Jump to content
  • Sign Up
  • Join Our Community!

    Get help in our celiac / gluten-free forum.

  • Wendy Cohan, RN
    Wendy Cohan, RN

    Could Xanthan Gum Sensitivity be Complicating your Celiac Disease Recovery?

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    Celiac.com 12/03/2008 - Xanthan Gum is a polysaccharide used as a binder in many gluten-free products.  In the production of xanthan gum, sucrose or glucose is fermented by a bacterium, Xanthomonas campestris.   After a four-day fermentation period, the polysaccharide is precipitated from a corn-based growth medium with isopropyl alcohol, dried, and ground into a fine powder.  When added to a liquid medium, a slippery, sticky gum is formed, and this substance works well in holding baked goods together, or keeping separate liquid ingredients in suspension in salad dressings and sauces.

    While the above description doesn't make it sound very appetizing, what's the problem with xanthan?  Some people develop an allergy to xanthan, with gastrointestinal symptoms such as bloating, gas, and diarrhea.  Even consumption of a very minor amount can lead to days and days of recovery and many trips to the bathroom.  Hmm.  Sound like anything we've heard before?  And that's the problem.  Experiencing a xanthan reaction can make you question your gluten-free diet, make you think you were accidentally exposed to gluten, or mystify you completely.

    A xanthan reaction can also precipitate migraine headaches, skin itchiness, and for those exposed to large amounts, such as bakery workers, nose and throat irritation.   Symptoms of xanthan sensitivity become more prevalent with increasing exposure, so that can be one important clue.  If you've suddenly started baking alot, or become addicted to a new brand of gluten-free cookies, and you start to have increased gastrointestinal symptoms, you may want to consider ruling out an adverse reaction to xanthan gum.

    What's a body to do?  Guar gum makes a good substitute, and it is also less expensive.

    How did I become aware of this?  Well, actually I have known about this for quite awhile, but since xanthan gum is in so many gluten-free products, I thought that sensitivity to xanthan must be a rare and isolated occurrence.  Then two things happened to change my mind.  I began baking a lot of gluten-free products for a business venture, and suddenly started having some gastro-intestinal problems, after being healthy for so long.  I didn't have the severe pain of a gluten reaction, but otherwise my symptoms were eerily similar, particularly the bloating.  I had already decided to lay off the baking (and tasting) as much as I could, and had narrowed the possibilities down to either tapioca starch or xanthan gum.   Then, a student in one of my cooking classes let me know that she had a severe allergy to xanthan, and described her symptoms.  They were identical, except in severity.

    I reformulated my recipes using only guar gum for my next stretch of gluten-free baking, and I had no problem at all.  I certainly hope that I do not develop a reaction to Guar gum, which is the ground carbohydrate storage portion of the guar bean.  I have not seen reports of allergy or sensitivity to guar gum, but will do a little more research for my own knowledge, which I will share in the future.

    By no means am I advocating that all people following a gluten-free diet give up products made with Xanthan gum.  But, if you do not feel that the diet is helping you, and are still symptomatic, a sensitivity to Xanthan gum is one possibility that needs to be ruled out.


    User Feedback

    Recommended Comments



    I have also figured out that I am allergic to xanthan gum. I'm so sorry to hear everyone else saying the same thing, because it is in SO many products. But I am relieved to know that I'm not the only one. Thank you for a helpful article!

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    @RonB: You speak for me. What is so difficult about producing simple, edible, wholesome food. And they put it in Everything!

    Re this article: I suffered mysterious, occasional gastric problems for years before I figured out it was the xanthan gum. Extreme stomach and intestinal bloating accompanied by pain like knives in my stomach. Lucky for me, my symptoms disappear within 20 hours of ingesting xanthan gum, and I get no other symptoms--no diarrhea or constipation. No stomach remedies relieve my symptoms, though I believe OTC anti-gas medication may help a little with the abdominal distention, though the pain only subsides after several hours and a normal bowel movement. I discovered that xanthan gum was the problem when I decided to experiment with a gluten free diet and found that only the baked goods bothered me, and in exactly the same way that I had always suffered and was trying to resolve. The good news for me is, no need for a gluten free diet and no known food allergies. I now revel in the fact that I can eat any type of food I want, as long as it does not contain xanthan gum.

    Others have mentioned guar gum and locust bean gum--I have never experienced stomach trouble from these, and I seldom eat foods containing them. Interesting the comment about carrageenan--I will have to research that one.

