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 like toothpaste, medicine, various condiments like 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 like 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 like 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-like 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…
Xanthan Gum is a very popular additive. I know that it is safe only if you eat no more than 15 grams of it per day. People with corn soy or dairy allergies have to avoid it. Because it’s derived from sugar and the sugar can come from different places. I don’t think that this additive is very dangerous. It’s only up to you whether to consume it or not.
After a gluten holiday I found I had to get back to gluten free, quite intolerant and it got way worse with the “holiday”. So I’m back to no wheat, and I started my baking and buying the odd organic g/f product from Annie or Amy. After about 2 months I’m back to more trips to the washroom, gas, bloating, jittery tummy.most time. And of course then I’m not hungry. My big issue now is I could go without xanthan but I cannot tolerate psyllium or guar gum, both of those items will land me in the bathroom literally for days of D and very ill. I read on guar gum and it’s a well know laxative and many get allergic reactions from it, the same with psyllium. I’m just lucky I guess. Would flax meal and water or ground chia and water provide the same results as xanthan? Maybe better?
Mrs. Ena Bowles
I am allergic to Xanthan gum. I even reacted to my lipstick (YES a lipstick) before isolating the cause. As my own reactions are difficulty in breathing it is very serious for me. Looking on line I was horrified to find so much information about those multible ‘victims’ who can be very ill from this product. I cannot have ice cream because of allergy to Lactose and I tried to turn to Sorbet as a treat. Big joke as Xanthan gum appears to have come into its own there. If the use it were for reasons of nutrition or any type of benefit for the consumer I would not feel so strongly, but for something to help the appearance or the producers sales or suchlike I beg please bring back sloppy sorbet as far as I am concerned. How dare such rubbish be allowed to go into our food chain without EXHAUSTIVE research on possible effects on peoples health?
Being absolutely necessary does not appear to be of enough importance.
I’ve read through a lot of the comments here. Maybe I can clear up one issue some may be having with Xanthan Gum. XG is high in a free from of the amino acid Glutamate, as with many highly fermented foods. In it’s free form, it passes through the blood brain barrier and stimulates the nervous system. The brain tries to balance this incoming load by converting some Glutamate to another amino acid called GABA, which relaxes the nervous system. But if you are born with a mutation in your GAD genes where they do not produce enough GAD enzymes, which does the converting, then you end up with high loads of Glutamate in your brain which can lead to an excito-toxin reaction, like dizziness, muscle clenching and/or weakness, brain fog, confusion, possibly headaches. If you hit your head and have a concussion, you with experience similar symptoms for months after, as you recover, because that will also cause a flood of Glutamate into the brain. Also, as we get older the blood brain thins. There is some research being done into connections with Glutamate and neurological disorders like Autism, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and may explain the increase of such disorders, especially in the older generations, as we increasingly put these ingredients in our food. Free or D-Glutamate is in many ingredients, including MSG, Malodextrin, All Gums, Caramel Color, just to name a few. For more info look up the biochemist who cured her daughter of autism by cutting these ingredients out at Unblind My Mind.
Hi Lawn. Your comment is super helpful. I’ve been dealing with some neurotoxicity issues over the past 5 years and realized that I introduced a salad dressing with xantham gum in it and started eating Papa John’s Pizza w/ sauces, etc. which have xantham gum in it. I wonder if that’s the source of my problems. Beyond eliminating these foods from my diet, is there a way to remove the excess neurotoxins/ glutamate from my brain?
who is the biochemist?!1
Hi Lawn. Thank you so much for posting this explanation of the way xanthan gum affects the brain. I finally figured out it was the xanthann gum that was causing severe dizziness and nausea when I was driving. I was ok if I was not in a moving vehicle which told me it was a neurological reaction going on. This explains it!!
This is from Catcentric: Xanthan gum is a thickener and emulsifier used in many pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, industrial applications, and processed human and pet foods. Although its use is approved by the FDA, Xanthan gum was identified in 2011 as the cause of a deadly form of colitis responsible for several infant illnesses and deaths. As reported by the New York Times, the President of the company that makes the product in question (SimplyThick) claimed, “There was no need to conduct studies (for use of the product in infant formula), as the use of thickeners overall was already well established. In addition, the safety of xanthan gum was already well established.” (1)
That’s what they tell us about its use in cat foods too.
