlist Duo, has already led to a massive decline of milkweed, a key factor in the collapse of monarch populations. The fact that your company is rushing headlong to introduce a chemical cocktail that will wreak further destruction on milkweed and poses potentially serious risks to human health is simply unconscionable. I urge you to help avert this ecological disaster by keeping Enlist Duo off the market. Thank you.

Elisabeth Veltman


More on the NRDC's action on the part of Monarchs

EPA Denies NRDC's Petition to Save Monarch Butterflies

NRDCs Lawsuit against the EPA


Some News on Bees

Mystery Malady Kills More Bees, Heightening Worry on Farms (New York Times)

Environmental Groups want Pesticide Makers to Release Bee Death Studies (CTV News, London, Ontario)





A Little About Roasting Chestnuts


Chestnut Memories

Each year, during my 15 years of living in New York City, that wonderful aroma of chestnuts would waft gently through the crispness of winter. Their mysterious steam added a layer of Christmas to the heightened senses of Big Apple dwellers. I was always surprised at how creamy they were, these chestnuts roasted on an open vendor cart.


Season & Harvest

Chestnuts are available from October through December, henceforth dubbing them a Christmas, not just a cool season crop. They are also, as I just found out from this WZZM13 newscast, a growing crop in Michigan. Michigan has about 50 working chestnut farms right now. How cool is that?

In the newscast, WZZM13 interviewed Winkel Chestnut Farms and I was so fascinated by this new agricultural trend that I decided to give them a call and ask a few questions. The first chestnut lesson that owners Dick and Leslie Winkel taught me was that chestnuts bloom in July and August, but are usually harvested in September or early October. They are then put into cold storage with high humidity for a few months. This type of storage actually acts as a curing process because chestnuts sweeten as they age. Perfect timing for December roasting.

Pesticides & Allergies

The Winkels and I also briefly discussed pesticides, gluten and other allergen cross contamination, and different applications to keep the chestnuts fresh. A common pest is the potato leaf hopper, and most chestnut pests appear in the summer, just as the chestnut flowers / burrs start to form. Some farmers use pesticides, but Winkel Farms keeps bees for pollination, so in order to save the bees, they don't spray.

One of the issues that shocked me in our conversation at first, is that bleach and water is a common anti-mold technique after harvesting and before storage. According to the Food and Agricultural Association of the United Nations, chestnuts are highly susceptable to mold and various techniques are used around the world. Commonly, farmers can dunk the nuts after they fall from the tree into water and bleach to keep fungus at bay. The trees drop the nuts with or without the outer burr, but in the shell, so the meat of the nut is protected from the bleach. How protected is unclear, but the shells are quite tough. There are alternatives to this technique, and not everyone uses bleach in the water. 

Allergy Note: Chestnuts belong to the same botanical family as oak and beech trees do. According to Kids with Food Allergies and FARE chestnuts are considered TREE NUTS. It appears that there are some folks who are only allergic to chestnuts and not other nuts, and others who are able to eat the chestnuts, but not other tree nuts. Tender Foodie will do a little more research on this.

No matter what, however, if you are ALLERGIC to TREE NUTS do not eat chestnuts without discussing with an informed physician and doing adequate allergy testing.

Also, gluten-free peops need to be mindful that cross contamination of nuts with gluten at the processing plant or at a vendor is a possibility.

I discussed with the Winkels how to find chestnuts that have not been cross contaminated with gluten. Their farm is a U-Pick farm so it takes the cross contamination question away -- you go to the farm and pick them up from the ground yourself. The U-Pick season is over, but something to keep in mind for next year. It's always good to develop a relationship with your local farmer and ask them questions about how they grow, store, pack, and process their products. This practice helps support local farms, biodiversity, and ourselves!

"I've been an aerospace engineer all of my life, and I didn't realize how complicated farming was until I started a chestnut farm! I worked my way through college as a crop dusting pilot and my love of light airplanes led me to aerospace engineering. The crop dusting gave me an interest in agriculture. It's been important to get the chestnut farm working. I don't know why except for the little voices in my head in the middle of the night. I had to pay attention to the call of the chestnuts."