    I like to cook all my own food from scratch in order to avoid accidentally ingesting xanthan gum. These days, just about every store-bought food contains it, so it is next to impossible to avoid in social gatherings without appearing rude, or like a hyper disciplined athletic thin one who can't just relax and have a piece of cake just this once. Or, I could interview each cook at the potluck for specifics about his or her recipe; wouldn't that be fun? I mean, I am kind of a foodie, but that is ridiculous. I usually just bring enough of something I cooked myself, and just eat that. My sympathies to you all who have to be on restricted diets due to your real food allergies, but know that even someone who has no real food allergies can be allergic to a slimy bacteria fermented in a laboratory. About me: 20 years experience of trial and error to discover what i had to eat to avoid these gastrointestinal problems (whole foods, home made) and only the past three years knowing what the real problem was--xanthan gum.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    Thank you so much! I have been off gluten, dairy and egg for about a year but still have weird episodes that I can't trace back to any of the aforementioned items. Testing revealed mild allergy to dairy and egg white, but not gluten. My nutritionist advised me that I could still have a gluten sensitivity even though it doesn't show up as an allergy on the blood test profile. Two recent incidents lead me to believe I have a problem wit xanthan gum. I attempted trying meatloaf with one egg using udi's bread and after eating experienced a tingky, burning, inflamed and slightly puffy tongue along with stomach tightness and bowel issues to follow. I thought it was the egg, "confirming" the allergy I'd been afraid to test out and decided not to have it again or use the bread which contains egg. Yesterday I tried making gluten-free brownies (betty crocker) with pumpkin as the only added ingredientvb to avoid egg. Same reaction occurred. I checked the labels for the brownie mix and the bread and the common factor was xanthan gum. Then I got to thinking about all the other reactions I had had in the past two years, including toothpaste (which I thought was fluoride sensitivity), cosmetic and hair products, even prescription drugs...all have xanthate gum! I feel like I'm onto something here! One nagging curiosity...could xanthan allergy be stand alone or does it necessarily go hand in hand with gluten sensitivity? Wondering about trying something with gluten that does not contain xanthan gum.... Been so afraid of trying anything with gluten for the past year, but maybe I'm barking up the wrong tree? And how might xanthan gum be related to dairy products?

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    It causes "necrotizing enterocolitis" in premies and cancer patients (who have compromised immune systems and have had antibiotics) - see Wikipedia article

    So what does it do to the normal folks, Let alone the adults with compromised immune systems, allergies and/or lots of antibiotics under our belt?!

    I've found that I'm better eating cheese or wheat than something with Xanthan gum!

    I've been sick for THREE YEARS and wonder how much less it would have been if I hadn't been eating all those processed gluten-free foods with Xanthan gum in them! Wow, I'm ticked now!

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    Guest Lisa@glutenfreesupper.com

    Posted

    It's so frustrating to see this ingredient used everyone when it is clear that it can cause problems and isn't needed. I've started baking without any kind of gums and think it is totally possible.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    The article stated that the growth medium for xanthan gum is corn based but Wikipedia says the growth medium is usually wheat, corn or soy based, so the author shouldn't say it's just corn based. Also, they may have a whole bunch of possible growth mediums in addition to wheat, corn, and soy based. Wikipedia just said these are the ones most commonly used.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    I previously posted here in response to this article that the growth mediums for xanthan gum are not only just corn based. I noticed that the author had also considered the possibility that tapioca might have been the problem and I think it's worth pointing out that some people have reported that tapioca has caused them to have bloating,headaches, and stomach issues. I haven't read anything else from this author (Wendy Cohan) except for this article and the three star rating I chose for this article applies to this article only and does not in any way reflect on anything else the author (Wendy Cohan) has written, done, or said and is not a comment or reflection on the way she practices her profession. I say this because the author (Wendy Cohan) may have written, said, or done things I disagree with and I don't want to endorse in any way something wrong. I wouldn't have even chosen a star rating but I wasn't able to leave a comment without rating the article.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    I had to figure out my xanthan gum allergy all by myself. I am dismayed to find it in so many gluten free mixes and products. Since I also avoid legumes, I have stayed away from guar gum. Unflavored gelatin is all I've got to work with. I've got a bread recipe that works for me, so I'm happy.

     

    I also react to annatto, which is used in cheeses to maintain color. It took me MONTHS to narrow down that search and finally figure it out! Lately I've heard that other celiacs also react to it.

    Try adding about 10% glutenous rice flour to your mix instead of xanthan gum. I use that in my flour mix for everything from breads to waffles.

    Ditto on the Annatto - note that some famous brand "Brats" have annatto in them also. I found that out the hard way. The reaction I get is very similar to gluten.