Marketed as an “all natural” ingredient in gluten-free recipes (2) xanthan gum is actually “the first of a new generation of polysaccharides [fibers] produced by biotechnology. The polymer was discovered by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).” The laboratory-produced gum “appeared to have valuable properties that would allow it to compete with natural gums.” (3) The commercial production of Xanthan gum began in the U.S. in 1969. It is produced by the fermentation of glucose, sucrose, or lactose (derived from corn, soy, wheat or whey) with the bacteria Xanthomonas campestris. X. campestris is the same bacteria responsible for causing black rot to form on broccoli, cauliflower, and other leafy vegetable bles. The bacteria forms a slimy substance that acts as a stabilizer and thickener, an emulsifier, and a surface-active agent. (3) After a fermentation period of several days, it is heat treated to inactivate the organism: the gum is isolated from the bulk medium by precipitation with either isopropyl alcohol or ethanol (highly toxic carcinogens according to the American Cancer Society (5)). It is then dried, milled, sieved and packaged.
In other words, xanthan gum is a laboratory creation. It is a product:
– fermented on potential allergens
– when fermented on corn or soy (as it often is), GMO concerns exist
– cannot be manufactured without the use of toxic carcinogens
Xanthan gum is a “Generally Recognized as Safe” (GRAS) food additive in the US, Canada, Europe, and many other countries. Yet it is known to be potentially as irritating as gluten for some with Celiac disease, causing gas, bloat and diarrhea (4); and for causing flare-ups for those with Crohn’s disease or Ulcerative Colitis (inflammatory bowel disease). In fact, “the rapid increase in the incidence and prevalence of IBD in recent decades strongly suggests an environmental trigger for IBD, one of which may be dietary patterns. There are several pathways where diet may influence intestinal inflammation, such as direct dietary antigens, altering the gut microbiome, and affecting gastrointestinal permeability. (6) A review article, “Evidence-based dietary advice for patients with inflammatory bowel disease” indicates that emulsifiers in processed foods have been indicated in Crohn’s disease. (7)
At this point, it almost doesn’t seem surprising that something went wrong with this food additive “generally recognized as safe” in the sensitive intestines of premature infants. However, with the rare but tragic loss of life, we are left wondering – what happened? According to the New York Times article, the FDA investigators reporting on the deaths theorized that the infants’ intestinal membranes could have been damaged by bacteria breaking down the xanthan gum into “too many toxic byproducts,” as the intestines of premature infants are “far more likely” to have bacterial overgrowth than adults.
Whether or not xanthan gum is contributing to the development of IBD in cats, one thing is clear: with the established link between bacterial overgrowth and IBD (including Feline IBD (8)), cats with inflammatory bowel disease should not be eating xanthan gum.
Frankly, with digestive issues ranking as one of the top two reasons for a vet visit seven out of the last nine years, according to VPI Insurance, it’s probably a good bet no cat should be eating this.
I would avoid this ingredient. Article states it’s always made using toxic carcinogens. I don’t even chew gum anymore. Why risk making ourselves unnecessarily sick?
I’m totally with you about Xanthum gum. Add canola oil too to the list which is “produced” from the rapeseed plant. Corn is gmo also. Someone is making a lot of money off of companies using this stuff. All from RoundUp treated plants too no doubt.
It’s bacteria poop. We are all GMOs and have been modifying organisms since prehistoric times. If you don’t want to be exposed to toxins… simple… Don’t be born.
I think the point of all of this is that there are some people who have a reaction to consuming xanthan gum, not that it’s bacteria poop (though that is a fun fact!) 🙂
IT IS NOT BACTERIAL POOP. The author read, “polysaccharide SECRETED by the bacterium” and understood polysaccharide EXCRETED by the bacterium”. They are two different processes. Excretion refers to waste, POOP. Secretion is the “process by which substances are PRODUCED and discharged from a cell, gland, or organ for a PARTICULAR FUNCTION in the organism.” Examples of secretions are mucus, tears, sweat and oil. Some secretions may end up being discharged as excretions eventually, but that does not make them excretions- at least not until they are excreted as waste.
The bacterium Xanthomonas campestris “grows a protective coating. Think of it like an orange peel or the skin of an onion. It’s a protective layer. When fed a particular food, like corn, this bacteria’s coating becomes very sticky and makes a great binding and thickening agent in baking.” Again, it’s secretion (like mucus and tears), not poop.
It’s not poop. The definition given says secretion. Poop would be excretion. Excretion is for waste product. Secretions serve a purpose such as tears, sweat, mucus and oils. Xanthum gum is more like bacterial tears or oils than bacterial poop.
