Adverse Side Effects of Xanthan Gum

I am posting this bit of trivia in case it might be of interest to anyone else who sufferers adverse side effects from eating foods containing xanthan gum; to anyone who feeds baby formula containing xanthan gum to their infant; to anyone researching the side effects of food grade xanthan gum.

It is not my intent to explain all about what xanthan gum is, what foods typically contain xanthan gum, or when it was first introduced into the food chain—you can find that information elsewhere—but rather to call attention to possible severe adverse side effects from ingesting food grade xanthan gum.

My source for this bit of trivia is Wikipedia, so take it for what it’s worth, but I couldn’t help but feel validated by it, since I cannot tolerate any food containing xanthan gum.

I suffered puzzling symptoms of abdominal distress for nearly twenty years, and only became aware of what caused them in 2009 , when I briefly tried a gluten free diet to see whether it would finally resolve my problem.  This was after I had already followed a whole foods diet as described in Restoring Your Digestive Health, by Rubin and Brasco, for a couple of years, during which time I was always healthy, except for occasional, short-lived flare-ups after I ate at a restaurant or at someone else’s house.  I could not explain it. Why would my healthy digestive system still react this way to “normal” food? (Once you understand the prevalent use of xanthan gum in processed foods, you will understand how difficult it is to avoid.)

I decided to take my healthy eating habits one step further and go on a strict gluten free regimen.  It was while on this strict organic, whole foods, gluten free diet that I discovered the root of my problem.  Only the gluten free baked goods upset my stomach, causing the exact same abdominal distress that had puzzled me for years—pain and distension throughout stomach and intestines, resolving itself with or without treatment in 18-20 hours.  The only additive in the gluten free baked goods was xanthan gum.

Even minute amounts of xanthan gum cause me severe stomach and intestinal pain, like knives in my stomach, accompanied by huge distension of my abdomen, sometimes making me look three+ months pregnant.  I am small, by the way–about 5’5″ and 119-122 pounds; female.  From time of ingestion to time that symptoms pass is usually no more than 20 hours for me. If I happen to eat food containing xanthan gum at lunch time, for example, I feel fine the next morning when I awake, though I suffered the prior evening before I fell asleep.  I find discomfort is somewhat relieved if I lay stomach down on a pile of pillows, putting even pressure on my entire abdomen.    Stomach remedies have no effect, except a gas reducing pill that helps but little.

Here is the promised trivia, complements of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xanthan_gum :

“On May 20, 2011 the FDA issued a press release warning “parents, caregivers and health care providers not to feed SimplyThick, a thickening product, to premature infants.” The concern is that the product may cause necrotizing enterocolitis. SimplyThick’s active ingredient is xanthan gum”  [The ingredient list for SimplyThick is short:] “Water, Xanthan Gum, Citric Acid, Potassium Sorbate.”

So, I looked up “necrotizing enterocolitis,” and, yes, that sounds like what could be happening in there; lots of trapped gas, for starters.

Following medical term after medical term mentioned in these Wikipedia articles, I also found similar validation in an article about “Pneumatosis intestinalis” at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pneumatosis_intestinalis .

In pneumatosis intestinalis (gas cysts in the intestinal wall), in premature infants, the diagnosis is as follows:

“The clinical features are divided into 3 stages:

Stage 1 — Apnea, bradycardia, lethargy, abdominal distension and vomiting.

Stage 2 — Pneumatosis intestinalis and the above features.

Stage 3 — Low blood pressure, bradycardia, acidosis, disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC) and anuria.”

NO, I do not exhibit all of those symptoms, but then I am not exposed to xanthan gum for more than one meal (typically).  By nature, I normally have relatively low blood pressure accompanied by a slow heartbeat, so that would not be unusual.  When I am sick with xanthan gum imposed symptoms, I do feel lethargic and tired. During such bouts, I do not even attempt physical work.  I do NOT get nausea, vomiting, constipation or diarrhea.  As for anuria, if anything I need to urinate more frequently, though with less volume at each time, apparently because the swollen intestines are pressing on my bladder. As for acidosis, I could use my pH papers to see whether my system is more acid during a bout, when next I have one, but I assume a change in overall pH should take much more than just a few hours, so I doubt I would have that.