    Tartrazine (FD&C Yellow #5) is another one. It took me months to figure out what I was reacting to. I narrowed it down to this by eating simple hard candies and comparing the ingredients with the reactions. It turns out they used the stuff to color my daily vitamins! The symptoms went away after I switched brands.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    No one has mentioned psyllium? It can be used in gluten-free baking very similarly to xanthan gum, though it's mixed with the liquid, not the flour. I think the dosing is usually about 1:1. Where I come from psyllium is by far the most common ingredient people use to improve texture of homemade gluten-free baked goods, though xanthan is used too.

     

    Agar agar can be used too, though the dosing is different and I can't really say much about it. I believe agar is the least allergenic of the whole bunch.

    Psyllium 1:1, meaning 1 teaspoon psyllium to 1 teaspoon water?

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    I have similarly just discovered a sensitivity to xanthan gum after making a delicious gluten-free pizza dough and eating pizza for the first time in months! There was nothing else in the pizza, dough or toppings, that I could have reacted to, and my gut tells me it's the gum.

     

    I found an article on using flax and chia instead of xanthan gum a while back - now I think it's time to give it a try!

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    Guest Teresa Challender

    Posted

    I had to figure out my xanthan gum allergy all by myself. I am dismayed to find it in so many gluten free mixes and products. Since I also avoid legumes, I have stayed away from guar gum. Unflavored gelatin is all I've got to work with. I've got a bread recipe that works for me, so I'm happy.

     

    I also react to annatto, which is used in cheeses to maintain color. It took me MONTHS to narrow down that search and finally figure it out! Lately I've heard that other celiacs also react to it.

    You use gelatin? Where do you find your recipes -- I'm fascinated, because I'm trying to find out what I'm allergic to in my gluten-free baking. Which has become a problem since starting to bake gluten-free these last few months.

     

    Please email me!

    resachallender at yahoo.com

     

    thanks so much!

    Teresa

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites



    Join the conversation

    You are posting as a guest. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
    Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

    Guest
    Add a comment...

    ×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

      Only 75 emoji are allowed.

    ×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

    ×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

    ×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • About Me

    An RN for 14 years, I have been following a strict gluten-free diet for six years of improving health! Now I help others as a Celiac Disease/Gluten Intolerance Educator. I work one on one with people on meal planning, shopping, cooking and dining out gluten-free. I will also work with children who have behavioral issues related to gluten or other food sensitivities.  My other websites are: www.WellBladder.com and www.neighborhoodnurse.net.

  • Related Articles

    Amy Leger
    Celiac.com 11/19/2008 - This year my husband and I took in Ida, an exchange studentfrom Norway, who needed a gluten-free home.We couldn’t help but be excited at the prospect to have someone else inthe house set an example for my 9-year-old gluten-free daughter.Ida (pronounced EE-dah) has quickly becomepart of the family. And of course one thing we talk about is food and thedifferences i...

    Jefferson Adams
    Celiac.com 10/10/2011 - With the economy on the rocks and the holiday season upon us, many food banks are struggling to keep gluten-free items on their shelves.
    Since more and more families are relying on food banks for assistance, that means more and more people with celiac disease and gluten intolerance may not be getting the food they need.
    Responding to this situation...

    Jefferson Adams
    Celiac.com 12/23/2011 - A research team recently sought to figure out the basic level of awareness of celiac disease and gluten sensitivity among the general public and trained and untrained chefs, and to compare dining habits of people with celiac disease and gluten-sensitivity to those of the general public.
    In face-to-face interviews, and via internet survey, researchers...

    Jefferson Adams
    Celiac.com 01/23/2015 - This Superbowl Sunday gluten-free fans can celebrate with gluten-free Pizza Hut pizza, and, in a few lucky test markets, gluten-free Coors beer.
    You read right. First, Pizza Hut has announced that, starting Jan. 26, it will be debuting a gluten-free pizza in about 2,400 locations in the U.S. The new pizza will be a 10-inch, six-slice pizza, which will...

  • Forum Discussions

    Thanks.  I think these were not the freshest tortillas.  Layering instead of rolling tastes the same but isn’t as “ fun” as rolled.  
    It is ugly truth that taking vitamins/minerals with RDA and AI can leads to major side effect. Biotin: it comes in food and supplement. It is highly suggested not to take it doses more than 30 µg. Its biggest sources is almond,cauliflower ...
    This is great advice, my mother and grand mother (both Hispanic) always would get the freshest ones and dip in the sauce before rolling. When reheating it varied with tortillas on freshness (and how much of a hurry) but they either heated...
×
×
  • Create New...