Glucomannan is a great thickener. I order the powder from Amazon. NOW Organic is the cheapest. Check it out online.
Am I the only one laughing at this person for calling ethanol a “highly toxic carcinogen”? ‘Highly toxic’ compared to what, water? If you’re looking for something ‘highly toxic’, you have much better options, such as drain cleaner, antifreeze, organic mercury, and so on. Compared to the types of toxins that exist in the world, alcohol is very low on the list.
You also should’ve paid more attention in middle school, because you might’ve learned that alcohols evaporate very quickly and cleanly. There’s obviously no alcohol remaining in store-bought xanthan gum because it’s a dry powder, not a liquid.
What do you mean by “GMO concerns” exist? Do you know what GMO means? It’s a Genetically Modified Organic. It’s literally just a seed that’s been modified to be better. It’s not unhealthy; in fact, GMOs typically end being more potent in vitamins and etcetera. Some GMOs can resist pests better, meaning they don’t have to be sprayed with pesticides, which are much more “highly toxic” than alcohol.
So why are GMO’s bad? The only theoretical problem with them is that it reduces diversity between plants, so if some horrible crop-killing disease came through, your crops would be less likely to contain a random mutation that survives the disease. It has nothing to do with health concerns. Farmers have been influencing crop and animal genetics for centuries through selective breeding. GMOs just go a step further.
Now for your other point about allergies, I can agree with that. I don’t know much about the process they use to prevent potential allergens making it through to the final product, but with all the comments here recalling allergic reactions with xanthan gum, it doesn’t seem to be very reliable. Manufacturers should add a potential allergy warning label for whatever medium they use to make the xanthan gum with.
I would also like to see more studies done for potential side-effects, especially for infants and animals. But overall, for the average adult human, xanthan gum isn’t a huge health concern.
Also, no, it isn’t “bacteria poop”. Even if it was excreted by bacteria (which it isn’t), that still shouldn’t be considered ‘poop’. What is it that makes poop so revolting? It’s the bacteria contained within it, which are both harmful and create foul smells. Now tell me, what bacteria is found inside of bacteria ‘poop’? None, since the excrement is smaller than the bacteria itself. Bacteria take in one simple ingredient and expel it as a different simple ingredient. There’s nothing gross about it, unless you think plants taking in carbon dioxide and expelling it as oxygen is gross. Afterall, we are technically breathing in plant ‘poop’ every day, if you want to consider cell excretion ‘poop’.
Thank you! I have dismotility and I’ve figured out that xanthum gum is one thing that is causing terrible issues for me, sadly, since I can’t eat wheat. Maybe I’ll try guar gum. But you’ve given me some ideas. Now to clean out my pantry!
One recipe book for gluten-free baking reports that guar gum can vary considerably in quality, and thus sometimes does not work to hold baking together.
I get rashes when I eat xanthan gum due to my corn allergy. When I finally realized xanthan gum can be derived from corn it was like a light bulb went off in my head. Thanks so much for xanthan gum less recipes!
Vegans use the slimy water from canned chickpeas or any other canned bean instead of eggs in recipes. Perhaps this stuff could be helpful to you. However, of course beans have all those bad things in them, so I will be researching whether the “water” from canned beans is any worse to eat then the unsprouted canned beans themselves, since the soaking and sprouting process is how you get rid of those bad things in the first place.
Would love to know tha answer of cookedbean wastewater vs. the beans themselves.
I too, am not able to use xanthan in my baked goods. I react to it in a negative way and my husband is allergic to corn. I will be trying your suggestions to replace with guar gum or chia and psyllium. Excited to try that.
I think this Xanthum Gum stuff is what makes me throw up. I noticed it as a common ingredient in couple of things (Pillsbury refrigerator orange danish and Aldi’s Breoche) that I ate then soon after got dizzy, and had to throw up. I will now be on the look out …
I ate a quinoa Patty and blew up like I was 6 months along. I read the ingredients and vegetable gum was the only thing that could have done it. My question is vegetable gum the same as x gum and/or guar gum? My other question is how do you use chia seed and psyllium as a substitute? Do you have any recipes or directions? Do you have any chia bread recipes? I read on another site a brief synopsis of a few studies done on x gum. And basically I read the more you eat it the more tolerance you build which brings no comfort to me given this is true for medications, drugs, and alcohol too. I don’t want to consume something that my body has to get used to in order to not feel as crappy as I do now
All the links for the xanthan gum free recipes are in the post. I even have yeast free bread that requires no gums (can’t leave link here for the time being but you can easily search for it in the bar). Good luck!
