- What Is Xanthan Gum—And Is It Bad for You?
- What Is Xanthan Gum?
- If You Have Allergies, It Could Be Harmful
- Is It Bad for Your Health?
- Here’s What the Research Has Revealed
- What the Data from Human Studies Show
- You Should Know: There Is a Possible Health Risk to Infants
- Xanthan Gum vs. Guar Gum: What’s the Difference?
- Should You Avoid Xanthan Gum?
- Is Xanthan Gum Actually Bad for You?
- Reader Interactions
- XANTHAN GUM
- Possibly Effective for
- More Resources for XANTHAN GUM
- guar gum vs acacia gum treatment
- 6+ Surprising Health Benefits of Xanthan Gum + Side Effects
- What is Xanthan Gum?
- Mechanism of Action
- Drug Delivery
- Health Benefits of Xanthan Gum
- 1) Diabetes
- 2) Constipation
- 3) Dry Mouth
- 4) Dysphagia
- Insufficient Evidence For
- 5) Hunger
- 6) Tooth Decay
- Animal Research (Lacking Evidence)
- 7) Osteoarthritis
- 8) Immunity
- Cancer Research
- Side Effects & Safety
- Drug Interactions
- Limitations and Caveats
- Sources & Forms
- Xanthan Gum Alternatives
- User Experiences
- Adverse Side Effects of Xanthan Gum
What Is Xanthan Gum—And Is It Bad for You?
guar gum, xanthan gum is a food additive that’s often used to thicken or stabilize a final product. It’s particularly common in gluten-free baked goods, since it provides extra elasticity to dough that would otherwise be missing.
But what is it? Is it safe to eat regularly? Keep reading to get the facts, along with my take on this food additive.
What Is Xanthan Gum?
Xanthan gum is the product of a bacterial fermentation process. It’s produced when the bacterium Xanthomonas campestris is placed in a growth medium that includes sugars and other nutrients. (1) The resulting compound is then purified, dried out, powdered, and sold as a food thickener.
If you’re on a gluten-free diet, you could be eating xanthan gum. But is it safe? The answer may depend on your allergies. Check out this article for more information about this common food additive.
In addition to its common use in gluten-free baked goods, it shows up in the ingredients list for salad dressings, some supplements and medicines, ice cream, yogurt, pudding, and some sauces.
If You Have Allergies, It Could Be Harmful
The growth medium used to make this thickener can have an impact on how a person reacts to the final product. Occasionally, allergenic substances are used to nourish Xanthomonas campestris. These can include:
Unfortunately, some manufacturers of xanthan gum (and food products that contain it) aren’t always willing to disclose the growth medium they use—perhaps for proprietary reasons, or because they aren’t entirely sure themselves—leaving food shoppers in the dark. (2) However, if it was produced using one of the substances listed above, this product can carry allergens straight to the consumer.
If you suffer from serious soy, wheat, dairy, or corn allergies, I recommend you avoid items containing xanthan gum entirely.
If you are purchasing your own supply to use in gluten-free baking, contact the manufacturer directly for more information on these potential allergens.
Is It Bad for Your Health?
Overall, there is little evidence that xanthan gum could be harmful to you. Aside from its potential to trigger allergic reactions in some people, studies have generally suggested that it’s safe to eat.
Here’s What the Research Has Revealed
Studies conducted on animals haven’t yielded many concerning results. In one study, rats ate varying concentrations of this food additive for two years.
Their overall health remained largely unchanged from the control population except for one difference: They experienced soft stools more often.
(3) Both populations showed the same survival rate, growth rate, organ weights, incidence of tumors, and blood markers.
Researchers also exposed dogs to this substance. Again, they weren’t able to find any significant differences, other than occasionally soft stools. Data from an experiment conducted on three generations of rats echoed these findings. Even after eating between 0.25 and 0.50 g/kg each day, there were no notable effects.
Some studies have focused on this additive’s digestive impact. In one such experiment, researchers discovered that rats eating a diet consisting of 4 percent xanthan gum had 400 percent more water present in their intestines.
(4) In another study, rats ate an incredibly high dose of the substance—50 g/kg—for four weeks. The water content of their stool and short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) content rose substantially.