Then again, I usually have only single incident exposures to xanthan gum, not prolonged exposure over time as was the case with the infants who were fed formula containing SimplyThick.

Interesting stuff.  I think the company that makes xanthan gum should consider medical studies on adults to find out what is the prevalence of stomach distress caused by xanthan gum…and also find out why is it so many people seem completely unaffected. At least, they do not know that they are affected.  What is it about people like me, that only we are prone?  And premature babies?

Well, for starters, the babies received xanthan gum in every sip of their entire diet; adults typically eat a variety of processed and whole foods…

I suffered from mysterious, intermittent stomach issues for years before I deduced the cause, and was probably only able to do so because I did my own cooking and could eat when and what I wanted.   I feel for those who see doctor after doctor and get colonoscopies, or misdiagnosis,  and take bottle after bottle of stomach remedy, only to continue suffering. It is not necessary, if xanthan gum is the cause.

Try, for at least two weeks, to read all labels and eat no food that contains xanthan gum, and see if it makes a difference for you.   Good luck, because, it is found in most all varieties of processed foods; some more than others.  Find the brands that do not use it—they are available, if you must eat processed foods.

Incidentally, I found that no over the counter stomach remedy relieved my symptoms during an active bout; only time. It had to run its course. I believe that a gas-reducing pill may help with the distension, so if I have that available, I will take one, but the pain and most of the distension always remains.   I have told my doctors that I have this sensitivity to xanthan gum.  They write it in my file and give no comment or advice.

I would be interested in comments from anyone who has found this post helpful.

All my best,

Cindy

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27 Responses to Adverse Side Effects of Xanthan Gum

  1. Seeking One says:

    Interesting that your doctors never comment. It’s as if they are not allowed. I have severe flare ups too, and even on an organic diet of absolutely no processed food, I still continue to flare. My doctors won’t comment on this sort of thing either. It’s so frustrating! Thanks for the article.

    • elskbrev says:

      @Seeking One: Have you seen Rubin and Brasco’s book,

        Restoring Your Digestive Health

      ? It puts emphasis on first mending what is wrong with your digestive system, then maintaining it through healthy diet. The rest and repair stage can take days or weeks, depending on your prognosis. If you continue to struggle with flare ups, perhaps you could benefit from trying the protocol mentioned in that book. I did. It wasn’t fun eating 18 hour Brasco broth three meals a day for 14 days, plus what seemed like copious quantities of yogurt, and absolutely no sweets, but I did it, and felt better for it. Moreover, friends asked me how I lost weight so quickly and wanted the recipe for this soup.

  2. Caroline says:

    I follow a high fat (mostly saturated) low carb medium protein diet. Poor old saturated fats have been given a bad name and it’s all untrue. Many people following this diet don’t eat any grain, very little fructose, (check out The Bitter Truth by Robert Lustig and the David Gillespie and Christine Cronau books. Also look up Gary Taubes and Sally Fallon.) and find their IBS symptoms disappear. If you eat natural foods and lots of animal fat, the bowel responds well. It’s a total myth we need high fibre carbs for the bowel. It actually has the opposite effect. Grain will damage your bowel, especially wheat. I would urge people to give this a go. Here in Australia thousands of people are getting back to eating totally unprocessed, natural food, no sugar, very little fructose because it makes you fat and sick, no vegetable oils unless it’s cold pressed olive or avocado for example, and a good amount of protein and fat at every meal. The fat intake makes you regular. Good luck!

    • elskbrev says:

      I like your philosophy and I fully agree that dependance on grain fiber rather than vegetable fiber is one road to ruin. A part of my problem may have been just that at one time–I liked to bake, so was always eating my home made breads.
      I also agree that some fats are needed in our diet. I take cod liver oil daily. I usually cook with only cold pressed olive, sesame or coconut oils, or organic butter, but I have no objection to frying bacon once in a while, or enjoying a beef burger. As a rule, I prefer to avoid beef and pork, however, unless I know it comes from pastured, grass fed animals. I recently added organic whole milk back into my diet–none of that fractionated reduced fat stuff for me. Will see how that goes.
      Thank you for the references. I have a copy of Sally Fallon’s book, Nourishing Traditions, and I will look for the others.
      C

  3. Karen Morgan says:

    I cannot tolerate any kind of gum in my foods, but xanthan is the worst. Other kinds include guar, carrageenan, and lotus bean. Thanks for the validation of my experiences. I first noticed it in ice cream thinking it was lactose intolerance. It isn’t. It is exactly the thing you describe, and now xanthan gum is used as a thickener in almost everything…the last thing we had to find a new brand for was flour tortillas.

