The term "gluten free" refers to those foods lacking gluten, a type of protein typically found in wheat and related foodstuffs. Gluten-free diets are usually of necessity to people suffering from celiac disease, an auto-immune disorder that prohibits the individual's small bowel from properly digesting the protein.
Placement on a gluten-free diet is often the primary treatment for people with celiac disease. They are instructed to avoid all foods containing such items as wheat, barley, rye and triticale. While some medical specialists consider oats admissible for select patients, others say that they must be avoided altogether. Celiac patients also avoid other potential gluten sources, including some soups, salad dressings, flavor enhancers and processed foods.
In lieu of these foods, celiac sufferers are directed to alternative, gluten-free starch sources, such as potatoes, tapioca, corn, rice and quinoa. Other gluten-free starches include millet, buckwheat, soy beans, yams and legumes. One of the downsides of gluten-free living is that it sometimes encourages anti-social behaviors, as Celiac sufferers desire the security of their own kitchens, thus limiting the threat of cross-contamination present in public food service facilities. However, increased social awareness of the disease prompts many restaurants and other eateries to adopt gluten-safe practices and to supply gluten-free options on their menus.