~Dick Winkel, Winkel Chestnut Farms


Chestnuts have less fat and more starch than regular nuts, and are more like a sweet potato in starch content than a nut. They are relatively low in calories but rich in minerals like iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, phosphorous, and potassium. Chestnuts, like green leafy vegetables and unlike most nuts, are also rich in folates, B Complex groups, and Vitamin C. Like other seeds and nuts, they are also full of bad cholesterol lowering (and good cholesterol raising) monounsaturated fats, like oleic acid.

Additionally, these little nuts make a great flour for gluten-free or grain-free baking, if you can find it. Oh yes they do.


How to Roast Chestnuts

Because of my wheat allergy and severe gluten sensitivity, I no longer can partake of those great street chestnuts in those romantic cities around the world. The risk of cross contamination is too great. But, we can roast them ourselves, can't we?

Here's how:

Choose chestnuts from a local farmer with whom you can discuss the risk of cross contamination. Fresh chestnuts are heavy for their size, glossy (not moldy), and rich in color. Score them (create little incisions in them with a knife) before roasting at an oven temp of 350 - 400 degrees Fahrenheit. The nuts have their own oils so you don’t need to use any oils during roasting. Martha Stewart has a simple, beautiful set of instructions here, and suggests a 350 degree roasting temp. Peel, salt (or don’t salt), and enjoy.

Want to grow some trees? Read this cool article on how to do so from Mother Earth News. Interesting tidbit: you need at least two chestnut trees to pollinate and 40 feet around each tree!


Read More About Local

Two Advantages of Buying from Small, Local Farms

2014 Locavore Index: See How Your State Ranks

Check Out Winkel Farms


Facebook Page

Order Online from Allen Creek Farms

Labeled as gluten-free and still available as of this post date


Dr. Fasano on New Gut & Autoimmune Research, Autism, & Clearing Up the Gluten Confusion with His New Book

Interview by Elisabeth Veltman

Alessio Fasano, MDIt was a true privilege to once again speak with Dr. Alessio Fasano, a pioneer in the research and treatment of celiac disease, other gluten related disorders, and autoimmunity. Dr. Fasano is the Chief of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition at Massachusetts General Hospital, and is the Director of the Center for Celiac Research, which he founded in 1996. He is also one of the most beloved figures in the gluten-free and celiac community. His passion for his work and his love for people are absolutely palpable. He is tireless and uses a rare combination of science and art in the way he approaches his research. He can break down a very complex subject into picturesque language, and is an absolute joy to interview.




My first interview with Dr. Fasano was in December of 2011, after he and his research team discovered a “new food allergy” called gluten sensitivity in April of that year. During the interview, one of the most interesting and shocking facts he discussed was that no one has the ability to digest “gluten,” a term that was just becoming a household word at the time. In that interview, he offered some of the reasons why so many people are affected by the “gliadin” class of proteins found in gluten-based grains like wheat, rye, barley, and other grains within the grass genus Triticum (read more). Dr. Fasano became recognized around the world when he published a study on the dramatic rise of celiac disease in the 2003 Annals of Medicine, and even before this when he discovered “zonulin”, a protein in the human body that regulates the permeability of the body’s tissues, including the intestine. Zonulin causes the intestinal wall to open and close as required by the body to keep nutrients in and harmful stuff out. Too much zonulin seems to cause the intestinal walls to stay open, allowing other allergens and substances into the body, alerting the immune system, and giving credence to the term, “leaky gut.” This discovery led researchers to an interesting pattern: people in the acute stages of celiac disease have increased zonulin levels. His research links increased zonulin levels to the development of celiac as well as other autoimmune diseases. Additionally, since celiac disease is the only autoimmune disease where a clear trigger (gluten) is known, Dr. Fasano’s research will benefit all autoimmune research, as it will help scientists find the triggers to diseases like type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis and could pave the way to a cure.

Read about his new study here: How to predict the onset of celiac disease & how gut bacteria influences autoimmunity.


Dr. Fasano has been interviewed and quoted in hundreds of publications including The New York Times, The Washington Post, NPR, Bloomberg News, and the The Los Angeles Times; and has been featured on television on shows like “Good Morning America.”