Thank you. I will check these out. Off the subject a little. My husband has been diagnosed with esophagus cancer. It has spread to (undetermined by doctor) to 9 lymphnodes, and spots on the liver. He won’t do chemo or radiation. He has found the world of diet. NO WHEAT! No processed foods. Basically fruit and vegies. He eats meat once a week. Grass fed/ non GMO fed. That leaves out pork, chicken and farm raised fish. All organic as long as it’s on his diet. And we work on this. In 8 weeks he lost 35 pounds and had an excellent annual blood work done up. So you are absolutely right when you say, do extensive research. YouTube has become our best friend. So to help you continue with yours, I would like to pass on some of the info we have found. We watch a lot of Dr. John Bergman. And we look for much info on autoimmune diseases. Many things that ail us can be taken care of by cleaning our blood, liver and stimulating our lymphnodes to do their jobs. The info goes on and on. Also, you might want to check out PH levels and the body. Excellent subject. Enjoy your day.
Cindy: Optimum Health Institute en Sn Diego CA offer a similar to your husband’s type of diet, there they called the cleansing diet. For 2 o 3 weeks you eat only raw organic foods, veggies fruits and nuts wheat grass juice about 2 ounces twice a day and some fermented foods. My Son overweight and diabetes 2 lost in 3 weeks 30 pounds and had normal sugar levels, another family her thyroid was normal in 2 weeks and lost 10 pounds, a friend with stage four and 2 month to live, still alive for years free of cancer. Cleansing the liver to bust your immune system is the key and can be done with healthy nutrition. Check it out..
about the reservations expressed about where xanthan gum comes from. as a brewer of wine at home I’d like to bring yeast into the discussion. when I make wine I create, a very sugary fruit syrup. That is fruit juice (heaps of fructose) and sugar. I then add lemon juice & black tea to give the yeast everything it needs to be happy. I then add the yeast. the yeast then eats almost all of the sugar and urinates out alcohol. not only is alcohol “yeast wee” but it is actually toxic. the feeling of being drunk is actually your immune system trying to get rid of the alcohol toxin from your body. we are not the only creatures that enjoy this process, many animals & insects deliberately eat fermented fruit to enjoy this process. further more studies show that people who drink wine (and beer) moderately, are less prone to things like heart disease than both people who drink heavily AND people who never drink at all. all of which is another example of how weird our world is and how we interact with bacteria all the time, sometimes beneficially. if I were an accomplished biologist I’d also be able to tell you about bacteria that live inside us and without which we would actually not be a viable species at all. we have symbiotic relationships with bacterium depending on each other to survive. that’s an even bigger thing. I just wish I could give you more detail. don’t be afraid of bacteria , or their excretions, just understand which bacteria do harm while they do their thing, and which bacteria do you good.
I think our all consuming fear of bacteria was instilled into us by by those people that make commercials for bleach (fear is a powerful selling tool) rather than a through understanding of biology.
I am hopeful that the manufacturers of gluten free foods will eliminate the use of xanthan gum in years to come. Although I make most of my baked goods from scratch, I am sometimes forced to eat a commercial product and I always react in a negative way after eating it. I have UC and I immediately feel a throbbing in my colon upon having anything with xanthan gum. I eliminate it from all of my home baked items, bread, muffins, pancakes…. and I don’t suffer the same ill effects. I don’t think it is good for us, but until people ask for its’ removal from commercial baked goods, and for healthier alternatives to be used, change will be slow to come.
I also have UC and have a very bad reaction to xanthan gum, although I’m fine with gluten. It’s scary to me just how many processed foods contain xanthan gum so people aren’t just eating a little of it. For some reason I can’t understand why this food additive is considered natural and even finds its way I to food labeled organic. People are eating much more than they realize and we really don’t know what health effects it has.
Having a disease like ulcerative colitis has made me much more sensitive to what I eat. I now have a closer, more positive realationship with my body and food. I find myself reading labels and cooking from scratch. As far as my gastrointerologist is concerned, if it isn’t real food you shouldn’t eat it. Xanthan gum isn’t real food.
Bonnie & Anita, this may be a dumb question, but how did you determine xanthan gum in particular was causing such an issue? I am somewhat new to the world of IBD (Crohn’s) and autoimmune disease (AnkSpon).. pinpointing my food sensitivities has been a frustrating, mysterious experience so far!