    • elskbrev says:

      I recently added carrageenan to my short list of can’t haves. So far, I have (1) non-fat dry milk; all other forms of cow’s milk are ok, (2) xanthan gum, and (3) carrageenan.
      I have never had a problem with guar gum, and I don’t know about lotus bean, but then, I do not eat many processed foods any more.
      I feel for you and your grocery shopping. I used to read all the labels for nutritional information; now it takes me an extra hour to tour the grocery store just to scan labels for rogue additives.
      Re: ice cream–I can eat Haagen Dazs, one of the last hold-outs not using either carrageenan or xanthan gum. Good luck.
      Thanks for your post.
      C

  4. jcompwiz says:

    My family has been seeking a traditional food (ala Weston A. Price), and gluten free now for about six months. We all feel so much healthier, and my husband (the lucky duck) has lost a considerable amount of weight since going completely off of processed foods. This morning, I thought I\’d try a new flour he brought home for me to try, quinoa flour. I\’d read online that in order to substitute quinoa for wheat in recipes that \”a little\” xanthan gum would be needed. Not knowing how much \”a little\” should be, I put a teaspoon in my recipe. All morning I\’ve been suffering. I have been in so much pain!! My tummy distended, and feeling overfull of gas, but without able to relieve it no matter what I try. A dose of Pepto was able to relieve the symptoms enough for me to tolerate them, but the only thing that really helped was taking a nap on my stomach (I never sleep that way). I\’m feeling better now, but I wanted to research to see what could have caused the reaction. Now I know. A friend also advised me that I could switch out flours by weight (not by measurement) and not have to use gums, so I\’ll be doing that from now on. I\’m so very thankful that none of my five children reacted the way I did to the pancakes I made this morning!!! I\’m going to consider myself allergic to xanthan gum from now on and avoid it like the plague. Thank you so much for your post.

    • elskbrev says:

      That is so interesting that your five children did not suffer from the xanthan gum, but you did. It is that same way in my family and social circle. I feel like I am the only one. I still believe it is not good for anyone. We who are more sensitive reject it first; they would if they ate enough of it, perhaps.
      RE: Quinoa. Don’t give up on this super grain. I occasionally make cupcakes from a recipe I found on a package of Bob’s Red Mill Quinoa flour, and it is perfect in texture and very moist, and does not require any xanthan gum. I believe in this instance the chocolate baking cocoa powder acts as the stabilizer. Eggs and oil, btw, should be sufficient stabilizer for pancakes so there is no need for xanthan gum.
      I am glad you now know of your intolerance for xanthan gum, as it puts you on the fast track to resolving your stomach issue(s).
      Thanks for your post!
      C

  5. Viola Pythas says:

    Cindy, I read your post with great interest. I have been suffering with digestive issues for many years and recently become very frustrated with the constant bloating, gas and constipation. I exercise and train consistently and therefore supplement my diet with a protein shake made up with water. Recently I took a closer look at the additives in the powder I considered to be healthy and found it to contain Xanthan food gum, Sucralose and Carrageenan. I recently holidayed overseas for 10 days and didn’t take my daily shake and realised I wasn’t feeling the symptoms I usually had. I believe some of us become less tolerant to certain additives or foods as we become older, which explains why I don’t hear complaint from my children or husband when eating the same food. I’m sure that I wouldn’t have had these issues when I was younger.
    From now on, I will be avoiding these additives like the plague! I’ll be reading every label and definately changing protein powders to a 100% natural one.