I was very excited to learn about his new book called, “Gluten Freedom” which was published this week, and authored with the help of writer Susie Flaherty. His book will help dispel some of the myths that have arisen around gluten related disorders. These myths and misunderstandings have caused quite a stir (in other words: argument) in the gluten-free community and in the media, so it will be very interesting to see what Dr. Fasano has to say. The book will also discuss some of the exciting research that he and his team have done and are doing, including studies on the microbiome in the gut and how that protects us from disease, and the gut’s relationship to the brain. The book is available now on


Our interview helps answer some of the questions and concerns that The Tender Foodie receives from readers about the confusion in celiac diagnosis, the importance of early diagnosis, a new term called “the gluten sensitivity spectrum”, the dangers of cheating on your diet, the relationship between gluten and autism, and the propensity for developing autoimmune disease because of gluten sensitivity or celiac disease. He also gives a few more highlights into the delicious morsels of information that we can find in his book.

Celiac Testing

TENDER FOODIE: When we last spoke two and a half years ago, we discussed how to get tested for celiac disease. You had mentioned that 4 out of 5 markers is the new standard for a celiac diagnosis, and that following this standard might help avoid a biopsy. Has anything changed since then?

DR. FASANO: At that time we were discussing a proposal to the medical community that we change the existing criteria to the 4 out of 5 marker algorithm.

We had decided that we needed to invent an algorithm that addressed patients who were exceptions in the celiac community. In reality, 80% of patients will fulfill the old criteria, but there were many patients who fell through the cracks when it came to diagnosis. One year after we spoke last, this new algorithm (the 4 out of 5 markers) became official in the European community and is now accepted worldwide. The method has been reviewed using an evidence-based method by the medical community at large.

NOTE: The method has been reviewed by: European Society of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition

TENDER FOODIE: Many of my readers are confused when they hear that the small intestinal biopsy is the “gold standard” for celiac diagnosis. They often ask – can there be a false negative? Can surgeons miss the part of the small intestine that is diseased, and therefore misdiagnose a patient?

DR. FASANO: We don’t call the biopsy the “gold standard” anymore. In fact, it is not the silver standard, nor even the copper standard! One main reason is that someone with celiac disease may have no damage to the small intestine. Not yet.

Two years ago, we didn’t have the strong screening tests that we do now.

NOTE: Watch this page for updates on testing for celiac disease and other food allergies and sensitivities.

TENDER FOODIE: Is celiac disease the only disease that can destroy the small intestine? If not, what else can?

DR. FASANO:  Infections, viruses, and other inflammation can destroy the villi in the small intestine, too. In fact, for some of the people who have it, the AIDS virus can be quite devastating to the small intestine. Radiation from cancer treatments can also destroy the villi in the small intestine.

Young kids can have a list of diseases that can affect the gut, as well, damaging the small intestine, such as Cow’s milk (lactose) intolerance, parasitic infections, rotovirus, and autoimmune enteropathy.


TENDER FOODIE:  You’ve mentioned in past interviews that the small intestine can regenerate itself. Is there ever a point of no return? A point where the small intestine can no longer regenerate?

DR. FASANO: It takes 3-5 days for the small intestine to regenerate itself because within the blood system, we have the capability to continually regenerate. Intestinal cells constantly have to replace themselves, so this is a natural process that continually is happening.

There is no “point of no return.” The regenerative stem cells are in what we call “the crypts.” These are depressions in the small intestine where the stem cells live. These crypts actually expand themselves in people who have untreated celiac in order to create more regenerative cells. The crypts can get overwhelmed with demand in people who have untreated celiac.

In other words, it’s normal to have 100 cells die, and 100 cells regenerate on a regular basis. With celiac disease, cells die early, and stem cells can’t keep up with the regeneration process, so the crypts where the stem cells live expand to try to keep up with the need for new cells.

NOTE: In other words, if a person with celiac disease is not on a gluten-free diet, the crypts keep expanding to try to keep up with the die off of the villi, but cannot, so the destruction of the villi continues, and more damage to the small intestine occurs.



