As part of the process of developing a number of gluten-free products, I have been forced to eat some of the gluten-free products others are making out there in the marketplace. I am not going to comment on the taste or texture – there are no words for most of what I have had to try. However, I think I may have discovered, by accident, how to cleanse the colon with very little effort.

xanthan-gumI have baked gluten-free often and for one year of my life, about 10 years ago, I went gluten-free, just to see if it helped my endometriosis (because practitioner people insisted it would). It didn’t – as I have no issues with gluten.  However, I also have never had an issue eating my own gluten-free baked goodies. So what is going on now? Well, this week I discovered it is all about the xanthan gum.

Most gluten-free products have it in them as it is used to replace the binding power of gluten and I have certainly used it myself, but sparingly. If you wonder why some gluten-free products are like rubber – it is due to the gums that are used like xanthan and guar gum.

Xanthan gum is made by fermenting sugar (usually corn) by the bacteria Xanthomonas campestris. Now when I see the words “fermenting” and “bacteria” in the same sentence, I get excited and begin to wonder if it has any health benefits. So that was the first thing I googled and here is what I found from WebMD “Xanthan gum is used for lowering blood sugar and total cholesterol in people with diabetes. It is also used as a laxative.” Nice to know I was not imagining things (and I thought it was the bean flour).

Now before all you constipated types go rushing out to down a bottle, further investigation found a couple of other interesting facts. First the bacteria Xanthomonas campestris is not a good guy – this is the bacteria family that puts black spots on your broccoli or other vegetables as they rot. Now the bacteria is long dead in xanthan gum powder so no fears about eating it from that perspective but… as I learned in my Health and Safety course, any toxins produced by the bacteria can still be present.

Normally, if we encounter toxins from bad bacteria (including dead ones), our good bacteria takes care of them on our behalf. However, since gluten-free people only have an issue with gluten because they lack sufficient good bacteria to digest it as they should, perhaps they should not be counting on these same gut levels of good bacteria to help them de-activate ingested toxins from bad bacteria or any other kind. Hard to say – it is a complicated subject but they may want to avoid the gluten-free rubber foods and choose gluten-free options with some texture where little or no gums are used. Another good idea – work on the gut health…

The other issue with xanthan gum and anyone reading this may have already guessed this when I mentioned it is made from corn sugar, is that it can be made from GMO corn. Another irony here – gluten-free people with their challenged gut health are now eating foods with GMO ingredients. The research coming out now is quite compelling as to the damage GMO foods can do to our gut health and good bacteria levels but that is a story for another day. The good news is there are non-GMO xanthan gum sources such the one from NOW. If you cannot find it in your local health food store, it is available on Amazon (because everything is).

I am sitting here with some slight intestinal dis-comfort,  leftover from yesterday’s excessive set of samplings  as my bowels work just fine and did not need xanthan’s help, and I have to wonder. Many people attribute their flatter gluten-free stomachs to eating gluten-free food when, in fact, it may be due to the fact that they just had a free colon cleanse, thanks to a really good laxative.

NON=GMO smallHere are a few tips regarding using xanthan gum:

  1. Buy xanthan gum that clearly states “Non-GMO”. If it has the Non-GMO logo on it – even better as that means it has been certified non-GMO.
  2. Use as little as possible – 1/4 teaspoon can produce the desired result for a loaf of bread so if a recipe calls for a tsp, that is too much.
  3. Xanthan gum is best for baking – it is stable when heated and will not break down.
  4. Guar gum, which is made from the cluster or guar bean, can break down after it has been heated. It is more suitable as thickening agent for raw food like fresh fruit jellies or those that are heated for a short time like puddings (add the guar gum after removing from the heat). For the record, it is also a laxative according to WebMD as well as guar gum is also used for “treating diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), obesity, and diabetes; for reducing cholesterol; and for preventing hardening of the arteries”