    Thanks for your post. I am sure now it’s the additives that have been causing me all these problems.
    Regards
    V

    • elskbrev says:

      @Viola Pythas: Thank you so much for writing about your experience.
      I should share with you about a product line I found recently that sells a good line of soy and whey based protein shakes. What is unique about this company is that all of their supplements are pharmaceutical grade and tested thousands of times per production batch. Prior to production, their products are tested in multiple human studies by independent labs that then publish their results in journals for peer review. It is rare to find any company that goes through this much time, effort and expense to prove their products.
      Even so, they sell at least one product that contains xanthan gum–a pure recovery shake designed to aid in muscle recovery after workouts. (This blog is not about advertising, but if you Google ‘pure recovery shake,’ you will probably find the company I speak of. If not, let me know and I can email it to you.)
      I would be so interested in volunteering myself to them for participation in one of their studies to determine whether I can tolerate the *grade* of xanthan gum that they use in their product(s). There are varying grades of xanthan gum on the market (e.g. industrial grade, food grade), so perhaps that is a critical factor.
      I once encountered the same problem as you when I found xanthan gum in a B-Complex liquid vitamin I purchased prior to learning that xanthan gum was a problem for me. Ironically, I went on this B-Complex vitamin because someone told me that it might relieve stomach problems. As I recall, I was only taking a quarter teaspoon daily and did not notice an extreme reaction to it. Here, again, perhaps this company uses a pharmaceutical grade xanthan gum. I still have an unopened bottle of that vitamin in storage; perhaps I should experiment with it by taking a full serving of it–at least 3 teaspoons, 1/2 ounce–and see what happens.
      I actually emailed that company to mention that some people are sensitive to xanthan gum. They kindly thanked me for my comments and said they would not change their product formula.
      The company that makes the pure recovery shake has a 30 day money back guarantee, so I could try it just to see. A much truer scientific study it would be, however, if they were to use me in a double blind experiment in order to rule out placebo effect. Not that any of this is in my head–it most certainly is not.
      Thanks again for posting.
      C

  6. K Godwin says:

    I am IN SHOCK! I have suffered for more than a decade with extreme problems after eating certain (which baffled me that it wasn’t every bread) breads, bagels and tortillas. It has gotten to the point where the mere smell of a tortilla brings on a wave of nausea.

    Tonight I ate a Green Giant Niblets Corn with butter sauce and had the same symtoms as those induced by the bread products. Go to the list of ingredients and there it is: Xanthan Gum! I NEVER even thought about the possibility this was the culprit.

    Thank you so much for posting this article! I truly believe this is what has caused me countless hours of pain over the years. Now, if you will excuse me, I am going to go lie down and moan….although with a sense of JOY that this is the LAST time I will feel like this!
    K

    • elskbrev says:

      K Godwin, thank you for posting. It is for people like yourself that I wrote of my own experience. Yes, I too once inadvertently bought the vegetables with the butter sauce and was disappointed to learn that they put xanthan gum in the sauce, so unnecessary, so I had to throw them out. I think xanthan gum extends the shelf life of frozen foods by preventing the formation of ice crystals on the product. That is why we find it sometimes in the most unlikely places, like in the breading on chicken nuggets. In ice cream, it serves doubly as thickening agent, for the texture, and to prevent formation of ice crystals. I do hope you will from now on have a healthier you, now that you are aware of the possible culprit. Prove it to yourself by reading all those labels, and then through trial and error, you will know.
      To your health,
      C

  7. Carrie says:

    Your post has been so validating for me. I recently started taking a pea protein isolate shake made by Arbonne. Many, many people talk about how they love them and they don’t cause bloating, etc. Well, I have just one serving and was in pretty severe pain all night. I looked at the ingredient list and nothing leapt out at me. So, I started one by one researching each ingredient and found xanthum gum and how it can affect certain people. I have been allergy tested twice a few years ago and nothing ever came up positive, but occasionally I would have these symptoms and they thought I might be allergic to this or that.

    Now, the questions is, if I had them test me for an allergy to XG, would it turn up positive? Or it this not an allergy but rather a sensitivity?

    Am curious if you have found out any more?

