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Why I don’t eat Food Additives: Xanthan Gum, Guar Gum etc

Just like the title says: I don’t eat food additives such as xanthan gum, guar gum or basically any ingredient / food that is highly processed. When I’m grocery shopping I look at the ingredient list on every single item I buy. I look for ingredients that I don’t recognize. If it has a chemical sounding name, or is a name not from nature I don’t buy it. Although typically, the food I’m buying doesn’t come with a list of ingredients (produce and meat).

Why do I do this? For my health dummy (just kidding you’re not a dummy)! For many reasons.

  1. One of the most beneficial things you can do for your health is researching/understanding nutrition. Knowing how our bodies work and how food affects the human body will keep you feeling young and alive for as long as you live (as long as you implement what you learn).
  2. A lot of “HEALTH FOOD” has additives that are unhealthy for you. Just because they are organic or are approved by the FDA doesn’t mean they are good for your body. Knowledge is power, and if you know what you’re putting into your body then you might understand why your body acts a certain way.

There are hundreds of food additives but what I’m talking about today are the ones most commonly found in “health food”. Foods such as dairy, non-dairy milks, cheeses, canned vegetables, sauces and dressings, breads, crackers, the list goes on and on.

*To preface, the facts below are pulled from the internet. As we know internet is not always a reliable source. Some facts are from published studies/articles, some are from other blog posts. Either way the research I’ve compiled below is enough for me to stop eating food additives.

INTRO

Below are the health facts for xanthan gum, guar gum, cellulose gum, carrageenan, and calcium chloride. In my weekly grocery shopping these are the food additives I most commonly come across. In the past I would look right over these ingredients, not giving them a second thought.  It was when I did the Whole 30 diet that I put two and two together. For the diet I stopped eating these additives and I had never felt better. Maybe, just maybe, they are part of the problem (the problem being my gut imbalance).

All of the ingredients below are approved by the FDA in SMALL DOSES, but as you will see when taken in large doses they are harmful to the human body.

Xanthan gum

Xanthan gum is most commonly used as a thickener. You will see it in sauces, canned food, ice cream, baked goods etc. 

WHAT IS IT?

In layman’s terms Xanthan gum is made when a bacteria is added to a liquid sugar which is then fermented. The byproduct is dried and turned into a powder called Xanthan gum. More detail below:

“Xantham gum is secreted by a specific bacteria called Xanthomonas campestris. Xanthomonas campestris is a bacteria that causes a variety of plant diseases such as Leaf Spot. This bacteria is added to a sugar liquid and allowed to ferment. It turns into a goo like substance which is then dried and turned into a powder. Xantham gum is born.” 1

EFFECTS ON THE BODY

Xantham gum is considered a soluble fiber. Soluble fibers are carbs that your body cannot breakdown. Instead, they absorb water and turn into a gel-like substance in your digestive system, which slows digestion. Your body is unable to digest xantham gum and has no nutritional value, instead it is flushed from the body.

In human studies, large doses of xanthan gum were found to have increased frequency of bowel movements, softer stools, increased gas and altered gut bacteria.  

Despite all of that the FDA considers xantham gum safe when taken in small quantities.

 

Guar gum

Guar gum is a powdered substance used to emulsify and thicken the texture of foods and industrial products. You will find it in coconut or nut milks, yogurts, soups, fiber supplements, and body lotions.

WHAT IS IT

Guar gum is derived from a legume: guar beans. Sounds harmless enough, a natural product, but…

EFFECTS ON THE BODY

  • Guar gum can be used to treat constipation, for those suffering from diarrhea the addition of guar gum can just make it worse
  • In high doses it has been shown to increase the growth of E.coli in the small intestine
  • A study done on rats showed when given guar gum it increases intestinal permeability aka leaky gut

 

Calcium Chloride

You will see calcium chloride used as a salt in chips, sports drinks, canned foods, tofu, pickles, and more. It is used to add salt and also to firm a product.

WHAT IS IT

Calcium chloride is very rarely found in nature and is a chemically made compound.

EFFECTS ON THE BODY

Calcium chloride has a low toxicity rating, but ingestion can still lead to many problems. “This is due to a process called hydrolysis, which occurs when calcium chloride reacts with water and creates excess heat as a byproduct. Ingestion may seriously irritate the moist linings of the body, such as those in the nostrils, mouth and throat, lips, eyelids and ears. Ingestion of larger amounts may induce gastrointestinal upset, vomiting and abdominal pain.”

Carrageenan

Carrageenan is added to many dairy products, yogurt, baby formula, tofu, coconut or nut milks. It is used as a thickener and emulsifier.

WHAT IS IT

Carrageenans is extracted from red edible seaweeds, technically a natural product but is it safe?

EFFECTS ON THE BODY

From my research Carrageenan is a tricky one to decipher, one study said “carrageenan reacts differently in different species. In rats it may react one way, in humans is reacts vastly different.”

Nonetheless here are some unsettling facts.

  • There are also two types of carrageenan, degraded which is inedible and undegraded which is approved for human consumption. Both types of carrageenan are unsafe, and undegraded carrageenan has been associated with cancer growth and other stomach problems
  • “A study done by Dr. Tobacman showed that exposure to carrageenan causes inflammation and that when we consume processed foods containing it, we ingest enough to cause inflammation in our bodies. That’s a problem since chronic inflammation is a root cause of many serious diseases including heart disease, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, and cancer.” 4
  • Carrageenan has also been used in the past to test the anti-inflammatory properties of new drugs by causing inflammation in the body!
  • When laboratory mice are exposed to low concentrations of carrageenan for 18 days, they develop “profound” glucose intolerance and impaired insulin action, both of which can lead to diabetes.

It baffles me that this is approved edible and is in so much of our food!

 

 

Cellulose gum

Cellulose gum is used in everything from cosmetics to ice cream. It is a thickener used to make foods thicker and creamy, it is often used in low-fat foods to improve the consistency.  

WHAT IS IT

Cellulose is derived from wood pulp and cotton cellulose.

EFFECTS ON THE BODY

Cellulose gum is a fiber and is indigestible. When you eat foods that contain it, it goes through your digestive system without being absorbed or even degraded.

While Cellulose gum appears to be fairly harmless any “gum” additives have been linked to massive bacterial overgrowth in the gut, damage to the mucus barrier of the small intestine and inflammation in the small intestine in animals.

Even though most studies have been done on animals and not humans, the results are alarming. Why risk it if you can just avoid it?

WOULD YOU EAT IT?

 

After knowing the facts, would you consider these things edible? 

These additives are a huge problem in our food industry.  The FDA says these additives are safe in small quantities. But what if we are not eating them in small quantities? I have seen every single one of these additives in “HEALTH FOOD”. Food that you eat with every single meal!  At what point is it no longer a small quantity and is unsafe for your health? I would suggest it’s never safe for your health to ingest any of these additives.

 

 

Other informative articles/sources

  1. Source 1
  2. Source 2
  3. Source 3
  4. Source 4
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Why I don't eat Food Additives: Xanthan Gum, Guar Gum etc
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Why I don't eat Food Additives: Xanthan Gum, Guar Gum etc
Description
Below are the health facts for xanthan gum, guar gum, cellulose gum, carrageenan, and calcium chloride. In my weekly grocery shopping these are the food additives I most commonly come across. In the past I would look right over these ingredients, not giving them a second thought. It was when I did the Whole 30 diet that I put two and two together. For the diet I stopped eating these additives and I had never felt better. Maybe, just maybe, they are part of the problem (the problem being my gut imbalance).
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