Xanthan gum is often used in products such as medicines and toothpastes and is used to stabilise and thicken certain foods. It is made through mixing fermented sugars with certain types of bacteria and can be used to lower cholesterol and blood sugar in individuals who have diabetes. Ingesting up to 15g of Xanthan gum each day is deemed safe, but it has been known to cause irritations in some people.
Because the bacteria to make Xanthan gum eats plants such as soy and corn during the fermentation process, those people who have allergic reactions to these plants should avoid eating products with Xanthan gum. Currently, manufacturers are not required to list the Xanthomonas capestris bacteria, the bacteria used to make the gum, on the product. Difficulty in breathing, a change in heart rate or a rash could signify an allergic reaction to the gum and a doctor should be called immediately.
Many home cooks purchase a powdered form of Xanthan gum to use at home. However, if not used carefully, a powdery cloud can be created after pouring, which can then be easily inhaled. In some people, the gum will accumulate in the lungs, making it difficult for the lungs to work properly. This can cause respiratory distress. Other side effects of exposure include irritation to the throat and nose. WebMD recommends handling the powdered form of Xanthan gum gently when adding it to baking recipes or any other handling in the kitchen. If breathing problems increase, contact a doctor for a full examination.
Among its many uses, Xanthan gum is used as a laxative and in some people can cause diarrhoea. The gum works to swell the intestine, causing the digestive system to move stool through the body. In people sensitive to laxatives, this could cause the supplement to work too well and cause uncontrollable bowel movements. It has also been known to cause the feeling of bloating in the stomach and flatulence after consuming it, according to WebMD.
Much is still not known about the effects of Xanthan gum. WebMD recommends that women who are breast-feeding or pregnant should avoid large amounts of Xanthan gum. Those who have fecal impaction, the narrowing or blockage of the intestines, appendicitis or stomach pain should also avoid the gum because of its laxative effect. Xanthan gum is considered a bulk-forming laxative, which makes it dangerous in these circumstances. Although the gum does lower blood sugar in those who have diabetes, concern still remains about how that might affect a person during surgery. For those who have a scheduled surgery, WebMD suggests stopping the use of the gum at least two weeks before to avoid any interference with controlling the blood sugar.
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