Healthy Living

Guar Gum: A Sneaky Additive…and Laxative?!

April 20, 2013

My hubby and I enjoy the occasional splurge on ice cream. We searched high-and-low in our local supermarket and finally settled on the best option we could find at 9 o’clock at night. We bought an organic brand that looked decent enough, but there was one sneaky ingredient I had never heard of: organic guar gum. We put it in our cart anyway for a special treat, but as we were checking out – the check out girl asked us: “Do you know a lot about organic food? Can you tell me what ‘guar gum’ is?” I said, “I must Google it!”

What is Guar Gum

I was surprised how little legitimate literature (alliteration!) there was on the topic, but by filtering through – here is what I have found out.

Guar Gum 101

Guar Gum comes from the seed of the guar plant, which is a low-growing legume introduced to the United States by India in 1903. The crops are mainly from India, Australia, and the United States. “Guar” means “cow’s food” in Hindi. The endosperm is composed of large amounts of galactomannan gum which is what forms a thick gel when mixed into cold water. In recent years, guar gum has been used in many products and for many purposes. Guar gum has eight times the thickening ability of cornstarch.

“In Asia, guar beans are used as a vegetable for human consumption; the crop is also grown for cattle feed, and used as a green manure crop. In the United States, highly refined guar gum is used as a stiffener in soft ice cream, a stabilizer for cheeses, instant puddings and whipped cream substitutes, and as a meat binder. Most of the crop in the United States, however, is grown for a lower grade of guar gum, which is used in cloth and paper manufacturing, oil well drilling muds, explosives, ore flotation, and a host of other industrial applications.” (source)

Guar is processed by being removed from their pods, milled down, and then put through a screen process to obtain the guar gum powder (the ground up endosperm). They do sometimes wash the guar gum with alcohols like ethanol (“colorless volatile flammable liquid C2H5OH that is the intoxicating agent in liquors and is also used as a solvent and in fuel” Merriam-Webster).

Guar gums is not only used as a thickener and stabilizer in beverages and food, but also is used as a binder in manufacturing tablets, and a thickener in things such as creams, lotions, and toothpaste.

Guar Gum and Fracking

Guar gum is also used in the process of fracking, with I know is a heated debate whenever it is brought up. To learn more about guar gum and how it is used in the fracking process, watch below:


Guar Gum in Medicine

Guar Gum is also used as a laxative. Since guar gum is a fiber, it absorbs extra liquid in the – *ahem* – stool which in turn absorbs the extra liquid when issues with diarrhea occurs; and it also helps to soften the “issue” when constipation occurs. It essentially promotes a healthy bowel movement.

It also has been linked to treating conditions such as high cholesterol, diabetes, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

Should We Consume Guar Gum?

Guar gum has been known to cause blockage of the esophagus and intestines when taken in large amounts without enough water. Guar gum also is very high in fiber and has been known to cause digestive upset in some individuals.

The World Health Organization reported in 2007 that high levels of dioxins were found in guar gum used in food products from India. They were contaminated with a pesticide, that is no longer in use, called pentachlorophenol (PCP) – which contains dioxins. These dioxins are extremely toxic and can damage a person’s hormone balance, as well as their immune and reproductive systems. They also can cause developmental issues and cancer.

“Dioxins are environmental pollutants. They have the dubious distinction of belonging to the “dirty dozen” – a group of dangerous chemicals known as persistent organic pollutants. Dioxins are of concern because of their highly toxic potential. Experiments have shown they affect a number of organs and systems. Once dioxins have entered the body, they endure a long time because of their chemical stability and their ability to be absorbed by fat tissue, where they are then stored in the body. Their half-life in the body is estimated to be seven to eleven years. In the environment, dioxins tend to accumulate in the food chain. The higher in the animal food chain one goes, the higher the concentration of dioxins.” (source)

If you are going to consume guar gum, make sure that is comes from an organic and trustworthy source as this crop can be contaminated with pesticides. Also, the processing with alcohol solvents is something I would rather avoid.

I do believe that if you enjoy a small bowl of ice cream here and there, you will be just fine (80/20 rule!). Try to educate yourself on the source of the food and the guar gum to make an educated decision.

The Best Way to Enjoy Ice Cream

While guar gum is an additive in many different types of foods and beverages, you will almost always see it in most store-bought ice creams (even the organic ones!). I have a better solution to enjoy a sweet, creamy bowl of heaven.

