Food Gums: What matters is dosage.

by Nancy Mehlert MS

Food gums are plant sourced food additives used as thickening, stabilizing, and emulsifying agents. The most common gums are agar agar, arabic, locust bean, guar, acacia, gellan, xanthan, and carrageenan.   They are very common in dairy, nut milks, and non-dairy yogurt and cheese replacements, salad dressings, baked goods, and many gluten free foods. They do not provide any valuable nutrition.

Most people seem to be fine consuming gums, however if you have digestive issues, such as bloating, constipation, or diarrhea, you may want to closely examine how many foods you are consuming that have gums in them.  While a small amount in one food is generally recognized as safe and harmless, many people who count on pre-packaged and gluten free foods, as well as non-dairy dairy replacements, are actually consuming more than they realize. While all the gums are used in very small amounts, often times multiple gums will be used in one product, making the amount more than it seems.

Xanthan, carrageenan, and guar gums are polysaccharides, banned from the popular FODMOPS diet due to their impact on digestive issues. Guar gum feeds pesky bad bacteria in the gut and can cause significant bloating. Carrageenan gum is a possible source for monosodium glutamate (MSG), and has been known to cause stomach inflammation. It is currently being investigated more closely by the FDA.

To summarize, be aware of the sources of gums you are consuming, realizing that less is likely better, especially if you have a sensitive digestive system.

Sources:

Dessey, Mira. The Pantry Principle; The Woodlands, Texas: Versadia Press, 2013.

https://chriskresser.com/harmful-or-harmless-carrageenan/, accessed on 1/23/21

By |2021-02-24T06:13:18-06:00February 24th, 2021|Articles, General, NANCY’S NUTRITIONAL NUGGET|

Food Gums in “Healthy” Foods

By Nancy Mehlert, MS

Gums are common food additives used to add stickiness, thicken, prevent separation of ingredients, and improve texture.  In a small amount, they are generally considered safe.

When larger quantities are consumed, there can be reason for concern.  You may be surprised how easy it is to be eating a lot of them!  They are common in many organic, non-diary, non-GMO, certified gluten free foods, and are often chosen with the belief that these foods are cleaner. Look for them in nut milks, gluten free foods, salad dressings, protein powders, mayonnaise, non-dairy products, soups, and sauces.

Here are the ones I see most often: carrageenan, xanthan gum, gellan gum, guar gum, locust bean gum, and acacia gum ( a.k.a. arabic gum).  Only one of them, acacia gum, stands out with some favorable benefits and has the least negative impact when used in small amounts.  It is considered a pre-biotic, which means that it can actually feed the healthy bacteria in the gut.

Here are reasons to limit or remove the rest of them from your diet:

  • Multiple studies have shown that many gums create GI inflammation, especially carrageenan, which is believed to have the highest potential for harm, especially for those already suffering with gastrointestinal issues.
  • Many gums are very difficult to digest and cause diarrhea, bloating, cramping, and stomach pain. It is also common to experience symptoms unrelated to digestion such as a runny nose, congestion, hives or body pain.
  • Those with gluten intolerance, gluten allergy, or celiac disease should avoid xantham gum as it is produced by bacterial fermentation of corn, wheat and other grain based sugars.
  • Many gums can alter healthy levels of intestinal bacteria in some people. This happens by disrupting the normal mucous layer that lines the gut and contributes to chronic, low-level inflammation promoting changes to cells in the digestive tract, including the colon.
  • Agar gum, karaya gum, and konjac gum (a.k.a. glucomannan) can expand in the gut and, without adequate fluids, can cause esophageal and bowel obstruction.

If you already know your gastrointestinal health is compromised in any way, you may want to eliminate these gums entirely.  For most people, simply limiting their use to infrequent and small quantities would be wise.  Check all your packaged and bottled foods – you may be surprised!

Choose well, be well!

https://www.glutenfreesociety.org/toxic-food-additives-common-gluten

https://civileats.com/2015/02/25/how-emulsifiers-are-messing-with-our-guts-and-making-us-fat/

https://draxe.com/gum-arabic

https://draxe.com/gellan-gum/

https://draxe.com/locust-bean-gum/

By |2019-04-06T10:58:17-05:00March 20th, 2019|Articles, NANCY’S NUTRITIONAL NUGGET|
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