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.
Dessey, Mira. The Pantry Principle; The Woodlands, Texas: Versadia Press, 2013.
https://chriskresser.com/harmful-or-harmless-carrageenan/, accessed on 1/23/21