Xanthan gum is a gum made from corn sugar and is used as a binding agent in various industries. This article explains the properties and uses of the gum and provides information on its side effects.
Xanthan gum, obtained from corn sugar, is one of the most common thickening or stabilizing agents used to produce different types of foods, cosmetics, and medicines. The gum is made by adding bacteria named Xanthomonas campestris to corn sugar, which is derived from corn syrup. Thus, you get fermented corn sugar polysaccharide, known as xanthan gum from glucose present in corn.
Xanthan gum exhibits very good binding properties, just like cornstarch. It keeps the individual ingredients from separating. In cosmetic industry, it is used to produce cream-based cosmetics. In food industry, it replaces wheat gluten and is widely used to produce gluten-free food items. This food additive is found in ice creams and jellies as it helps prevent formation of ice crystals and offers a smooth texture to ice creams.
Addition of this gum does not lead to change in color and flavor of the food. The properties of the gum do not change due to heat. So, it is suitable for baking. It dissolves easily into both, hot and cold water. Cakes, breads, pastas, etc., which contain this gum keep you satiated for a longer period of time. Thus, it helps reduce your appetite and promotes weight loss.
It is commonly found in salad dressings, sauces, and pastry fillings. Commercially, it is used to produce egg substitutes that contain egg white. It carries emulsifying properties of egg yolk. It plays the role of a fat substitute, and hence is used to produce no-fat or low-fat dairy products. Those who are diagnosed with gluten allergy or celiac disease may eat food that contains this gum.
You should always check the labels of food products carefully. Some people might have a corn allergy. As corn syrup obtained from corn is used to produce xanthan gum, ingestion of food products containing the gum may produce an allergic reaction. Corn intolerance or corn products allergy is not as common as wheat gluten allergy. Actually, very little quantity of the gum is required to thicken a food substance.
However, those who are allergic to corn can be allergic to the gum, and they may experience some side effects despite the quantity used in the food item. The side effects of the gum include:
- Abdominal pain
- Upset stomach after eating
- Increase in blood pressure levels
- Temporary changes in brain chemistry leading to confusion
- Diarrhea, bloating, and nausea, as the gum can act as a laxative
- Severe allergic reaction, though very rare, may exhibit anaphylactic shock symptoms like breathing difficulty, swelling, difficulty swallowing, skin rash, or hives
How to Avoid the Side Effects
Those diagnosed with food allergies should read the labels carefully. Xanthan gum is also produced from wheat or soy. People allergic to wheat gluten or soy may react adversely to this type of gum. So, reading labels and knowing the names of the ingredients is absolutely essential to prevent allergic reactions. Those who are allergic to this gum should look for a substitute.
Guar gum obtained from guar plants, gum arabic derived from the sap of acacia tree, locust bean gum (carob gum) made from the seeds of carob beans, gum tragacanth produced from the sap of astragalus plants, and carrageenan obtained by boiling red algae (Irish moss) are some common alternatives.
Adverse effects of xanthan gum on human skin or digestive system have not been reported. Only those who are allergic to the gum are likely to experience the side effects. They should avoid the consumption of foods that contain this gum. Mild allergic reaction does not require any treatment; however, severe reaction needs prompt medical attention. The patient requires an adrenalin shot for instant relief from the severe symptoms of food allergy. Those who have already experienced severe side effects should always carry these injections with them.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only and does not in any way attempt to replace the advice offered by an expert on the subject.