(In adult humans, as I’ll note later, higher levels of SCFAs may contribute to good gut health.) (5)
In one surprising study, researchers noted some anti-tumor properties of this food thickener. When it was orally administered, it actually slowed cancer growth and prolonged the life of mice with melanoma. (6) It’s not immediately clear why this occurred, but it’s an intriguing piece of information.
What the Data from Human Studies Show
There aren’t many human-based studies on xanthan gum; perhaps they are sparse because the animal studies don’t reveal any cause for concern or urgency for further investigation.
However, one study did look at the potential side effects of eating large quantities of this substance in an everyday setting. (7) Five adults—all men without digestive issues—ate between 10.4 and 12.9 g of the additive for 23 days.
That’s 15 times the recommended daily amount. Still, researchers only found evidence of:
- Increased fecal bile acid
- Increased stool output and water content
- Decreased serum cholesterol
In another study, volunteers ate 15 g of the substance each day for a total of 10 days. (8) It appeared to act as a potent laxative, as the test subjects experienced gas and a higher stool output.
The researchers in this experiment also examined how their test subjects were able to metabolize this substance. Prior to the test, the fecal bacteria in 12 of the 18 volunteers were able to break down the additive. Afterward, that number jumped to 16.
The data also shows that the fecal bacteria that was able to metabolize this food thickener displayed an increased production of SCFAs and hydrogen gas.
That means the volunteers’ gut flora was able to quickly adapt in response to this new substance being introduced to the body.
This could mean that, many indigestible carbs, large quantities of xanthan gum can have a considerable impact on the gut microbiota.
You Should Know: There Is a Possible Health Risk to Infants
There is one population that may be particularly sensitive to this food additive: infants. Several years ago, a number of infants developed fatal cases of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) after drinking formula or breast milk that included a thickening agent made with xanthan gum.
(9) This product was commonly used in hospital settings to help thicken up breast milk or formula for infants with swallowing problems or acid reflux.
A thicker fluid can help infants with swallowing problems by giving them more time to close their airways and reducing the risk of aspirating the milk or formula.
We don’t yet have enough data to firmly prove a connection between this xanthan gum and NEC. However, several papers suggest that it may have contributed to a life-threatening medical condition by increasing the amount of SCFAs in the infants’ still immature intestinal tracts.
(10, 11) In healthy adults, SCFAs are an essential component to a healthy colon. However, newborns appear to be extremely sensitive to them. (12, 13) That’s why milk thickeners and any products containing xanthan gum aren’t recommended for babies younger than one year.
It’s important to reiterate that these serious health effects have never been witnessed in adults or in any animal studies. In fact, SCFAs are quite beneficial for the health of your gut and your metabolism.
Xanthan Gum vs. Guar Gum: What’s the Difference?
Guar gum is another additive that’s used to thicken and stabilize food. While there are some important differences between these two, if you’re allergic to any of the substances commonly used to create xanthan gum ( soy, dairy, wheat, or corn), guar gum may be a viable alternative.
Guar gum is made from the guar bean, native to India and Pakistan. It’s a soluble fiber, and some animal studies have shown that it actually has the potential to reduce body weight and lower blood glucose. (14)
If you have a digestive condition, however, you may want to avoid guar gum. Since it’s derived from a bean, it can cause distressing symptoms if you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), or other gut health problems.
Should You Avoid Xanthan Gum?
Overall, xanthan gum doesn’t appear to have a high potential to harm adults.
While those with serious allergies or significant digestive issues should steer clear of it, it’s probably fine for most people to eat occasionally.
Remember, however, that there is data showing that large quantities of this substance can alter the gut microbiome.
While we don’t have evidence showing that these changes have a negative effect on overall health, a disrupted gut microbiome is a common cause of many modern diseases.
If you’re concerned about food additives, I recommend following a whole-food diet. Choosing nutrient-rich, real foods instead of pre-packaged goods is an essential step to avoiding chronic disease. The best way to nourish your body is to eat complete, nutritious foods that don’t require preservatives, additives, or other extra substances.
If your food comes in a box, bag, or bottle, there’s a good chance that it contains ingredients that don’t provide any benefits to your body. In some cases, they may even harm your health.
Is Xanthan Gum Actually Bad for You?