TENDER FOODIE: In our last interview, you had mentioned that, “We don’t know all of the necessary genes to develop Celiac Disease; however, HLA DQ2 and/or DQ8 are absolutely necessary to develop the disease.”

How common is it to have a negative celiac panel, but a positive biopsy of the small intestine? And simply to clarify again, can you have a diagnosis of celiac disease without the aforementioned genes?

DR. FASANO:  It is very rare to have celiac disease without these genes. That is why we have developed the 4 out of 5 markers. I mentioned before that the biopsy of the small intestine is no longer the gold standard, and can be avoided if the other 4 markers are present. But, if you have symptoms and a positive serology (antibodies are showing up in your blood test) in view of a negative HLA, you cannot avoid a biopsy, because at this point, we don’t know if the patient has gluten sensitivity or celiac disease.  For instance, a negative serology (zero antibodies in the blood) plus symptoms (you get sick from consuming gluten) plus a negative HLA (the DQ2 / DQ8 genes are not present) is most likely gluten sensitivity and not celiac disease.

TENDER FOODIE: What about antibodies to the small intestine itself?

DR. FASANO: Positive or negative serology is just a test for the autoantibodies against tTG. There is an anti-enterocyte antibody test that is available that measures antibodies against your small intestine. However, it is not routinely performed and not widely available in labs. This condition is extremely rare.


TENDER FOODIE: Here is one of the most common questions that I receive often. Some readers who have been diagnosed with gluten sensitivity and even those with celiac disease have mentioned that they “cheat” on their diets and once in a while eat their favorite gluten-filled foods.  I always shudder when I hear this. Can you tell us the rules on diet for both celiac and gluten sensitivity?

DR. FASANO: For people with celiac disease, cheating is an absolute NO-NO. it is like diabetes. If a diabetic skips insulin he/she will be in big trouble. The same for those with celiac disease, cheating is not an option.

For people with gluten sensitivity, we don’t know yet what cheating will do to the body. People appear to have different thresholds. Some people who are gluten sensitive (not celiac) can’t tolerate even a trace of gluten. Others people with gluten sensitivity (again, not celiac) can tolerate it occasionally. There appears to be a spectrum of tolerance for those with gluten sensitivity, so, unlike celiac, you need to be as strict as your body requires.

TENDER FOODIE: There are a lot of mom’s with celiac disease or with the disease in their families who would like to know if gluten can be transferred through breast milk?

DR. FASANO: Yes, gluten can be transferred via breast milk.


TENDER FOODIE: Can you develop other autoimmune diseases either from untreated celiac disease or untreated gluten sensitivity?   Also, have researchers gathered the statistics on whether or not DQ8 celiacs have a greater number of other autoimmune diseases than DQ2 or vice versa?

DR. FASANO: There are two schools of thought. Here are a couple of examples.

The first school says that if you have X number of genes that put you at risk for celiac, but are also born with Y # of genes for Hashimotos (a thyroid condition), for instance, then you are likely to get Hashimotos.

The 2nd school of thought says that untreated celiac disease leads to other autoimmune diseases, but you might reduce this risk of other autoimmune diseases if the celiac disease is caught early.

TENDER FOODIE: Do the celiac genes need to be expressed or triggered in order to develop other autoimmune diseases?

DR. FASANO: Here is another way to put it: Again, if you develop celiac disease and have complications from other autoimmune disorders, by default the celiac genes are expressed. So if you believe that other autoimmune disorders are due to untreated celiac disease, the answer would be yes, the genes must be triggered.

Here are some of the statistics for those with celiac disease who are at risk for other types of autoimmune diseases: 

15/20% of celiacs are at risk for Hashimotos (A thyroid disease)
7-10%  of celiacs are at risk for Diabetes
5% at risk for Auto Immune Hepatities Herpetiformas (A serious skin rash)
2-3% at risk for Sjögren's syndrome

For both of these schools of thought, you can’t make a celiac diagnosis without discovering intestinal damage. However, progressive thinkers say it doesn’t matter if the celiac is activated, or if the intestines are damaged or not, the person still could have celiac disease now and damage later in life. We need a third option where a diagnosis should come before the onset of celiac disease. We are more focused on prevention now than we have been in the past.

