Xanthan Gum: One Gluten-Free Thickening Agent
Gluten intolerant people are always trying to bake and they explore different substances that will create the same texture as gluten. Xanthan gum is one of those substances, but is it the best choice?
What is Xanthan gum? Xanthan gum is a thickening agent named after the bacteria Xanthomonas capestris—a common bacteria which causes cauliflower to turn black when it rots. Ewhh. It is “generally safe and only causes mild irritations in some people” said one source. Hmmm.
Xanthan gum is purchased in a powdered form. The fine powder has the ability to create a cloud in the air when being handled. This powder may accumulate in your lungs resulting in respiratory distress. It clogs the alveoli so makes it difficult for the oxygen to exchange within the lung. Be sure to handle it carefully and dump it slowly into recipes so it doesn’t poof up.
The Xanthomonas capestris bacterium is reproduced by feeding it soy and corn so, if you have those allergies, you may be sensitive to xanthan gum.
Guar gum and cellulose gel are common alternatives as well. Guar gum can cause migraine headaches I’ve noticed in some of my clients. One woman who consulted with me for her headaches discovered that the Doritos she was eating had guar gum in them. Her headache manifested about 32 hours after ingesting the chips. We eliminated the chips from her diet and all those headaches went away.
While xanthan gum is produced using some sort of corn product, guar gum is produced using a legumes. People trying to avoid corn or GMO foods should probably avoid xanthan gum, because these days corn is usually GMO.
Side effects of xanthan gum for some people include:
- Gas and bloating
- Abdominal cramping
- Respiratory distress (mechanical)
- Fluid retention
References for Xanthan Gum:
- LiveStrong Article on Xanthan gum: https://www.livestrong.com/article/315249-xanthan-gum-side-effects/
- Xanthan gum FDA GRAS listing: https://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodIngredientsPackaging/GenerallyRecognizedasSafeGRAS/GRASListings/ucm153937.htm
- All about Xanthan gum: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xanthan_gum