I get this question almost on a daily basis: “Hey Cara, I see that you don’t use xanthan gum in some of your recipes and I was wondering: Is xanthan gum actually bad for you?” Since this has become a hot topic over the past couple of years, I thought I would weigh in on my opinion on this issue and answer why I omit xanthan gum from my homemade gluten-free flour blend and ultimately from the majority of my current recipes.
Xanthan gum [zan-thuhn] noun. To quote its Wikipedia page’s definition: Xanthan gum (/ˈzænθən/) is a polysaccharide secreted by the bacterium Xanthomonas campestris. Translation: Xanthan gum is a sugar derived typically from corn (can also be from soy or wheat) that has been pooped out by a bacteria that produces rot on various vegetables. Yup, you heard me correctly friends.
What products can you find xanthan gum in?
Chances are you have consumed xanthan gum mores times than you realize. It is a common ingredient in everyday items toothpaste, medicine, various condiments salad dressing, cosmetics, ice cream, and even gum.
It’s probably fair to say that if it is packaged, it contains xanthan gum. Why, you might ask? It is a great thickener–it has the properties perfect for creating a food that binds well and is stabilized.
Keep reading to find out how…
So xanthan gum is derived from what, you say??
Here is where it starts to get a little interesting. The way that this gum is produced is through the mingling of a sugar derived from corn and a bacteria that creates black spots on mainly vegetables broccoli. Come on, you know what I am talking about.
How many times have you bought that head of broccoli and forgot it was there in the back of your fridge, only to find that after a month of sitting there it has that black rot on certain sections of the florets. Friends, meet bacterium Xanthomonas campestris.
Bacterium Xanthomonas campestris, meet my friends.
May we pause right there? Despite what a great help xanthan gum can be in your gluten-free recipe, that part always creeps me out a bit. Now please note that just because that part creeps me does NOT mean that I am yelling from the rooftops to stay away xanthan.
I get that there are things in the this world that are created by mold or bacteria. Cheese being an awesome example. Cheese is delicious but cheese is mold. Does that still creep me out? Why yes, yes it does. Will I still eat it? Why yes, yes I will.
Oh wait, I’m allergic though so there’s that.
Okay back to business, the fermentation process of the two ingredients (the sugar and bacteria) creates this slimy substance which is then dried up and made into powder form that you see on store shelves.
This starts to explain a lot for those of you who have made the horrible mistake of accidentally spilling a little bit on your kitchen counter and then tried cleaning it up with a wet towel. In the words of Julia Roberts in “Pretty Woman”: Big mistake. Big. Huge.
Your counter has turned into the slimiest mess that takes forever to clean up.
Why is xanthan gum so popular in gluten-free goodies?
Let’s do a little baking 101 here. When gluten (which is nature’s great binding agent) is missing from a baked good, xanthan gum steps in with its ultra-sliminess and attempts to mimic gluten.
For anyone who has ever forgotten to add gum to their recipe, you know of the regret that occurs once that goodie crumbles in the palm of your hand. That’s exactly how xanthan helps a gf’er out. It makes your recipes not crumble, yo.
But can you have the same end result without the gum? Stay tuned…
Why don’t you have xanthan gum in your All-Purpose gluten-free flour blend?
I keep a large bin of my premixed flour blend on hand at all times so when I am ready to start baking, all I have to do is shake it up, measure it out, and use it as an all-purpose flour. There are four ingredients in my blend: brown rice flour, sorghum flour, arrowroot powder, and potato starch.
I do not add xanthan gum into the blend because I am finding that you really don’t always need xanthan gum in the majority of your baked goods.
I have made pancakes, cookies, English muffins, bagels, and even gluten-free vegan sandwich bread that not only require absolutely no xanthan gum but has great texture!
So…is xanthan gum actually bad for you?
We are told that xanthan gum is perfectly safe to consume so no, it’s not bad for you. At least there have been no case studies up to this point saying that when consumed it causes major harm (unless you count that trip to the bathroom as unsafe). Some report intestinal discomfort bloating, gas, and even diarrhea when ingested.
However it’s still an item that has really come out into mainstream only recently so we (as the public) still don’t know a whole lot about it other than it works miracles in gluten-free baking. Should you avoid using it? Only if you 1). Simply don’t want to use it; and 2).