A study of children under the age of 2 in Sweden showed that the intestines of the celiac children who went on a gluten-free diet went back to normal, but those who were untreated -- almost all of these kids’ intestines had damage. The study suggests that there is an opportunity for early prevention because of early diagnosis.

Read about Dr. Fasano's new study on early diagnosis.

TENDER FOODIE: What about gluten sensitivity? Is that a precursor to autoimmune disease as well?

DR. FASANO: Gluten sensitivity is not an autoimmune disease, but I would not be shocked if we eventually find a link between it and autoimmune diseases.

NOTE: After the interview I followed up on this statement, "I would not be shocked to find a link between gluten sensitivity and autoimmune disease", as it is quite a powerful one, to confirm that this was exactly what he said. Dr. Fasano verified this statement.



TENDER FOODIE: There are some people with celiac disease who do not seem to get better even when strictly adhering to a gluten-free diet. Could you talk about why?

DR. FASANO: Yes. There are some people who don’t respond to a gluten-free diet. This is a condition called Refractory Sprue. Refractory Sprue is defined by a persistent or recurrent malabsorptive symptoms and villous atrophy despite strict adherence to a gluten-free diet*. Most people with celiac disease do well on a gluten-free diet, but this is a small group who does not respond to strict adherence to it, and continue to have gut damage and symptoms. The immune system doesn’t even need to be instigated by gluten anymore in these patients. We also refer to these patients as “non-responsive celiacs” and this condition needs to be studied more carefully.

NOTE: In plain language, “malabsorption” refers to the inability of the small intestine to absorb nutrients because of damage to the villi. “Villous atrophy” simply means that the part of the small intestine that absorbs the nutrients (the intestinal villi) is being eroded or destroyed.

TENDER FOODIE: I’ve heard that you have a new diet that is successful for non-responsive celiac patients?

DR. FASANO: Yes! It’s called the Fasano Diet, although I wish they didn’t call it that!


DR. FASANO: Oh, it was a team effort. It is a diet for everyone and not for me!

TENDER FOODIE: That’s funny, I love it! Tell me a little about this Fasano diet.

DR. FASANO: The patient is on the diet for 3-6 months only so that the immune system can have time to recalibrate itself, and calm down.

TENDER FOODIE: is this similar to GAPS or the Specific Carbohydrate Diet? And what is your opinion on these diets?

DR. FASANO: I don’t have an opinion either way on these diets. The bottom line is to be in favor of the quality of life of the patient. The difference is that the diet we’ve created allows all fish, vegetables, olive oil, and only one grain: rice.  Rice is the only grain that is completely gluten-free. We are going back to the way our grand parents used to eat, and the ingredients allowed in the diet are all whole, unprocessed foods that are naturally gluten-free.


TENDER FOODIE: How does inflammation factor into the immune response for gluten sensitivity? Can you review how this works for readers who do not have celiac, but are reacting to gluten?

DR. FASANO: You need to make a clear distinction between celiac disease and the immune system’s attack on other tissues, like the thyroid. Gluten (or more specifically, “gliadin”) is inflammatory because it cannot be digested by any human (read more here). If gluten is ingested, it causes a leaky gut**. If the gut doesn’t heal after ingestion of the gluten, it starts a war that has collateral damage of some kind. If that war is confined to the intestine, then the distress is in the function of the intestine.

However, sometimes the immune cells, or the soldiers in the war, leave the intestine and then attack other types of tissues, like those in the gallbladder, thyroid, and brain. Inflammation because of gluten can even be a factor in diseases like autism and schizophrenia.

NOTE: "Leaky Gut" is where too much zonulin (see first paragraph) actually opens the normally tight junctures of the small intestine letting undigested particles that are too large to be absorbed properly, into the system.



TENDER FOODIE: Many people ask about a gluten-free diet for kids with autism.  Since we are on that subject, can you address the effectiveness of a gluten-free diet as a tactic?

