What is Xanthan Gum

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

Xantham gum is a very common food additive and filler, but it offers some surprising health benefits as well.

What is Xanthan Gum?

Xantham gum is a complex exopolysaccharide that is produced from microorganisms during a fermentation process. When glucose, sucrose or fructose is fermented, this complex polysaccharide is produced and can be isolated by using an alcohol extraction. Once it is dried, this gum can be crushed into a powder and thus used as an addition. While there are many claims that this gummy substance is carcinogenic or poses a threat to humans, when consumed in moderate amounts, it poses little threat. [1]

This ingredient has grown in popularity in recent years with the rise of celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, as this substance is completely gluten-free, but can provide much of the same filling or thickening needs of gluten and wheat. Xantham gum is derived from various sources of sugar, including dairy products, so it is not necessarily vegan-friendly, although some companies specifically state it on their packaging. Unfortunately, many people go through their life without knowing about xanthan gum or its potential benefits. [2]

Three white bowls and a teaspoon of flour on a wooden board, placed on a check cloth

There are many flours you can choose from. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Health Benefits

The top health benefits of xanthan gum include its impact on Celiac disease, weight loss efforts, cancer, and constipation, among others.

Celiac Disease

Since xanthan gum is gluten-free, it is a safe ingredient in foods that would normally use wheat flour or gluten derivatives. For the millions of people struggling with gluten intolerance, this gum represents a vital ingredient in many foods. [3]


Aside from being a food additive, this gum-like substance can also stimulate and speed digestion and is often considered a laxative. This can help eliminate symptoms of constipation and other gastrointestinal distress, such as bloating, cramping, nausea, and vomiting by flushing out the bowels.

Swallowing Problems

For people with nerve or muscle problems, xanthan-containing foods and supplements are considered some of the safest, as it can minimize the danger of choking. By reducing viscosity and allowing food to be swallowed more normally, it can prevent aspiration and breathing difficulties. [4]


This supplement has been found to lower overall serum glucose levels and slow the release of these sugars into the body, which is good news for diabetic patients and those at risk of developing the condition. [5] [6]


Numerous studies have found that xanthan gum is able to reduce the side effects of radiotherapy that may have affected oral tissues. [7]

Weight Loss

Even a small amount of this dense compound is able to help you feel full, thus cutting back on your need to snack or overeat, meaning more successful weight loss efforts.


You will find xanthan gum in a huge amount of products, both in grocery stores and elsewhere, including many of the following:

  • Baked goods
  • Cosmetics
  • Salad dressings
  • Toothpaste
  • Yogurt
  • Lotions
  • Medications
  • Ice cream
  • James and jellies
  • Sauces
  • Pastry filling
  • Sherbet
  • Industrial uses

Side Effects

There are some side effects of xanthan gum when it is taken in excess, particularly in supplement form. However, experts agree that consuming up to 15 grams per day is generally safe, which is a significant amount. Some people do experience allergic or negative reactions, including the following: [8]

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Flatulence
  • General stomach upset
  • Diarrhea

If you are experiencing inflammation of the appendix, some anecdotal evidence says that xanthan gum can exacerbate the condition. If you are undergoing surgery, stop consuming xanthan gum, as it can interfere with blood sugar levels following an operation.

DMCA.com Protection Status
About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

Rate this article
Average rating 3.6 out of 5.0 based on 6 user(s).