Gluten-free doesn’t mean taste-free

MARSHALL – Feeling bloated and sick after eating Thanksgiving dinner? It may not just be a matter of overeating. The wheat in the stuffing and pie crust could be the problem.

Wheat gluten is a problem for a lot of people, said Rick Herder of Marshall, and strict avoidance of wheat is the remedy, but one that initially causes concern for people.

“One of the first questions people have is, ‘What can I eat?'” said Herder. “They think gluten-free food tastes like cardboard, but there is wonderful food out there.”

Herder is the chapter leader of a new club that has started within the last year, the Gluten Intolerance Group of Southwest Minnesota.

“We exist to serve the needs of people dealing with gluten-related disorders,” he said.

GIG is a branch of the Gluten Intolerance Group, a non-profit organization based in Auburn, Wash. ( Herder said area members come from “a range of communities in the region including Tyler, Ghent, Montevideo and Marshall” and meet from 7-9 p.m. on the first Monday of every month at the Marshall Hy-Vee.

One of the “gluten-related disorders” is celiac disease which affects 1 percent of the population or 1 in 133 Americans, according to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness. Celiac disease “damages the small intestine and interferes with the absorption of nutrients from food when gluten, the protein found in wheat, barley and rye, is ingested.”

Herder avoids gluten like the plague, but doesn’t have celiac disease, he has non-celiac gluten sensitivity. He was suffering from anemia and other ailments and was glad to finally get a diagnosis. He has now been gluten-free for four years, he said. Gluten “acts as a poison” in the body, he said. The list of symptoms varies with each person but could include “anemia, eczema, migraine headaches, dry eyes – a lot of symptoms. People could have one set of symptoms, but not another.”

Herder said, although gluten-free seems to be a fad diet, it is not a weight-loss diet and it also isn’t anything new – it just is being diagnosed more.

“Europe is well ahead of us as far as diagnosis,” he said. “In the U.S. it is seven to 10 years from the onset of symptoms.”

With the holidays coming up, Herder said, families are thinking about what kind of food they can serve. Marshall Hy-Vee is sponsoring a Gluten-Free Gala, an event for those who are sensitive to gluten and are interested in trying new gluten-free foods.

The gala is from 4-7 p.m. Thursday at Marshall Hy-Vee. Gluten-free foods will be available to sample. A gift basket drawing will take place as well as a gluten-free healthy holiday recipe exchange and tips for enjoying a gluten-free holiday will be given out by Katie Koerner, the dietician at the Marshall Hy-Vee.

As far as alternatives to wheat stuffing, Koerner said gluten-free breads include those made from rice flour, “but that’s just one – there are many different kinds of gluten-free bread available now.”

For more information on GIG of Southwest Minnesota, contact Herder at