    Thanks

    • elskbrev says:

      Carrie, Technically this falls in the category of a sensitivity rather than an allergy, I believe. I tend to shortcut the semantics when speaking of it and call it an allergy because people understand that. When I mentioned my reaction to xanthan gum to my doctor and inquired about whether they could test for and verify that I was allergic, he shrugged and said, ‘If you know you are sensitive, then just don’t eat it.’ Medical tests cost money, so my question, can this be medically verified, will have to go unanswered. As for yourself, just start reading labels on everything. Until you find yourself suffering similar symptoms from other foods that contain xanthan gum, you will not really know that xanthan gum is the problem.
      Thank you so much for posting and sharing your experience. I hope you will follow up after a time and let me know how things turn out.
      C

  8. Pingback: Could Xanthan Gum be a Hidden Problem in Gluten Free Diets? « Tracy Piercy, CFP

  9. This is amazing information. I am going to be mindful of xanthum gum now myself. I know of a lot of people who complain of these types of symptoms so I will tell them of this possibility and direct them to this post. Thanks, Cindy!

    • elskbrev says:

      Hi Amy,
      Be sure to reference Tracy Piercy’s comments in her blog, as well. She has a slightly different take on this than I do. In my experience, all xanthan gum is problematic, though I have no food allergies that I am aware of. Tracy, on the other hand, finds that she can tolerate some products containing xanthan gum, but not others, and she feels this may have something to do with the source of the xanthan gum since she is allergic to wheat, and xanthan gum may be derived from corn, soy or wheat. Every body’s unique.
      Thanks for commenting, and I hope you or someone you know will find this info useful.
      Cindy

  10. djkvan says:

    All thickening agents are problematic for me. The worst is carrageenan which actually causes blistering in my intestinal tract (the aftermath is graphic, but definitive). Guar, xanthan, carob bean, etc…, are also problematic, but not to the same degree. Note: corn dextrin is also in the same category (i.e. thickening agent). It is important to know your chemistry as polysaccharides are routinely used as thickeners, but come under many different names. I suspect that they feed particularly pathogenic variants of intestinal bacteria.

  11. JOY says:

    This information from everyone has save my life, I have be suffering from 2005 until 2011, with IBS. I also have a problem eating vegetable that grows on a stalk, i can only eat vegetable that grows on a vine, i can not eat any daily produces of any kind, and no beans of any kind. I just recently is experience the same problems when i eat anything that has Guar gum , and xanthan gum , carob bean, is even worst, the pain in by stomach was so bad, i almost believe at some point i was have a baby, the chemical in the food was killing me. i lost about 40lbs with in the last year, shopping for food was a problem for me, i would have painic attact in the store, to me everytime was proison to my intestinal tract, eating out was a problem for me, i did not want to go thru the embarrsement of running to be restroom for upset stomach IBS. sometime i would not eat at all because of this problem IBS, I have be vegan now and i only eat organic, even eating organic, i still have to read what i am eating some of the natural foods has Guar gum and Xanthan Gum, i can only eat vegetable the that grows on a vine, now the problem is not so bad. but if i try to eat out, or eat at a family house, the problem come back no matter how careful i am, because of the guar gum and the xanthan the in the food, would make me sick. PLEASE, if anyone no of at doctor or a natural healer in the Miami Florida area that can help me, please email me at jmaffett53@yahoo.com, again thank you to everyone that input your experiences on this Blog…

    • elskbrev says:

      Joy, ‘Calm down.’ That is the first thing I would ask you to do, though I am no natural healer. Visceral stress can only add to your stomach problems, and it sounds as if you carry a boatload of it.

      This is not to discount the validity of your problem with certain kinds of food or food additives. I completely understand. I know how it feels to face a buffet of “good” food knowing there is nothing offered that will not make me sick to my stomach…so then I declare a fasting day, sip on pure water or tea that I brought in my own water bottle, and patiently wait until I can get a safe meal somewhere else.

      (As you probably know, even beverages are suspect, so it is often best to bring your own. Xanthan gum or guar gum are used to give beverages a better “mouth feel”–so unnecessary, but what can we do?)

      I am curious to know more about how you determined that you can only eat vegetables on the vine. What specific vegetables can you eat, and what vegetables make your stomach sick? I have never heard of this before, but am interested to know. Some vegetables contain a natural gel-like, gum-like substance. Zucchini, for example, which grows on a vine, at certain ripeness exudes a glue like gel that sticks all over the knife when I cut into it. This happened when I was slicing a large, foot long zucchini, not the small soup size we usually find in supermarkets. Can you eat zucchini?

      C

    • elskbrev says:

      Joy, a few more notes for you …

      Everyone is unique, and I can only speak from my own experience, but here is my two cents.