Have an allergy towards the various common items which xanthan can be derived from: mainly corn, though research has shown that it can also derive from wheat and soy (though corn is the most common). If so, you might be having unknown reactions towards xanthan (I know of some people who get very sick from it) and it is best to checked up on it at your doctor’s.
It’s best at that point to find creative ways to get the same binding result without xanthan. Is that even possible? Absolutely!
Are there any great substitutes for xanthan gum?
You bet your bottom dollar there is. For those of you allergic to the above mentioned items and have no issues with using a gum, Guar gum is your solution.
Plus side: it’s cheaper than xanthan–hooray for saving money! Want an all-natural solution for some of your baked goods? There are two wonder foods that we can thank Mother Nature for: Chia Seeds and Psyllim Husk.
There is something magical about the way they enable your baked goods to stay in tact, however you need more than two tablespoons for it to work., at least that has been my experience (which as we all know is subject to change as I continue to grow in my skills).
The bread recipe that I created is a great example of how ground chia seed works. Also, a mixture of both chia and psyllium is a match made in heaven for xanthan-free baking. Chia and chia + psyllium works best in bread- items. Some recipes simply don’t need it at all.
I find that my cookies keep well without xanthan gum, especially when molasses is in the ingredients list, though not necessary. The items I’m still experimenting (unsuccessfully I might add) with xanthan-free baking? Muffins, cakes and cupcakes. Until then, only a small amount of xanthan gum is needed in a recipe that I am okay with it still to remain in some of my recipes. To be continued…
I still want to use xanthan gum. How do I use it in my gluten-free baking?
I haven’t 100% given up on the gum either so ain’t no shame in wanting to use it! Recommended usage for xanthan gum (taken from the back of my Authentic Foods bottle):
Cake – 1/4 teaspoon per 1 cup flour
Bread – 1 teaspoon per 1 cup flour
Pizza Crust – 2 teaspoons per 1 cup flour
Should you believe everything you read here? Nope. That is why researching on your own watch is so beneficial. If you know me, you know that I never push ideas onto anyone (just photos of food) and I encourage you to make up your own mind up on this issue.
I am merely expressing my opinions.
Is that the end of the discussion? Absolutely not! Did I leave something out or do you disagree with the information shared here? I would love to hear your thoughts so share away for the benefit of our community here…
Based in Chicago with her husband and son, Cara is the creator behind the site Fork and Beans: A place where kids can have fun with their food.
Vitamins & Supplements
- Side Effects
Overview Xanthan gum is a sugar- compound made by mixing aged (fermented) sugars with a certain kind of bacteria. It is used to make medicine.
Xanthan gum is used for lowering blood sugar and total cholesterol in people with diabetes. It is also used as a laxative.
Xanthan gum is sometimes used as a saliva substitute in people with dry mouth (Sjogren's syndrome).
In manufacturing, xanthan gum is used as a thickening and stabilizing agent in foods, toothpastes, and medicines. Xanthan gum is also an ingredient in some sustained-release pills.
Xanthan gum swells in the intestine, which stimulates the digestive tract to push stool through. It also might slow the absorption of sugar from the digestive tract and work saliva to lubricate and wet the mouth in people who don't produce enough saliva. Uses
Possibly Effective for
Side Effects Xanthan gum is safe when up to 15 grams per day are taken. It can cause some side effects such as intestinal gas (flatulence) and bloating.
People who are exposed to xanthan gum powder might experience flu- symptoms, nose and throat irritation, and lung problems.
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Not enough is known about the use of xanthan gum during pregnancy and breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid using amounts larger than those normally found in foods.
Nausea, vomiting, appendicitis, hard stools that are difficult to expel (fecal impaction), narrowing or blockage of the intestine, or undiagnosed stomach pain: Do not use xanthan gum if you have any of these conditions. It is a bulk-forming laxative that could be harmful in these situations.
Surgery: Xanthan gum might lower blood sugar levels. There is a concern that it might interfere with blood sugar control during and after surgery. Stop using xanthan gum at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.
- Medications for diabetes (Antidiabetes drugs) interacts with XANTHAN GUMXanthan gum might decrease blood sugar by decreasing the absorption of sugars from food. Diabetes medications are also used to lower blood sugar. Taking xanthan gum with diabetes medications might cause your blood sugar to be too low. Monitor your blood sugar closely. The dose of your diabetes medication might need to be changed. Some medications used for diabetes include glimepiride (Amaryl), glyburide (DiaBeta, Glynase PresTab, Micronase), insulin, pioglitazone (Actos), rosiglitazone (Avandia), chlorpropamide (Diabinese), glipizide (Glucotrol), tolbutamide (Orinase), and others.
