You may have seen several ingredients with the word "gum" in them. Locust bean gum, xanthan gum, guar gum, cellulose gum, even carrageenan and agar are all forms of thickeners commonly used in products that sit on the shelf at the grocery store.
They come in many things that need to look creamy or keep the oil and water mixed. It's not just a thickener, but are used to emulsify, change the texture or stabilize crystals within the product. Some of them are also used as binders in your medication.
Some of these have had an interest by the "weight loss" companies because they will gel in the system and cause a sense of fullness by expanding in the intestines, causing you to feel fuller, even though there is no nutritive value to the product. Apparently it was banned in the early 1990's by the FDA because, if not taken with enough water, it could create blockage in the intestines (specifically with guar gum).
Some of these gums are used to treat constipation, others are used for diarrhea. There is a precaution out about those with diabetes eating this product, since the gums might decrease the absorption of sugar from food, you may end up with lower blood sugar than your body should have, interacting with the medications you take. (I specifically saw this on xanthan gum and guar gum, but did not look into the other ones on WebMd, where I found this fact.)
Surprisingly, all these gums are derived from a plant source. Some come from corn sugars (xanthan gum, by fermenting with bacteria), some as powdered forms of the actual plant (guar gum, locust bean gum), some by placing the part of the plant in an acid (cellulose gum).
Where do we commonly find these products? Well, it would be found in many foods, but more commonly in things that need to be creamy in texture, such as ice cream desserts, yogurt, salad dressings, doughs and cakes, but I'm sure if you read labels, you'll find them in many more food products. It's also used in things that also use gelatin, like medical capsules. You'll find them in your hair products, makeup and shaving gels.
Is it safe? It tends to be relatively harmless and is not absorbed by the body, but in some cases it can cause bloating, headaches, diarrhea or constipation, I wonder if this is the issue with IBS? It does gel up, causing blockage without enough water, especially if you eat more than the recommended serving sizes of the products you eat them in. Because some of them (xanthan gum for example) are made from corn, wheat or soy, those with allergies to those sources can be allergic to this product.
Personally, I prefer my ice cream to be gum free, it's smoother on my tongue that those ice creams with more than 4 ingredients, I just don't see how those "dairy desserts" are really that much creamier with these thickeners. Plus I'm not a fan of the taste of corn syrup, so that doesn't help. Freshly making your salad dressings doesn't take much time and tastes better than the "shelf stable" dressings when you find the right combination of ingredients (especially since so many of them on the shelf also contain some form of MSG, see yesterday's blog). I'll probably be trying to avoid eating that much gum by making more things freshly.
My links for today's discoveries here:
Today's Holidays: Neighbor Day, Boys and Girls Club Day, Circus Day and National Devil's Food Cake Day. Those are easier to combine than today's gums by taking some kids and your neighbors to see a circus, then have some cake afterward.