      First, eating vegan or eating organic may not solve all your problems. The vegan diet, especially if fat free, excludes a few vital nutrients that your body needs. Consider the writings of Weston Price or Mark Sisson–both advocate the inclusion of meat and animal fats in a healthy diet. Some meats and some fats are healthier than others, which leads to the most anxiety laden decision in my diet–where to find pasture fed, lean meat free of antibiotics, arsenic or hormones. Fortunately where I live such meat is not too difficult to find. Rubin and Brasco also recommend meats in their book, “Restoring Your Digestive Health.” Another interesting resource: Sally Fallon’s “Nourishing Traditions. ” Each of these authors has a website, so you can google much of their information.

      Secondly, there is a short term fix for this sort of stomach problem that you might try.

      Let me explain something first. The reaction I get from one time exposure to xanthan gum or carrageenan or non-fat dry milk (the only three that I am certain bother me), is slightly different from the state my stomach was in last week when I tried this holistic remedy. This recent condition had all the same symptoms as before except, (1) it lasted for days, and (2) it involved more upper stomach bloat with dull pain that felt as if acid were backing up in my esophagus, which is something I had really not experienced previously.

      I couldn’t figure out what was causing it. I read labels on everything, didn’t eat out, stopped taking supplements (to rule out tablet fillers, croscarmellose sodium or acacia gum, etc…!) and still the problem continued. Finally, I had to conclude that my snack of salty pretzels dipped in cream cheese might be the culprit. (Yes, I know, I shouldn’t have been eating that anyway.). This cream cheese brand used to include xanthan gum in their product, but they quit using it in favor of carob bean gum, which they use now. It could be that I am sensitive to carob bean gum, but I have not tested that, or there could be something that is sprayed on the pretzels when they are baked.

      So, anyway, I kept snacking on pretzels and cream cheese, unaware that this might be a problem, and my upper stomach and entire intestine bloating persisted. I looked as if i needed maternity wear, if you know what I mean. I tried taking Tums antacid, famotidine acid reducer, simethicone, natural digestive enzymes–nothing helped.

      Finally, the remedy that worked like a miracle cure, at the same time as I stopped eating the pretzels snack (just in case) was this: 3X daily, take 2tsp apple cider vinegar (the kind with the “mother” in the bottle) in 4-6 ounces of pure water with 1/4 tsp Baking Soda (sodium bicarbonate). It starts fizzing right away. Drink it down while it is still fizzing. Use a straw to direct the liquid to the back of your throat to help with the taste and keep the vinegar solution away from your teeth, which is important because ACV is an acid that can wear the calcium off of your teeth. I also put a half gallon of well water in a pitcher at room temperature and resolved to drink as much of if as I could throughout the day.

      I did this remedy for one day and woke up feeling just fine the next day. I continued taking it for a second day, and then switched to taking just ACV, 1 tsp, in a glass of water just before each meal, 3x daily.

      On day three I ate pretzels and cream cheese again and started to feel the stomach problem return, so I concluded there might be a problem with that. I am too busy feeling healthy at the moment to experiment to see whether the culprit was the cream cheese or the pretzels. Maybe I will do that next week. Maybe.

      Note: There is good reason to discontinue using baking soda in the diluted ACV solution once your stomach has mended. Baking soda seems to throw out the ph balance in the body if ingested for too long, which can lead to problems of its own, and it seems to deplete the body of certain vital nutrients, like zinc, potassium and vitamin C. For this reason it might be wise to take supplements during or after a course of the ACV/ water/ baking soda remedy.

      There is much written about the benefits of taking a small amount of apple cider vinegar with a meal to enhance digestion and improve health overall. Just be sure to either use a straw or thoroughly rinse your mouth after sipping a glass of diluted ACV so that you do not harm your tooth enamel.

      I hope this is in some way helpful to you.

      To your health,
      C

      • elskbrev says:

        Just writing with an update about the mysterious stomach trouble I was having, involving pretzels or cream cheese. The culprit was not the cream cheese, I am happy to say, because I like cream cheese, nor was it the pretzels, technically speaking, but rather the artificial butter flavoring that coated the pretzels.

