What exactly is Xanthan Gum?

Xanthan gum is used in natural and organic foods/products, personal care items, and medicines alike.  Have you wondered, “What exactly is Xanthan Gum?”  I did, Summer 2010 and now I avoid it like the plague.  In my experience, Xanthan Gum is always grown using corn sugar and I don’t like the idea of ingesting (or using topically) this type of bacteria.  I know some companies claim their xanthan gum is corn free, when pressed, they then claim “all of the corn protein has been removed.”  Make sure you ask for the name of the test used to detect trace amounts of corn protein in the final product.  Also, make sure you ask what company was used to conduct the testing for corn protein.  To my knowledge, there is no known analytical method to test for corn protein.  Please see Nicole’s blog post on this topic.

WebMD actually lists “Corn Sugar Gum” as an “Other Name” for Xanthan Gum, as well as: Bacterial Polysaccharide, Goma Xantana, Gomme Xanthane, Xanthan, Xanthomonas campestris.  From WiseGeek, we learn that “the name is derived from the strain of bacteria used during the fermentation process, Xanthomonas campestris.  This is the same bacteria responsible for causing black rot to form on broccoli, cauliflower and other leafy vegetables. The bacteria form a slimy substance which acts as a natural stabilizer or thickener.”  Yummy!  We are given health and allergy precautions from Wikipedia:

Health

SimplyThick: A thickening agent added to formula and breast milk

Evaluation of workers exposed to xanthan gum dust found evidence of a link to respiratory symptoms.[7]

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.[8]

Allergies

Xanthan gum may be derived from a variety of source products that are themselves common allergens, such as corn, wheat, dairy, or soy. As such, persons with known sensitivities or allergies to food products are advised to avoid foods including generic xanthan gum or first determine the source for the xanthan gum before consuming the food.

Specifically, an allergic response may be triggered in people sensitive to the growth medium, usually corn, soy, or wheat.[3][9] For example, residual wheat gluten has been detected on xanthan gum made using wheat.[9] This may trigger a response in people highly sensitive to gluten. Some consider this to be a separate allergy to xanthan gum with similar symptoms to gluten allergy. Xanthan gum is a “highly efficient laxative”, according to a study that fed 15g/day for 10 days to 18 normal volunteers.[10] Some people react to much smaller amounts of xanthan gum, with symptoms of intestinal bloating and diarrhea.[3]-

They actually test for residual gluten in Xanthan gum grown using gluten.  This DOES NOT HAPPEN for corn.  How can residual gluten be present but all of the corn miraculously disappear?

I’m going to include a link to all of the articles on the three sites as well as the information concerning Xanthan Gum and corn.  Please read and share.

From WebMD:

Xanthan gum is a sugar-like 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 withdiabetes. 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.

How does it work?

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 like saliva to lubricate and wet the mouth in people who don’t produce enough saliva.

Possibly Effective for:

  • Use as a bulk-forming laxative to treat constipation.
  • Lowering blood sugar in people with diabetes.
  • Lowering cholesterol levels in people with diabetes.
  • Use as a saliva substitute for dry mouth.

XANTHAN GUM SIDE EFFECTS & SAFETY

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-like symptoms, nose and throat irritation, and lung problems.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

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.

XANTHAN GUM DOSING

The following doses have been studied in scientific research:

BY MOUTH:
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.

From Wise Geek:

The name is derived from the strain of bacteria used during the fermentation process, Xanthomonas campestris. This is the same bacteria responsible for causing black rot to form on broccoli, cauliflower and other leafy vegetables. The bacteria form a slimy substance which acts as a natural stabilizer or thickener. It was developed when the United States Department of Agriculture ran a number of experiments involving bacteria and various sugars to develop a new thickening agent similar to corn starch or guar gum.

Xanthan gum is considered a polysaccharide in scientific circles, because it is a long chain of three different forms of sugar. What’s important to know is that all three of these natural sugars are present in corn sugar, a derivative of the more familiar corn syrup. The Xanthomonas campestris bacteria eat a supply of this corn sugar under controlled conditions, and the digestion process converts the individual sugars into a single substance with properties similar to cornstarch. Xanthan gum is used in dairy products and salad dressings as a thickening agent and stabilizer; it prevents ice crystals from forming in ice creams, and also provides a “fat feel” in low or no-fat dairy products.

Another use for xanthan gum is the stabilization and binding of cosmetic products. One advantage of xanthan gum is that a little goes an incredibly long way; cosmetic manufacturers only have to add a very small amount of xanthan gum to their cream-based products in order to keep the individual ingredients from separating. Despite the use of bacteria during processing, xanthan gum itself is not generally harmful to human skin or digestive systems, though some individuals may find they are allergic to it.

Xanthan gum is often used whenever a gel-like quality is sought. It is used as a substitute forwheat gluten in gluten-free breads, pastas and other flour-based food products. Those who suffer from gluten allergies should look for xanthan gum as an ingredient on the label.

One lesser-known use of xanthan gum is in the oil industry. As a natural thickener, it can be added to drilling fluid or drilling mud to improve its function. Drilling fluid serves several purposes, including cooling the drill bit, providing hydrostatic pressure, and helping to lift solids out of the borehole and keeping those solids in suspension when drilling stops.

From Wikipedia:

Health

SimplyThick: A thickening agent added to formula and breast milk

Evaluation of workers exposed to xanthan gum dust found evidence of a link to respiratory symptoms.[7]

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.[8]

Allergies

Xanthan gum may be derived from a variety of source products that are themselves common allergens, such as corn, wheat, dairy, or soy. As such, persons with known sensitivities or allergies to food products are advised to avoid foods including generic xanthan gum or first determine the source for the xanthan gum before consuming the food.

Specifically, an allergic response may be triggered in people sensitive to the growth medium, usually corn, soy, or wheat.[3][9] For example, residual wheat gluten has been detected on xanthan gum made using wheat.[9] This may trigger a response in people highly sensitive to gluten. Some consider this to be a separate allergy to xanthan gum with similar symptoms to gluten allergy. Xanthan gum is a “highly efficient laxative”, according to a study that fed 15g/day for 10 days to 18 normal volunteers.[10] Some people react to much smaller amounts of xanthan gum, with symptoms of intestinal bloating and diarrhea.[3]

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5 thoughts on “What exactly is Xanthan Gum?

  1. Pingback: Corn Free Bakery? I think not… « Corn Free Lifestyle

  2. Pingback: A Brief Recapitulate for Hidden Corn « Corn Free Lifestyle

  3. Pingback: What is Xanthan Gum? | Corn Free Lifestyle

  4. Thank you for this post! We are in the process of testing for food allergies and I used xanthan gum as a thickener last night. My husband is allergic to corn and responded horribly to dinner. We thought it was the cheese (what we were testing). Now we’ll retest.

    • You’re welcome. Look at the “Avoiding Corn Forums” links to the left of the page. Post on one of those sites to see the current “safe” brands of tapioca or arrowroot. Both tapioca and arrowroot are thickeners and can take the place of xanthan gum.

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