Guar gum is everywhere - you can find it in ice cream, yogurt, protein bars, and many other foods - and largely safe. If you have stomach problems, a soy allergy, or diabetes, talk to your doctor and check the label first.
Guar gum is a common thickener used in a wide variety of foods. It's a soluble fiber, so it soaks up water and moves things along in your gut. For the most part, it can't be digested. After you eat a product containing guar gum, it forms a thick gel that makes you feel full and passes through your digestive system. In some people, guar gum works as a laxative or treatment for irritable bowel syndrome. Your mileage may vary, however. Guar gum can conversely cause constipation, gas, bloating, or diarrhea, depending on the state of your gut, how much you consume, and how often you consume it.
Sometimes guar gum is manufactured with soy protein. This is a problem if you've got a soy allergy. Depending on the severity of the soy allergy, eating guar gum manufactured with soy protein could bring on a reaction ranging from mild to severe. On the mild end, that could mean discomfort, a runny nose, coughing, shortness of breath, or hives. More severe reactions might bring on anaphylactic shock. If you have a soy allergy, make sure that the guar gum in products you consume was not manufactured with soy.
Guar gum is usually safe, but that doesn't mean that the chemicals used to grow it are. According to foodnavigator.com, EU regulators found a batch of guar gum imported by the Swiss from India in 2008 contained a defunct fungicide called pentachlorophenol. That meant that the guar gum was contaminated with dioxins, which can cause a wide range of health problems - immune system damage in low doses, cancer in high doses, and problems with fetal development in pregnant women. Although dioxin contamination doesn't seem to be a regularly recurring problem with guar gum, some will want to seek out organic options.
In the 1980s, guar gum was widely available as a weight loss pill. The idea was that it would expand when it reached the stomach - people would feel full, even though they were full of guar gum instead of food, and they'd subsequently eat less. Unfortunately, the pills had a bad habit of expanding before they reached the stomach. Several people ended up in the hospital after the diet pills swelled up and blocked their throats. Some had similar problems when the diet pills expanded and blocked their intestines.The FDA yanked guar gum diet pills from the market after that. Should you find an old box of these diet pills lying around, don't think you can use them to lose weight - you might choke.
Guar gum can change the way that your body processes glucose. Pubmed has multiple studies that show it can help with glycemic control, reduce insulin requirements in diabetics, and lower fasting blood glucose. If you're diabetic, you should always check with your doctor before consuming a product that will affect your body's glucose or insulin levels.
There's also evidence that indicates guar gum can help to regulate cholesterol levels. It can lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (that's the "bad" cholesterol) while raising HDL cholesterol (the "good" cholesterol.) If you struggle with cholesterol, talk to your doctor about incorporating guar gum into your diet.
Possible short-term side effects
Commonly found in
Ingredients to be aware of
- potential allergens - sometimes manufactured with soy
- can help with ibs and constipation
- insulin control and glucose regulation in diabetics
- can lower cholesterol levels
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Written by Sean McNulty | 09-06-2016
Written by Sean McNulty
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