I have rheumatoid arthritis(which is an auto immune disease attacking the joints) and my Dr said along that I always hear to avoid gluten, soy, and dairy because all are inflammatory foods. Also I think I heard red and processed meats are as well. For me my stomach feels weird after eating either. I would start by eatingall organic or as as affordable. Especially if it’s eggs or spinach or tomatoes. Target non gmo labels when you shop. It’s proven in studies that x gum causes gastrointestinal discomfort and it eases as you consume more which doesn’t appeal to me at all. I would just do a ton of research like you’re writing a thesis. And really stick to mahi mahi, salmon, and tuna.. Tilapia is a gmo. And eggs and chicken if you like it. I’ve cut out most meats except what I listed and eggs and the occasional chicken. I stick to whole organic fresh fruits and vegetables. I purchased quinoa patties but it has gum and it made me blow up and now my tummy hurts. Other than that the diet has kept me feeling great, energized, and focused. For carbs stick to quinoa, rice, yams, and sweet potatoes. But I recommend doing your own research and find out what’s best for you. Also if you have insurance or can afford it you can go to a Dr and have lab work done and they’ll give you your body/blood specific report of what you need. I hope you found this helpful ☺
Thanks for the article. I am allergic to corn and wheat so I have been avoiding Chatham gum for years.
Thanks for the alternatives…
Boy I get wierd spell checks x.a.n.t.h.a.n. gum
Hi Cara, I have read the comments on Xanthan gum. There are 5 other substitutes for this. If you ask for alternatives to Xanthan gum and Guar gum on yahoo the internet will give them to you, one of which is jelatine powder which is what I will be using to thicken ice cream instead of Xanthan gum. Hope this may be of use to other bloggers. Regards Carmen down under.
Colitis in infants
The only concerning research I found on xanthan gum relates to the development of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) in infants. Earlier this year, the New York Times published an article relating the tragic deaths of infants who had developed NEC after consuming a diet of formula or breast milk that had been thickened with a xanthan gum-based product called SimplyThick. This product was widely used in hospitals to thicken feed for infants with swallowing difficulties.
Two papers reviewed the cases of xanthan gum-associated NEC, and while there isn’t enough data to establish causation, the general consensus seems to be that the xanthan gum caused increased bacterial production of SCFA in the newborns
I am curious, when using chia seeds instead, would you just use a coffee/spice grinder and then add them? I know you can use them with water to make an egg substitute but would grinding them up hide them in the flour and still help with the binding? I guess I would be curious about flax too, as I have both of those in whole seed format. Thanks!
Yes exactly, Hannah! I usually buy chia seeds whole and then grind them up in my coffee grinder and store them. For the flax seeds, I either buy them already ground up or wait right before I need them and grind them myself 🙂
hi cara! i use xanthan in all my vegan/GF bread baking. if i want to replace with psyllium husk, what’s the proportion I should use? I already use chia seeds and flax in all my breads too. thank you!
Thought you might find this interesting… Someone has put together some research on all the gums available. One called Gum Arabic is derived from beans (not bacteria) and completely natural Apparently. I’m thinking of trying it out for any side effects although there is none documented in the studies :)http://chriskresser.com/harmful-or-harmless-guar-gum-locust-bean-gum-and-more
Thank you so much for the super helpful article Eden! I really am looking forward to reading up on it… xo
Gum Arabic is an exudate from bushes that grow in N. Africa and the Middle East. It is picked from the trunk and branches by the collectors. It is not from beans as is guar.
thank you for the article! i have just started gluten & dairy free diet and i love baking so much so now it’s kind of difficult for me. i baked healthy, but now it’s even more complicated. but i’m sure that with your website it will be at least a lil bit easier :)this article is really useful for me because i was not sure if i should use xanthan gum or not but i think i will give a try in some cakes which are falling apart. otherwise i will try guar gum or chia seeds. 🙂 let’s see how it works! thanks one more time, K
If you have any questions, just let me know Katarina! Much love and luck in the kitchen…xo
Xanthan gum gives me severe acne.
Oof, well then you would benefit greatly from using a blend of chia and pysllium Justin!
I had a severe reaction to a salad dressing that contained this. My allergist wondered if Xanthan gum was the culprit. I developed much phlegm/mucous in my trachea and bronchial areas. Kept having to expectorate for 4-5 hours after eating the salad. It was a fat free raspberry pecan dressing.