The following doses have been studied in scientific research:
The World Health Organization (WHO) has set the maximum acceptable intake for xanthan gum as a food additive at 10 mg/kg per day and as a laxative at 15 grams per day. For safety and effectiveness, bulk laxatives such as xanthan gum require extra fluids.
- For diabetes: a typical dose is 12 grams per day as an ingredient in muffins.
- Covington TR, et al. Handbook of Nonprescription Drugs. 11th ed. Washington, DC: American Pharmaceutical Association, 1996.
- Daly J, Tomlin J, Read NW. The effect of feeding xanthan gum on colonic function in man: correlation with in vitro determinants of bacterial breakdown. Br J Nutr 1993;69: 897-902. View abstract.
- Eastwood MA, Brydon WG, Anderson DM. The dietary effects of xanthan gum in man. Food Addit Contam 1987;4:17-26. View abstract.
- Electronic Code of Federal Regulations. Title 21. Part 182 — Substances Generally Recognized As Safe. Available at: https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/CFRSearch.cfm?CFRPart=182
- Osilesi O, Trout DL, Glover EE, et al. Use of xanthan gum in dietary management of diabetes mellitus. Am J Clin Nutr 1985;42: 597-603. View abstract.
- Sargent EV, Adolph J, Clemmons MK, et al. Evaluation of flu- symptoms in workers handling xanthan gum powder. Occup Med 1990;32:625-30. View abstract.
- van der Reijden WA, Buijs MJ, Damen JJ, et al. Influence of polymers for use in saliva substitutes on de- and remineralization of enamel in vitro. Caries Res 1997;31:216-23. View abstract.
- van der Reijden WA, van der Kwaak, Vissink A, et al. Treatment of xerostomia with polymer-based saliva substitutes in patients with Sjogren's syndrome. Arthritis Rheum 1996;39:57-63. View abstract.
- Wade A, Weller PJ, eds. Handbook of Pharmaceutical Excipients. 2nd ed. Washington, DC: Am Pharmaceutical Assn, 1994.
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CONDITIONS OF USE AND IMPORTANT INFORMATION: This information is meant to supplement, not replace advice from your doctor or healthcare provider and is not meant to cover all possible uses, precautions, interactions or adverse effects. This information may not fit your specific health circumstances.
Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified health care provider because of something you have read on WebMD.
You should always speak with your doctor or health care professional before you start, stop, or change any prescribed part of your health care plan or treatment and to determine what course of therapy is right for you.
This copyrighted material is provided by Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Consumer Version. Information from this source is evidence-based and objective, and without commercial influence. For professional medical information on natural medicines, see Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Professional Version.
© Therapeutic Research Faculty 2018.
guar gum vs acacia gum treatment
- 24 Feb 2017 Abstract The Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources added to Food Guar gum may be partially hydrolysed by heat treatment, mild acid or for other gums acacia gum and particularly karaya or xanthan gum.Chat Online
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6+ Surprising Health Benefits of Xanthan Gum + Side Effects
Xanthan gum is a food additive that you may consume multiple times a day. It is common in everything from gluten-free food to personal care products, such as toothpaste and creams. Read on below to find out more about xanthan gum.
What is Xanthan Gum?
Xanthan gum, also known as polysaccharide B-1459, is a natural carbohydrate commonly made using bacteria (Xanthomonas campestris) [1, 2].
X. campestris produces xanthan gum from common sugar sources. The sugars are fermented with X. campestris, treated with alcohol, and dried to form xanthan gum [1, 2, 3].
The bacteria, however, is a deadly plant pathogen responsible for diseases black rot, bacterial leaf blight, and citrus canker disease. Although not dangerous to humans, this bacteria can devastate crops if not controlled .
Xanthan gum has been classified as non-toxic. It has even been approved without limitations by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) to be used as a food additive .
Xanthan gum has a variety of food applications. It is used as a thickening and stabilizing agent in products :
- Salad dressing
- Dry Mixes
- Dairy products
- Baked goods
- Frozen foods
- Fruity drinks
Other than its great health benefits, xanthan gum is used to increase crude oil recovery from oil fields using its advanced binding properties [4, 5].
