Does xanthan gum contain gluten?

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Katarina Mollo MEd, RDN, LDN
Q: I have a reaction to xanthan gum which is found in many gluten-free breads. Does it contain gluten?

Answer


It is common to react to xanthan gum as well as guar gum. These types of gums are often present in gluten-free baked goods. Although they can cause symptoms similar to a celiac reaction such as gas, bloating, and discomfort, they do not contain gluten.

Often people are ok with one or the other, so it is a good idea to switch from one to the other if you react to either of them.

What is xanthan gum?

Xanthan gum is a food additive used as a thickener, emulsifier, and stabilizer in food. It is often used in gluten-free baked goods as a replacement for gluten. Xanthan gum is a polysaccharide gum derived from the bacteria Xanthomonas campestris by a pure-culture fermentation process (1)

Most people can consume up to 15 grams a day of xanthan gum. It can cause bloating and gas since it absorbs water and expands in the intestine, and because of this it is sometimes used as a laxative.

Guar gum

Guar gum is extracted from the seed of the guar plant. Like xanthan gum, it is used as an emulsifier, stabilizer, and thickener in foods and frequently used in gluten-free baked goods to lend structure. (2)

Note:

When buying xanthan or guar gum make sure they are labeled GF. Products labeled GF are required to contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten.

Most GF bread mixes already have xanthan gum or guar gum added, so do not add extra if you are using a bread mix that already has it in it. 

What can I use instead of xanthan and guar gum?

Other alternatives:

Physllium husk (2:1 ratio)

Chia seeds and water (1:1 ratio)

Ground flax and water (1:1 ratio)

Gelatin (2:1 ratio)

Egg whites (1 egg white for every tablespoon)

Agar agar (1:1 ratio)

(3)

References:

  1. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). CFR - Code of Federal Regulations Title 2. Xanthan Gum. FDA Website. Updated January 6, 2022. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/cfrsearch.cfm?fr=172.695
  2. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). CFR - Code of Federal Regulations Title 2. Guar Gum. FDA Website. Updated January 6, 2022. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/cfrsearch.cfm?fr=184.1339
  3. Wartenberg L. 9 Substitutes for Xanthan Gum. Healthline Website. Published May 13, 2020. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/xanthan-gum-substitute#The-bottom-line

Reviewed October 21, 2022.

Note: This information is provided by NCA and Katarina Mollo MEd, RDN, LDN, NCA's Director of Education. This information is meant for educational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for personalized medical advice or replace any medical advice provided directly to you by your health care provider. No liability is assumed by the NCA or Katarina Mollo, MEd, RDN, LDN by providing this information.

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