Same here Justin…..my advice just stay clear of all gums and also stay well clear of MSG…this is worse that any gum for acne flare ups. Therefore eat no store baught ice cream at all… no salad creams or store bought sauces at all…basically anything that needs to be artificially thickened, oh and never never eat Chinese food from a Chinese restaurant.
Its actually not that hard to avoid all gums and MSG just stear clear of anything you probably shouldn’t be eating anyway for a healthy balanced diet.
Oh and learn how to make home made ice cream and bread…much better than store baught anyway.
Is xanthan gum vegan?
Now we use more and more food additives to make food more delicious,such as xanthan gum.But I think it is important for us to learn to control the quantity of it.Here is more details for xanthan gum.http://www.orencn.com/-Xanthan-Gum–good-Emulsifiers–Thickeners_827.html
I have read what you have referred to, maybe you can learn more from:http://www.chemazing.com/article/create-an-xanthan-gum-emulsion_27.html
How is the guar gum substituted for xanthan? Is the same amount used? And psyllium-what amount is used per 1 cup of gf flour? Thanks
If XG is or can be derived from whey, isn’t that an issue for those avoiding dairy? Isn’t whey a form of dairy?
Still new to this whole no-dairy thing and trying to understand it all.
I didn’t see any mention of whey in the article. It is mainly derived from corn but can also come from wheat and soy is what is stated above.
I one of the unlucky few with an extreme sensitivity to xanthan gum! Thank you so much for creating recipes without it and giving alternatives for it. Love your site!
I too was just diagnosed with being extremely allergic to Xanthan Gum. There isn’t a lot of info online about what foods to avoid and what foods do not have it in them. Very frustrating.
Love your recipes, love your info and knowledge and love your blog! Looking forward to your book!
Guar Gum is always cut with at least 10% soy. I have a soy reaction if I ever come in contact with it. Just an FYI for anyone allergic to soy.
Great tip, Linda! Thank you for sharing that 🙂 xo
This is inaccurate. I use 100% organic guar gum in my skin care products and it is just that, 100% Cyamopsis tetragonolobus. Maybe some is cut with soy, but not all.
Yes, and all legumes. But soy is the worst. Lays me flat. Very frustrating as allergies are for everyone. How did you find this out? It would be helpful to reference when asking for it to be removed from certain health products that don’t really need thickened.
I am recovering from reaction to what I think is guar gum right now. There was an ingredient change along with the new trendy label. I should have thought to check. It is the only thing I can think of that could have caused this reaction.
Xanthan gum is a sugar derived typically from corn (can also be from soy or wheat) — Hello GMOs. Definitely not good for you.
Thanks for sharing.
I am following you since shortly. Just a little regret – I can only try the recipes where you mention grams and ml.
I was used to grow my own sourdoughs. My new challenge is to try a gluten free version using quinoa and/or buckwheat flours. Not a great success up till now. With dry quinoa/buckwheat sourdough it works perfectly (no chia seeds or other gum-alike products) and the taste is yummy. Have you tried yet?
(Regards from Belgium)
Hi Anne-Catherine! I am definitely putting “add metric system measurements” on my things to do list to help you out! That is great to hear about the sourdough. I have yet to try growing my own–maybe you can give me some pointers… xo
I would love to know how to do that too! I miss a good sourdough!!
Would love to hear how you’ve made sourdoughs with quinoa and buckwheat.
Shelly 🇺🇸 TO 🇧🇪 !
Dear Cara, thanks for your lovely xantham free recipes. I am allergic to several things and try to cook and bake with as less ingredients as possible. Have you ever tried ground lentils (beans or peas work out aswell but gives no nice colour) instead of xantham, maybe you get that way muffins you like 🙂
(Try to use as many as you would use chia seed)
Wow, what a great tip, Sonja. I will definitely give it a try–never have before but if you say it works, I believe it. Thank you! xo
Katie @ Produce on Parade
Great info! I use xanthan gum and I love it 🙂 Glad to know it’s okie okie.
As long as your body doesn’t have a reaction, keep on truckin’ 🙂
thanks for doing the research for us! I am still using xanthan gum currently, but sort of phasing it out of stuff that I’ve made before to see if it affects anything (like gf, dairy free cornbread!). Xanthan gum doesn’t gross me out, but now that I know it’s bothering other people’s stomachs I’m going to keep a keener eye on my use of it and how I feel after. I’m going to try guar gum now that you recommended it. I am still big into baking with eggs because sometimes you just can’t beat the texture.