Xanthan gum is made up of repeating units of simple sugars bonded together by bacterial fermentation .
Sugars glucose, sucrose, and fructose can be used to fuel its production .
Soybean biodiesel, an environmentally friendly fuel, has shown promising results as a substitute for sugars in the xanthan gum production process .
Mechanism of Action
Xanthan gum has binding properties with water, organic, and inorganic materials due to its long chains of sugars [2, 6].
When mixed with a liquid, xanthan gum increases the thickness of that liquid, thus providing many health benefits due to slower reaction speeds [7, 8, 2, 3].
Modified-release dosage is very important in many pills or tablets to change the drug’s release rate into the bloodstream Xanthan gum is a great solution to modify drug release .
In simulated water systems, xanthan gum-based pills can extend the release of drugs, thus maintaining a consistent dosage over time. This would reduce the frequent need to take prescriptions [10, 11, 12].
Health Benefits of Xanthan Gum
Xanthan gum has been approved by the FDA for use as a food additive, but not for medical use. Speak with your doctor before using xanthan gum for any health purpose.
Diabetes is a chronic condition that impairs the body’s ability to process blood sugar. If blood sugar remains too high, it can cause damage to nerves, eyes, blood vessels, and kidneys .
In a 12-week study of 9 diabetic subjects, 12 g of xanthan gum decreased blood sugar levels during a fast and 2 hours after meals. No severe digestive symptoms were reported in this study .
In a study of 14 healthy male subjects and 4 juice mixtures, the xanthan gum mixture caused the biggest reduction in blood sugar .
In a similar simulation of the human digestive process, xanthan gum decreased glucose concentrations without negatively affecting digestive fluid thickness .
For those whose diet mainly consists of rice, xanthan gum may decrease its unhealthy consequences. Blood sugar spikes roughly 30 minutes after the consumption of rice. In a study of 11 healthy subjects, xanthan gum suppressed this blood sugar spike in humans .
In a study of 18 volunteers, xanthan gum had powerful laxative effects on the human body. The amount and frequency of stool production increased with supplements of xanthan gum .
In another study of 5 men, consuming large quantities of xanthan gum increased the quantity and frequency of bowel movements .
3) Dry Mouth
A study of 33 patients with severe mouth dryness caused by Sjogren’s syndrome used xanthan gum-based saliva substitutes at different thicknesses. Xanthan gum-based saliva substitutes improved dry mouth .
Patients on kidney dialysis complain about dry mouth and thirst due to a mandatory fluid-restricted diet. A study of 65 patients showed saliva substitutes containing xanthan gum can treat thirst and dry mouth .
Dysphagia is a disorder that describes difficulty swallowing or initiating the act of swallowing. A xanthan gum-based food thickener improved safety and provided relief for 120 patients with dysphagia when compared to 14 healthy volunteers .
Also, 76 patients with post-stroke dysphagia took xanthan gum thickeners and experienced increased swallowing safety, which could reduce choking events .
Insufficient Evidence For
The following purported benefits are only supported by limited, low-quality clinical studies. There is insufficient evidence to support the use of xanthan gum for any of the below-listed uses. Remember to speak with a doctor before using xanthan gum for any medical purpose, and never use it as a replacement for something your doctor recommends or prescribes.
In a study of 9 people, the participants who consumed xanthan-supplemented muffins reported a greater sense of fullness .
However, the European Food Safety Authority reported no relationship between the consumption of xanthan gum and increased satiety [24, 25].
Another study confirmed that xanthan gum did not significantly decrease hunger in 21 obese women patients .
6) Tooth Decay
Strong tooth enamel (the protective surface of the tooth) is a sign of good dental health. Acidic foods such as soda, coffee, and fruit juices can degrade tooth enamel .
Xanthan gum is a common thickening agent used in toothpaste. Xanthan gum is believed to form a protective barrier over the teeth, thus blocking acid attacks from foods .
A study of 16 subjects compared the erosive effect of acidic fruit drinks mixed with xanthan gum, showing it reduced enamel loss .