        To determine which food was problematic, I first stopped eating both, then added each back, one at a time. Small amounts of the pretzels on one day gave me only minor stomach discomfort, hardly noticeable. It was worse with a second small snack of pretzels the next day and the next–a cumulative effect. I threw them out. Last week someone in our house had a birthday, so I made a delicious dessert that called for a half pound of cream cheese and I have eaten some of it each day for the past four days, and am very happy to report absolutely no stomach trouble.

        RE Artificial Butter Flavored pretzels:

        It turns out that the Diacetyl (DA) in artificial butter flavoring is a known health hazard, linked to Alzheimer’s disease, and known to cause lung problems, especially in persons exposed to it in their workplace.

        I found no reference to anyone experiencing bloat or acidic stomach from it, so maybe that is just me–it causes “sour stomach,” the kind where there seems to be a lot of acid at the top of the stomach and a little up into the esophagus, as well as bloating, burping and flatulence.

        Artificial butter flavoring may also contain acetoin, which can become diacetyl via a chemical reaction that takes place in the product to which the flavoring is added–‘a simple oxidation process involving ferric (iron) chloride.’

        The potential for harm is important enough that OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has stated, “It is important that all manufacturers and users of flavorings understand that even though a flavoring is considered safe to eat, it does not mean that the flavoring is also safe to breathe or handle in occupational settings.” Further, “The occurrence of severe lung disease among workers in workplaces where diacetyl is manufactured and used has led some manufacturers to reduce or eliminate the amount of diacetyl in some kinds of flavorings, foods, and beverages.” See: http://www.osha.gov/dts/shib/shib10142010.html

        It is interesting to note that where diacetyl is naturally occurring–in butter, milk, cheese, beer, and wine–it causes no lung problems, ‘but when vaporized it can cause damage to the bronchioles in the lungs, eventually deteriorating them into a serious irreversible condition called bronchiolitis obliterans.’ http://chemistry.about.com/b/2012/05/03/health-risk-from-butter-flavored-popcorn.htm

        I can attest to that–I have no problems eating dairy products, beer or wine. I just never eat popcorn, so I don’t know about that. I rarely eat pretzels, either; this was a holiday thing.

        Thus, I have found one more chemical laden additive for my personal hit list–artificial butter flavor.

        We are up to four or five now–xanthan gum, carrageenan, ‘non-fat dry milk’ (and ‘dry milk powder’), and artificial butter flavor (containing diacetyl?).

        Notes like this should probably be a separate post, so people who could benefit from seeing them could first find them. Another project for a rainy day.

        Meanwhile, take care.

        To your health,
        C

  12. Nice post. I too have suffered similar effects of Xanthan Gum for about 12 years and discovered the problem while going on a gluten free diet, about a year ago. I avoid most salad dressings and all ice cream but haagen dazs. It’s in so many things! I read labels on everything I buy and avoid going out to eat. I wish there was a way to get this on the FDA’s list of allergens… so it would show up on restaurant menus. I also find it’s in many products that claim to be organic. Does Xanthan Gum classify as organic?

    • elskbrev says:

      Thanks for posting. I am in full agreement–xanthan gum merits listing among potential allergens. Until someone suffers anaphylactic shock from it, however, that is not going to happen.
      Some people have used it for years, with no apparent problems. The industry has even declared that it may only be problematic if large amounts are consumed, citing exact levels, like 10mg or 15mg. Not one article cites an actual third party study to prove those numbers, but they cite them nonetheless.
      Sale of xanthan gum must be pretty big business for them to just overlook testimony from people like you, me and others…
      A quick google search on “xanthan gum side effects,” will show seven pages of online posts declaring that there are no side effects from ingesting xanthan gum, except in excessive amounts,…and then you find whisper of this tiny article in my not-really-a-blog blog where a few people, like you and me, find xanthan gum a truly painful substance to ingest, even in *trace amounts.*
      And, yes, xanthan gum is classified as organic, appearing often in liquid vitamins and in organic foods.
      Thank you for your post.

      C

  13. Very happy to find this! I have the same issue with xanthan and actually guar/acacia gums as well. Although I think my symptoms go a little further. I cut them out of my diet completely when I suspected that they were the issue for me. Last week I started adding packaged foods with xanthan gum back in my diet and within 12 hours was miserable and on the toilet. I only wish it hasn’t taken me 4 days to realize what I was doing!

