Xanthan Gum

Medically Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, MS, DO on September 13, 2023
2 min read

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:

  • Tablets that slowly break down in the body
  • Liquid drops for the eyes

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

Research on the health effects of xanthan gum is limited. It is commonly used as a food additive with few side effects although bloating and gas has been noted. People use xanthan gum for different purposes, including to try to treat or manage constipation and diabetes but more studies are needed to confirm the efficacy.

People with celiac disease 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.

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.

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.

Side effects. Xanthan gum seems to cause few side effects. Studies are ongoing to see if xanthan gum changes the type of bacteria in our digestive tract and if these changes are for the good or bad. 

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.