Xanthan Gum

Xanthan Gum

Aid Overall Health

Xanthan Gum is a gelling substance that is added to many foods, cosmetics and household items. Xanthan gum is not a nutritional supplement; it is a food additive. As such, it is regulated by the FDA.

Xanthan gum is also used in the medical industry as a moisturizer. It is also used as a laxative to treat mild constipation.

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Xanthan Gum Production Xanthan gum is derived from a bacteria called Xanthomonas campestris. The bacteria is allowed to ferment with a form of sugar, and the bacteria creates a jelly-like substance. This jelly is then dried and ground into a powder. Different sugar sources include corn... more

Xanthan Gum Production

Xanthan gum is derived from a bacteria called Xanthomonas campestris. The bacteria is allowed to ferment with a form of sugar, and the bacteria creates a jelly-like substance.

This jelly is then dried and ground into a powder. Different sugar sources include corn, soy and wheat. The process to create Xanthan gum was discovered by a team working for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the 1950s.

Xanthan Gum Found in Foods

As Xanthan gum does not alter the color or taste of food, it is found in many food products. It is used as a thickening agent in cooking sprays, processed egg white products, cereals, jellies, syrups, soups and condiments.

Because it stays true to form despite varying temperatures or acidic levels, Xanthan gum is added as a food stabilizer in ice cream, frozen foods and beverages.

Xanthan gum is also used by many in place of products containing gluten, such as wheat flour, during baking. It is also popular for many vegetarians and vegans to add Xanthan gum to thicken non-dairy products such as soy milk and rice milk.

Xanthan Gum and Health Benefits

Web MD lists Xanthan gum as useful for lowering blood sugar levels in diabetics, lowering total cholesterol and acting as a saliva substitute in those suffering from decreased saliva production. Xanthan gum is believed to slow the absorption of sugars, thus lowering blood sugar levels.

Xanthan gum also has a use as a laxative to treat mild constipation. A 1993 study, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, showed an increase in bowel output after 18 participants were given Xanthan gum for 10 days.

Xanthan Gum and Other Uses

Xanthan gum is a solidifying agent in many medications and over-the-counter medicines. It is also found in many cosmetics, toothpastes and moisturizers.

Xanthan gum is used to increase viscosity in drilling applications and in concrete. It is also a main ingredient in fake blood and the “slime” made popular by a game show for children on the channel Nickelodeon where green goo was dropped on the heads of contestants.

Xanthan Gum and Premature Babies

In May of 2011, the FDA sent out a warning about a food bulking agent for baby formulas called Simply Thick, which has Xanthan Gum as the active ingredient. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention had information from four different medical centers totaling 17 reports of necrotizing enterocolitis in premature babies.

Simply Thick was added to baby formula or breast milk to help premature babies who have difficulty swallowing. NEC occurs when the cells of the bowels die, and is marked by a bloated abdomen, lack of appetite, green bile in vomit and bloody stools. Five babies died.

While the FDA did not directly link Simply Thick, or Xanthan gum, with the development of NEC in premature babies, the investigation into a link is continuing. The manufacturers voluntarily recalled Simply Thick in June of 2011.

The FDA had discovered during an inspection that the manufacturers of Simply Thick had not filed the process by which harmful bacteria was destroyed during the manufacturing process.

Xanthan Gum and Side Effects

Reported side effects of Xanthan gum include an increase in gas and bloating.  A 1991 report in the “Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine” linked nose and throat irritation in workers with the handling of high amounts of Xanthan gum.

Xanthan Gum and Allergies

While Xanthan gum is often used in gluten-free baking, there are those who have reported allergic reactions similar to gluten reactions. Reactions include gastrointestinal pain, gas and diarrhea.

Migraines and itchy skin have also been reported. However, as some Xanthan gum is created using wheat, there have been instances when residual amounts of gluten were detected in Xanthan gum. It is unclear whether the allergic responses are a result of a reaction to Xanthan gum or trace amounts of gluten.

Anyone experiencing allergic reactions that impede breathing or normal functions should seek medical help.

The FDA lists Xanthan gum as GRAS, or generally recognized as safe. Xanthan gum passes through the digestive system without being absorbed or metabolized.

Xanthan Gum and Medical Conditions

Anyone who takes medicine for diabetes should not take Xanthan gum in levels beyond the World Health Organization’s (WHO) maximum recommendation of 10 mgs a day from food sources. Xanthan gum can combine with glucose-lowering medications to result in dangerously low blood sugar levels.

Xanthan gum should not be taken before or after surgery due to low blood sugar risks. Anyone who is experiencing nausea, vomiting, appendicitis, fecal impaction or narrow or blocked intestines should not take Xanthan gum as it could increase complications.

Pregnant and nursing women should not take Xanthan gum.

Xanthan Gum Packaging and Usage

Xanthan gum is sold in both food and industrial grades as a powder. As it is soluble in both hot and cold liquid, it can be mixed with any number of foods or beverages.

WHO recommends no more than 10 mgs a day as a food additive and no more than 15 grams a day as a laxative. Extra fluids should be taken when using any laxative product.

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  • Side Effects
  • Other Names
  • Uses
Allergic Reaction
Abdominal Bloating
Abdominal Gas
Contraindicated For Certain Medical Conditions
Contraindicated For Certain Drugs Or Medication
Bacterial Polysaccharide, Corn Sugar Gum, Goma Xantana, Gomme Xanthane, Xanthan, Xanthomonas campestris
Food Stabilizer
Lowering Blood Sugar Levels
Lowering Cholesterol
Thickening Agent