  14. Jan-Marie Robertson says:

    I too have problems with both xanthan and guar gum. I get chest pain with the xanthan and intestinal distress with guar gum. I am gluten intolerant and have been for 20 years, I think that all of us need to definitely write to the FDA about our problems with it. I use to love Breyer’s Natural Vanilla and then last year they added guar gum and I started having stomach problems. I called them about it and they didn’t seem too interested about it. I have been calling all of the food companies that make gluten free foods, as they are putting xanthan in everything. I told them about my chest pains and continue to let grocery stores know about the problems with these additives. I had a yogurt day before yesterday at a local place and have been having problems for 2 days because it had guar gum in it. I have called Trader Joe’s and will continue to let everyone know about the problems. I am going to call Whole Foods in Texas and talk to the owner about these additives. You should too…

    I had a coffee blended drink at Peet’s Coffee, tried one at the Coffee Bean and found out later they both had xanthan gum in them . Had chest pain for 3 days with each one. I have learned the hard way to always ask if they contain it. This stuff is so bad for people who are already sensitive. I think all of the coffee houses use the same mix for blended coffee and they all have xanthan gum in it. Every coffee house or restaurant I go to I have to ask and when they don’t know, I don’t partake.

    • elskbrev says:

      @Jan-Marie Robertson,
      Thanks for posting. It is great that you are making an effort to contact companies about their use of xanthan gum and, in your case, guar gum. I have written to only three–a company that produces a liquid vitamin, a dairy company that puts xanthan gum in things like cottage cheese and cultured yogurt, and Haagen Dazs, to thank them for being the last hold out NOT putting xanthan gum or carrageenan in my favorite ice cream. Haagen Dazs has since added a texturizing/thickening agent to some of their formulas. (Interestingly, guar gum has never bothered my sensitive stomach.)

      Breyers used to be my ice cream of choice. When they started adding a texturizer/thickener to the formula, I quit buying it. In my opinion, it completely ruined the flavor of their ice cream. A quick check of the current ingredients for Breyers Natural Vanilla shows that they are using tara gum, not guar gum. Tara gum does not give me immediate stomach upset, and I have not eaten enough of Breyers ice cream to find out whether it has a cummulative effect, resulting in problems after a few days daily consumption. Thus, I am neutral in my opinion about tara gum–I tried eating it and did not get noticeable stomach upset immediately, but I choose to avoid it, in part because it makes Breyers taste like any other run of the mill cheap ice milk.

      There may be some merit in calling and writing to companies about your experience with xanthan gum and guar gum, but I believe companies will not stop using such additives until we, as consumers, vote with our pocketbooks…or people finally become so allergic that they start falling over in anaphylactic shock.

      What I am pleased to see are those instances where a potentially large xanthan gum (or carrageenan, etc.) corporate customer chooses to serve a product that, uniquely, does not contain xanthan gum or any other thickening agent. McDonald’s restaurants’ pancake syrup, for example, does not contain xanthan gum, carrageenan, guar gum or any other thickening agent. (I could be wrong–perhaps they are not required to disclose it on the label due to the small amount in the food.)

      Do you know how common it is for virtually every pancake syrup available in supermarkets to contain xanthan gum? To my knowledge, only Eggo still makes a pancake syrup without any thickening agents. (In fact, virtually every sauce or syrup product sold on supermarket shelves today contains xanthan gum.)

      But here is the point–if only one in a hundred of McDonald’s breakfast customers says, “I don’t know what it is, but every time I eat pancakes at McDonald’s, I get a stomach ache,” then that’s one percent of their pancake breakfast customers, a huge chunk of their worldwide business, customers they can choose not to lose over a potentially problematic food additive, by not using it in the first place.

      Eh, what do I care. I never buy corn syrup based pancake syrups, nor do I buy breakfast at McDonald’s. I eat home made from whole ingredients pancakes with pure maple syrup, sometimes, in my own house.

      When I wrote to the dairy company’s Research and Development Department, I simply pointed out to them the fact that most customers who get upset stomach from dairy products containing additives like xanthan gum or carrageenan will simply conclude that they must be lactose intolerant, and then they will stop buying *all* their dairy products…

      Get the word out, that is all we can do.

      Blessings,
      C

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