X is for Xanthan Gum

XAfter finding my own allergies in my late twenties, early thirties (you know a couple of weeks ago), I came to the conclusion: if I can’t pronounce it, I probably shouldn’t eat it. If I can’t pronounce it, it’s probably an additive, a preservative or a I-don’t-know-a-tive. Those are scary for those of us that don’t leave the house without an epi pen in our purse or pocket and have no problem ripping open the box and chugging a Benadryl in the middle of Walmart.

When you look at the Nutrition Label of many products you’ll find Xanthan Gum (pronounced zan-thuh n). So, today’s blog takes a look at what in the world am I eating that I can’t pronounce.

Xanthan gum is a sugar-like compound made by mixing aged (fermented) sugars with a certain kind of bacteria. It is used to make medicine. Xanthan gum is used for lowering blood sugar and total cholesterol in people with diabetes. It is also used as a laxative. Xanthan gum is sometimes used as a saliva substitute in people with dry mouth (Sjogren’s syndrome).

In manufacturing, xanthan gum is used as a thickening and stabilizing agent in foods, toothpastes, and medicines. Xanthan gum is also an ingredient in some sustained-release pills.

How does it work?

Xanthan gum swells in the intestine, which stimulates the digestive tract to push stool through. It also might slow the absorption of sugar from the digestive tract and work like saliva to lubricate and wet the mouth in people who don’t produce enough saliva. (TMI?) This information taken from WebMd.

Xanthan gum may be derived from a variety of source products that are themselves common allergens, such as corn, wheat, dairy, or soy. As such, persons with known sensitivities or allergies to food products are advised to avoid foods including generic xanthan gum or first determine the source for the xanthan gum before consuming the food. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xanthan_gum)

So, many GF recipes call for Xanthan Gum because most gluten free flours don’t thicken like “normal” flours. It’s unique ability to hold small particles of food together makes it the ideal substitute for gluten in gluten-free baking making a it perfect all purpose thickener for dressings, gravies and sauces. As mentioned above, it may be made from the very foods you are allergic or sensitive to. PLEASE, take care in its use. I am not a doctor, I only play one on the internet. That and chef. Check with your doctor. Check your allergy tests. Check your epi pen and make sure it’s not expired.

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