DR. FASANO: This is a controversial field and has been looked at by researchers for many years. The paradigm of celiac and autism does not really fit: there is another Swedish study has found no link between celiac disease and autism. However, there may be other types of gluten reactions that could be at play. We don’t know whether this is part of the general rise in gluten sensitivity throughout the population, or not. The real issue is that autism is very complex. Researchers are starting to accept that autism can have different causes, including genes, toxins, vaccines, or food intolerance like gluten sensitivity. There is no single magic bullet, and the approach to each case must be customized. Twenty out of 100 autistic kids respond to a gluten-free diet, but if you can identify the cause and the triggers of any complex disease, and isolate the biomarkers associated, this is a much better approach. We are just scratching the surface, but this gives us a lot of food for thought.

TENDER FOODIE: This is really fascinating and very helpful, thank you. I have to ask, although I know you don’t have all of the answers to this as this is not specifically part of your research, I’d love your opinion. Have you found any link between the “new” pesticide producing GMO’s and the rise of gluten-related disorders?

DR. FASANO: We don’t know enough to make that determination. But I don’t think they are driving the rise in celiac disease because celiac disease has increased dramatically in many countries, including the European countries who ban these GMO’s. We still have not found the cause of the rise in gluten-related disorders.

NOTE: After our interview, I ran across a proposal for a study from research scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). This was forwarded to Dr. Fasano’s team for comment at a later date, should it be appropriate.
STUDY ABSTRACT (PARTIAL): Europe provides disturbing confirmation that glyphosate residues are prevalent in the Western diet (Hoppe, 2013). This study involved exclusively city dwellers, who are unlikely to be exposed to glyphosate except through food sources. Despite Europe’s more aggressive campaign against GMO foods than that in the Americas, 44% of the urine samples contained quantifiable amounts of glyphosate. Diet seems to be the main source of exposure. One can predict that, if a study were undertaken in the U.S., the percentage of the affected population would be much larger.




TENDER FOODIE: Let’s talk about your book. Will you tell us a little more about it and why you wrote it?

DR. FASANO: Yes! We are very excited. The book summarizes our seventeen years of experience in research and how we’ve had to shift the paradigm. At first, no one was interested. Now, the subjects of gluten and celiac disease are very popular, and the facts are getting distorted. The book will help dispel some myths and clarify the facts, as we know them now.

TENDER FOODIE:  What is some of the newest research that people can find in the book?

DR. FASANO: There is an entire section devoted to the brain. We’ve learned so much about the brain in recent years that is very interesting. We’ve also done new research on the gut and the microbiome and the cross talk between our genes and the gut bacteria. We may be born with a certain gene for a particular disease, but our gut bacteria may influence whether or not that gene gets triggered. We would like to see if we are able to locate a single biomarker before the gene gets triggered, and therefore prevent the disease from occurring. We published a paper on this, I'll have someone send it to you, it is a very ground breaking area of research.

Here is the paper: Pathophysiology of the Intestinal Paracellular Pathway

TENDER FOODIE: Oh terrific, thank you. And thank you so very much for working through these reader questions with me, Dr. Fasano. It has been such a privilege to be able to speak to you again.

DR. FASANO:  You are most welcome.



If you would like to learn more about Dr. Fasano's work, here are a few other great articles that you will enjoy and find very educational.

RHR: Pioneering Researcher Alessio Fasano M.D. on Gluten, Autoimmunity & Leaky Gut, by Chris Kresser

Dr. Fasano's Guidance on Probiotics from Autism Speaks

And here are the other interviews that I did with Dr. Fasano on Tender Foodie in 2011:

Should Anyone Eat Gluten?

How To Get Tested for Celiac Disease

Gluten Sensitivity, A New Food Allergy

A special thanks to Susie Flaherty for her help in getting the details necessary for these interviews. You are greatly appreciated!

About the Author of This Article

 Writer, owner of Blue Pearl Strategies, and lover of all culinary delights, Elisabeth started The Tender Palate & Tender Foodie, for people with food allergies, sensitivities and intolerance. She believes that everyone should live deliciously and have a healthy seat at the table.