T’is the season for candy-colored eggs, baby farm animals, and ultimately, rebirth. And while you may or may not celebrate certain holidays this time of year, chances are you’ve at least seen, if not partaken of, some of the confectionary treats. This year I was forced to hold back, for obvious reasons. My all-time favorite Easter candy, Whoppers Malted Milk Eggs, are not gluten-free. Sugar is also bad for inflamed intestines. (I keep telling myself I’m better off – it’s almost bathing suit season, after all.) And lately–although it’s not found in the Malted Eggs–another ingredient has proven itself a trigger for my UC: Xanthan Gum.
Chris Kresser’s article “Harmful or Harmless: Xanthan Gum” discusses the pros and cons of this food additive. It’s found in chewing gum, which has always aggravated my stomach, and is also found in many gluten-free products. I began noticing increased aggravated symptoms after consuming certain gluten-free snacks and began reading the ingredients list to narrow down what the hell was sending me running to the restroom. After a couple of weeks of the food/ingredient elimination process, I discovered I cannot tolerate xanthan gum.
I did a little light research and discovered that though some xanthan gum contains gluten, it can also be made from non-gluten food items. Since my foods were certified as gluten-free, I ruled out trace gluten as the source of my problem. So what was it about xanthan gum that my guts hated? Turns out that regardless of what it’s derived from, it’s a LAXATIVE! Furthermore, in Kresser’s article, he references a “study, conducted to evaluate the effects of xanthan gum on digestion in rats, [which] found that a diet containing 4% xanthan gum increased the amount of water in the intestines by 400%, and also increased the number of sugars remaining in the intestine.” That’s really, really bad news for anyone dealing with IBD or IBS. More water in the intestines causes diarrhea. And for those of us with an overdose of negative bacteria, increased sugar means a fantastic breeding ground for the nasty little buggers. (Another reason why the Specific Carbohydrate Diet is solely low-to-no sugar foods.)
Some people with IBD are going to be more sensitive to xanthan gum than others. But if you’re finding that something as innocuous as a cookie or cracker is causing bloating, gas and possibly a trip or two to the porcelain throne, check the ingredients. Perhaps xanthan gum is your culprit too.