I need to give guar gum a try as well. I just have this lifetime supply of xanthan to get through first 😉 You are so welcome for the info–hope it helps you out! xo
gross! how did i not know this? i will still use it though.
i am highly, deathly allergic to chia seeds. which of course i found out the hard way. i hate that chia is in everything now. crackers, chips, stinkin’ cookies. drives me bananas. i’m gf and vegan, and boy do vegans love putting chia seeds in everything! my life was so much easier before they got popular. sigh
Oh that deserves a huge BOOOOOOOO!!! What a bummer Kelly! You are right, it’s all the craze these days. Thankfully, if you aren’t allergic to psyllium husk, you can get the same results as chia seeds. Much love, xo
Well I don’t know if it’s bad for me but it is grown on things I’m allergic to. I also know that anytime I use even 1/4 tsp all I can do is taste slime for the next two days. Yuck! I like to use a combination of ground flax and chia seeds because psyllium husk, though absolutely amazing, doesn’t care for me much either. 1 Tbsp of arrowroot or corn starc, if you can eat it, combined and boiled 1 to 2 minutes makes a great binder in denser baked products.
Regardless of what the food industry has to say and how it relates to their bottom dollar, our bodies were not designed to eat processed anything IMHO.
OMG, I spelled “starch” wrong. I need cookies!
Get that cookie in you STAT, missy! As always, thank you SO MUCH for the useful info. One of these days I will have “Laurel’s Corner.” Still haven’t forgotten…
That’s 1 Tbsp starch with 1/2 C water, sorry; I really did need that cookie!
Thanks, Cara. This is such great info. I’ve been wondering about Xantham gum, so this is perfect timing!
So glad to be of help, Melissa! xo
I replace xantham gum by chia seeds, i pulverised it so it will become a powder and mix way much better for my breads, crust and cookies!
I stay away from guar gum, xantham and especially carraghenan since it makes me sick( allergic reaction and belly problems)
thank you for this post, I will try psyllium husk
I think this is the important issue here Melissa! People are getting hung up on the fact that I simply stated that the process xanthan is created is creepy. It IS creepy but the main point is that it makes some people sick (like YOU) and needs to be monitored if so. Thank you for your comment! xo
So just curious…. if penicillin is from mold, does that also make it yucky/weird/unnatural?
(Side note: R.I.P Mr Ramis, the self-proclaimed collector of molds, spores, and funguses.)
Is it still creepy? Yes. Is cheese creepy because it is made from mold? Yup. Would I ever tell anyone to not use penicillin or eat cheese? Not at all. Did I tell anyone to stop using xanthan? Absolutely did not.
And R.I.P. indeed! xo
Brooke (Crackers on the Couch)
I shy away from xanthan gum since I started doing October Unprocessed a few years ago. It’s just not on my “well that’s natural” radar. You don’t have to be gf to be getting your fair share of xanthan gum. It’s in lots of stuff including just about every salad dressing on the shelf, as a result, I make my own dressing now. Glad to see you’re cutting back!
I mainly started cutting back because people were requesting xanthan gum-free recipes but once I realized that I didn’t have to spend hours scrubbing my kitchen counter getting the slime off and I could have the same results without it, I was all in! I save so much money not using it as often too 🙂 Glad to hear that you are all aboard the unprocessed train. Choo choo!
I think as consumers we should be wary of avoiding a certain product simply due to skepticism — it’s one thing to recommend not using a product because it has scientifically been proven to cause harm; it’s another to recommend not using a product because of subjective reasons, such as how creepy the fact is that X. campestris is the culprit of black rot on crucifers (or personal opinions of the FDA)… yes, X. campestris is used to ferment sugars to produce xanthan gum, but the fact that it causes rotting of crucifers is unrelated (and doesn’t suddenly make xanthan gum harmful). I think Bloggers should be careful to be a little more objective and unbiased when it comes to health claims since it’s easy to spread around misinformation on the Internet.