Animal Research (Lacking Evidence)
No clinical evidence supports the use of xanthan gum for any of the conditions listed in this section. Below is a summary of the existing animal and cell-based research, which should guide further investigational efforts. However, the studies listed below should not be interpreted as supportive of any health benefit.
Osteoarthritis is a painful joint disorder usually caused by aging joints or obesity. Multiple animal studies showed that xanthan gum injections protected the cartilage while also relieving pain [30, 31].
Xanthan gum was able to activate antibody production in mouse spleen cells. However, there is no evidence that this same response will occur in humans .
Xanthan gum suppressed tumor growth in mice by stimulating the immune system. Slowing cancer growth increased the survival time of mice diagnosed with skin cancer .
Side Effects & Safety
If consumed, xanthan gum can cause some digestive discomfort including laxative effects, bloating, and flatulence .
Use caution when handling xanthan gum in its powder form. Workers exposed to high amounts of xanthan gum powder reported non-life-threatening nose and throat irritation .
Other than that, there are no known adverse side effects to xanthan gum consumption. An experiment using 5 male volunteers ingested 15 times the acceptable daily intake of xanthan gum every day for 23 days. There were no significant health consequences reported beyond a moderate laxative effect .
Xanthan gum has a similar structure to other food proteins and may cause an immune reaction. A study of 288 human and animal blood samples showed xanthan gum caused a noticeable immune response. Healthy individuals could suffer from hidden food allergies .
Diabetes patients should use caution when taking xanthan gum. Blood sugar may reach low levels when xanthan gum is combined with diabetes medication .
To avoid adverse effects and unexpected interactions, talk to your doctor before using xanthan gum for any health purpose.
Limitations and Caveats
Many of the available xanthan gum studies only test on animals, so some benefits may not be replicated in humans. More human trials should be performed before you use xanthan gum for its purported health benefits.
Sources & Forms
Xanthan gum is a common food additive manufactured using bacteria. It can be purchased in powder form for use in cooking .
Xanthan gum is found in the following foods and products [2, 36]:
- Salad dressings
- Ice creams
- Gluten-free products
Xanthan Gum Alternatives
Xanthan gum can be substituted with the following in many recipes:
- Guar gum 
- Locust bean gum 
- Carrageenan 
- Chia seeds 
- Agar-agar 
There is no safe and effective dose of xanthan gum for any medical purpose because no sufficiently powered study has been conducted to find one. Most professionals recommend staying under 10 mg/kg per day .
Users love adding xanthan gum to their recipe as a thickening agent, reducing the need for extra carbs in foods such as homemade bread.
Vegan and gluten-free recipes benefit from its binding properties while still maintaining great flavor. Most users report the best use of xanthan gum in protein shakes, milkshakes, smoothies, and ice cream. Xanthan gum helps produce a pleasant texture.
Xanthan gum is also an ingredient in homemade beauty products. It provides a cheap and effective way to mix hair gels and lotions.
Adverse Side Effects of Xanthan Gum
I am posting this bit of trivia in case it might be of interest to anyone else who sufferers adverse side effects from eating foods containing xanthan gum; to anyone who feeds baby formula containing xanthan gum to their infant; to anyone researching the side effects of food grade xanthan gum.
It is not my intent to explain all about what xanthan gum is, what foods typically contain xanthan gum, or when it was first introduced into the food chain—you can find that information elsewhere—but rather to call attention to possible severe adverse side effects from ingesting food grade xanthan gum.
My source for this bit of trivia is Wikipedia, so take it for what it’s worth, but I couldn’t help but feel validated by it, since I cannot tolerate any food containing xanthan gum.
I suffered puzzling symptoms of abdominal distress for nearly twenty years, and only became aware of what caused them in 2009 , when I briefly tried a gluten free diet to see whether it would finally resolve my problem.
This was after I had already followed a whole foods diet as described in Restoring Your Digestive Health, by Rubin and Brasco, for a couple of years, during which time I was always healthy, except for occasional, short-lived flare-ups after I ate at a restaurant or at someone else’s house. I could not explain it.
Why would my healthy digestive system still react this way to “normal” food? (Once you understand the prevalent use of xanthan gum in processed foods, you will understand how difficult it is to avoid.)
I decided to take my healthy eating habits one step further and go on a strict gluten free regimen. It was while on this strict organic, whole foods, gluten free diet that I discovered the root of my problem.
