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Xanthan Gum

Xanthan gum is a substance used in making some foods and medications. It has different effects in these products: It can add thickness, keep textures from changing, and hold ingredients in place.

Xanthan gum is found in many types of medicines. These include:

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Xanthan gum is produced by fermenting a carbohydrate (a substance that contains sugar) with Xanthomonas campestris bacteria, then processing it.

Why do people take xanthan gum?

Research on the health effects of xanthan gum is limited. People use xanthan gum for different purposes, including to try to treat or manage these conditions:

Constipation. In a 1993 study, researchers gave xanthan gum daily for 10 days to 18 volunteers. They ate 15 grams of the ingredient each day. The results showed that xanthan gum was a "highly efficient laxative."

Diabetes. In a 1985 study, nine people with diabetes and four people without diabetes ate muffins containing 12 grams of xanthan gum every day for six weeks. The xanthan gum was linked to lower blood sugar and lower total cholesterol in people with diabetes.

Celiac disease. People with this problem must avoid a protein called gluten. This protein is found in many grains, including wheat, barley, and rye, making it a common ingredient in baked goods and pasta. Gluten makes dough stretchy and it helps create the airy texture of baked goods. When baking, some people who avoid gluten mix xanthan gum with gluten-free flour to achieve the same effects.

Swallowing problems. Some people who have trouble swallowing add a product called SimplyThick -- which contains xanthan gum -- to foods and drinks to make them easier to swallow.

Can you get xanthan gum naturally from foods?

No. Xanthan gum is a food additive. It is a common ingredient in processed foods.

Some supermarkets also carry xanthan gum alongside other ingredients for baking or in the natural foods area.

What are the risks of taking xanthan gum?

Side effects. Xanthan gum seems to cause few side effects. A 1987 study, in which five healthy men ate roughly 10 to 13 grams daily, found no adverse effects. It may cause gas.

Risks. The FDA has warned against giving SimplyThick to premature infants. The product has been linked to a serious digestive problem called necrotizing enterocolitis in infants born prematurely.

Interactions. Tell your doctor about any supplements you're taking, even if they're natural. That way, your doctor can check on any potential side effects or interactions with any medications.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David Kiefer, MD on January 10, 2013

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