From my limited experience (I’m currently doing a BSc in biochemistry), I think the skepticism surrounding xanthan gum is a little unwarranted. It can definitely cause abdominal discomfort because it IS laxative (it’s a largely undigestible polysaccharide, or in other words: dietary fibre, just like psyllium husk) and swells in the intestine, and if you’re experiencing discomfort then you’re probably using too much. That being said, individuals with a history of bowel discomfort (e.g. IBS) should probably avoid xanthan gum simply because it’s going to give you that uncomfortable, bloat-y, painful feeling… but according to the current scientific literature, there is no evidence of chronic harm or cancer risk or anything like that. There HAS been a study which links exposure to xanthan dust and respiratory problems, which makes sense since it will coat mucus membranes if you’re huffing tons of the stuff… which I’m assuming no one is actually doing.
So if you don’t like the idea of a lab-processed food additive, then by all means avoid the stuff, but it shouldn’t scare you away from household items which do include xanthan gum in the ingredients.
Wow, what a well-thought out reply A! Thank you so much for taking the time to be so thorough and thoughtful, for reals. I love that everyone here can have their own view and express it in a respectful way. I think you misread this post however, because I did not recommend anyone from not using xanthan gum. I apologize if that wasn’t clear but I honestly don’t think that there is anywhere in this post that says my opinion is to stay away from the stuff nor did I even claim that it is harmful. More importantly I wrote this post not to be scientific (so I’m free to be subjective) but because as the opening states, I’m always asked why *I* choose to limit my xanthan gum usage so I was answering the why. It’s a personal decision based off of personal, objective and subjective opinions.
Again, thank you so much for vocalizing your opinion here A! It is super appreciated!
Yes I see what you mean now Cara. I think I was a little misled by the title of this post since it’s quite a substantial question! I really appreciate your opinion on gluten-free baking, but I was really looking forward to your opinion on the good/bad of xanthan gum (or as your title suggests — tackling the question of “is it really bad or not”?) I think a better summation of your post would be “my opinions on xanthan gum” — or something not as lame. I hope you get what I mean, no disrespect :).
Touche A 😉 Fair enough. No disrespect at all–I really appreciate your comments. Thank you! xo
Very glad for the information and warning about Xanthum Gum. It has taken me years to figure out that it is an ingredient I need to avoid as it causes me intense bloating. I wondered if other people experienced this as well. Thanks again for this blog.
I’m not gluten free, but do tons of gluten free cooking & baking for others. I live in a tropical area, and find that with all the variables I already have to contend with (heat, wind, humidity) it gets dicey being vegan with my baking at times. If I do not add xanthan gum to most of my cookie recipes, they will be sub-par. I do not use it in my things like pancakes, nor typically my cakes (moist enough to bind I guess). I’ve just discovered and have begun using guar gum (thanks to Fran Costigan’s new chocolate book) and if I have success with that ingredient in my recipes, I will probably switch over once my several pounds supply of xanthan gum is exhausted, only because I do know some people don’t want xanthan gum in their stuff. I personally have no problem with it, but when cooking & baking for others, I do my best to accommodate. You are beyond awesome by the way, seriously.
YOU are beyond awesome for all the gluten-free baking you do for loved ones! For reals, that is love! xo
I’m with Beth. I don’t use it anymore, I use Psyllium husk if needed as it helps the structure of certain baked goods (and flatbreads) and much needed fiber. I also take issue with guar gum, different subject but it causes a gluten like reaction in me.
That is fascinating about the guar gum issue, Michele! I would love to hear more…
I am learning so much from you! Thank you so much I am baking agin due to you and some of the other bakers out there that are letting us know HOW!
I made a yellow cake from scratch yesterday and it is good. I am amazed. Thank you again.
What an incredible comment to read Sandy. That makes me SUPER happy to hear that you are feeling confident in the kitchen again. PS Share that yellow cake recipe please 😉 Sounds awesome!
Beth @ Tasty Yummies
Such a great post lady. I will definitely be sharing. I myself have been avoiding xanthan gum in my home flour blends for a year or two now. I find too much of the stuff gives me tummy aches and gas. I will occasionally use pre-made blends with it in there, and I find it’s ok in moderation, but I really just don’t love it. It freaks me out. I personally really love whole psyllium husk and psyllium husk powder in certain breads and other baked goods, for that amazing chew that is often missing in gluten-free breads and baked goods.
I totally forgot about the bloating and diarrhea issue 🙂 I always noticed a change in abdominal activity when I consume it… Word on the psyllium husk. Do you pulverize it to powder form or do you buy it like that?
Beth @ Tasty Yummies
I buy it as a powder and as whole husks. I’ve never tried processing my own powder. I just recently tried the powder, I have been using the whole husks all along and really liked those. I think I love the powder even more! So good.
Good to know Beth, thanks for that! xo