Only the gluten free baked goods upset my stomach, causing the exact same abdominal distress that had puzzled me for years—pain and distension throughout stomach and intestines, resolving itself with or without treatment in 18-20 hours.
The only additive in the gluten free baked goods was xanthan gum.
Even minute amounts of xanthan gum cause me severe stomach and intestinal pain, knives in my stomach, accompanied by huge distension of my abdomen, sometimes making me look three+ months pregnant. I am small, by the way–about 5’5″ and 119-122 pounds; female. From time of ingestion to time that symptoms pass is usually no more than 20 hours for me.
If I happen to eat food containing xanthan gum at lunch time, for example, I feel fine the next morning when I awake, though I suffered the prior evening before I fell asleep. I find discomfort is somewhat relieved if I lay stomach down on a pile of pillows, putting even pressure on my entire abdomen.
Stomach remedies have no effect, except a gas reducing pill that helps but little.
Here is the promised trivia, complements of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xanthan_gum :
“On May 20, 2011 the FDA issued a press release warning “parents, caregivers and health care providers not to feed SimplyThick, a thickening product, to premature infants.” The concern is that the product may cause necrotizing enterocolitis. SimplyThick’s active ingredient is xanthan gum” [The ingredient list for SimplyThick is short:] “Water, Xanthan Gum, Citric Acid, Potassium Sorbate.”
So, I looked up “necrotizing enterocolitis,” and, yes, that sounds what could be happening in there; lots of trapped gas, for starters.
Following medical term after medical term mentioned in these Wikipedia articles, I also found similar validation in an article about “Pneumatosis intestinalis” at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pneumatosis_intestinalis .
In pneumatosis intestinalis (gas cysts in the intestinal wall), in premature infants, the diagnosis is as follows:
“The clinical features are divided into 3 stages:
Stage 1 — Apnea, bradycardia, lethargy, abdominal distension and vomiting.
Stage 2 — Pneumatosis intestinalis and the above features.
Stage 3 — Low blood pressure, bradycardia, acidosis, disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC) and anuria.”
NO, I do not exhibit all of those symptoms, but then I am not exposed to xanthan gum for more than one meal (typically). By nature, I normally have relatively low blood pressure accompanied by a slow heartbeat, so that would not be unusual.
When I am sick with xanthan gum imposed symptoms, I do feel lethargic and tired. During such bouts, I do not even attempt physical work. I do NOT get nausea, vomiting, constipation or diarrhea.
As for anuria, if anything I need to urinate more frequently, though with less volume at each time, apparently because the swollen intestines are pressing on my bladder.
As for acidosis, I could use my pH papers to see whether my system is more acid during a bout, when next I have one, but I assume a change in overall pH should take much more than just a few hours, so I doubt I would have that.
Then again, I usually have only single incident exposures to xanthan gum, not prolonged exposure over time as was the case with the infants who were fed formula containing SimplyThick.
Interesting stuff. I think the company that makes xanthan gum should consider medical studies on adults to find out what is the prevalence of stomach distress caused by xanthan gum…and also find out why is it so many people seem completely unaffected. At least, they do not know that they are affected. What is it about people me, that only we are prone? And premature babies?
Well, for starters, the babies received xanthan gum in every sip of their entire diet; adults typically eat a variety of processed and whole foods…
I suffered from mysterious, intermittent stomach issues for years before I deduced the cause, and was probably only able to do so because I did my own cooking and could eat when and what I wanted.
I feel for those who see doctor after doctor and get colonoscopies, or misdiagnosis, and take bottle after bottle of stomach remedy, only to continue suffering.
It is not necessary, if xanthan gum is the cause.
Try, for at least two weeks, to read all labels and eat no food that contains xanthan gum, and see if it makes a difference for you. Good luck, because, it is found in most all varieties of processed foods; some more than others. Find the brands that do not use it—they are available, if you must eat processed foods.
Incidentally, I found that no over the counter stomach remedy relieved my symptoms during an active bout; only time. It had to run its course.
I believe that a gas-reducing pill may help with the distension, so if I have that available, I will take one, but the pain and most of the distension always remains.
I have told my doctors that I have this sensitivity to xanthan gum. They write it in my file and give no comment or advice.
I would be interested in comments from anyone who has found this post helpful.
All my best,