Buy your own ice cream machine (like this one on my wishlist) and make delicious homemade ice cream – it’s pretty easy to throw together, and you get to control the ingredients!

To get started, here is a great recipe from Holistic Squid…homemade vanilla ice cream.

Sources: WebMD: Guar Gum, Guar from Purdue.edu, FAO.org, Merriam-Webster: Ethanol, WHO: Dioxins, About.com: Gluten-Free Cooking, WSJ: Guar Gum.

This post is a part of Sunday School, Make Your Own! Monday, Homestead Barn Hop, Melt in Your Mouth Monday, Meatless Mondays, Thank Your Body Thursday, Tasty Traditions, Simple Lives Thursday, Pennywise Platter, Full Plate Thursday, Frugal Food Thursday, Your Green Resource, Commercial Break Thursdays, Catch a Glimpse Party, Real Food Wednesday, Fat Tuesday, Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays, The Mommy Club, Traditional Tuesdays, Fresh Bites Friday, BFF Open House, Freaky Foodtastic Food Friday, Allergy Friendly Lunchbox Love, Frugal Friday, Friday Flair, Farmgirl Friday, Pity Party, Sweet Saturday, Sunday School, Party Wave Wednesday, Fat Tuesday, Frugal Days Sustainable Ways, Scratch Cookin’ Tuesday, Tasty Traditions, Well Fed Wednesday, Small Footprint Fridays, Real Food Wednesday, Homestead Barn Hop, Allergy Free Wednesdays, Healthy 2day Wednesday, Whole Foods Wednesday, Homemaking Link Up, What I Whipped Up Wednesday, simple Lives Thursday, Old-Fashioned Fridays, Fresh Bites Friday, Little House Friday DIY, Fitness Friday, Foodtastically Friday Up in Here, BFF Open House, Sunday School.

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30 Comments

  • Reply Violet April 24, 2013 at 4:37 pm

    Good to know! Needing to be gluten free, I utilize this more often than the average person.
    Thanks for sharing this!!

  • Reply GiGi Eats Celebrities April 24, 2013 at 8:17 pm

    Guar Gum just like Xanathan Gum make my stomach BLOW UP – It’s incredibly painful :( It stinks though because they are really good at thickening things!

  • Reply Tina Bock April 25, 2013 at 7:28 am

    Not a fan of it. I have Chrons and it makes my stomach hurt.

  • Reply Dawn April 25, 2013 at 7:46 am

    I noticed that guar gum is an ingredient in canned organic coconut milk. This bothers me. I’d like to find a brand that does not contain guar gum. Just pure organic coconut milk, please!

    • Reply Lan April 28, 2013 at 7:40 pm

      I’m interested in this too. I’ve been using Native Forest brand, which as far as I know is the only one whose cans are BPA-free. But it lists organic guar gum in the ingredients! :-( I guess people will say make your own, but *sigh* that’s just one more thing to have to make from scratch!
      I use coconut milk regularly for soups, homemade ice creams, and baking, because we’re milk-free (not dairy-free).

      • Reply Michelle May 1, 2013 at 4:24 am

        Natural Value coconut milk has BPA free cans, and has no guar gum…find it on Amazon!

    • Reply Tara September 9, 2013 at 1:18 pm

      It sounds like making your own might be the only option (or if canned gets too $$$)..it’s REALLY easy as long as you have a good blender. I have started getting my organic coconut by the case on Amazon because I realized how easy it was to make my own coconut milk, coconut butter, coconut flour, etc.

  • Reply Rasa K April 25, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    I use guar gum when I am making my own gluten-free bread. It’s probably required because it would thicken the dough, since there is no gluten present. I have no fears for using it because it contains only one teaspoon in the recipe. You don’t always have to fear things because they have funny names.

  • Reply Sunday Snippets April 27, 2013 at 5:54 pm

    [...] Guar Gum: A Sneaky Additive…and Laxative?! from Girl Meets Nourishment. This is a very informative post about a common additive. [...]

  • Reply Colleen April 28, 2013 at 4:26 pm

    While I sympathize with people who cannot thicken recipes with wheat flour, others would probably do well to avoid it. A growing number of people are learning their health problems aren’t limited to soy and peanut, but all legumes. Like me! In fact, I thought I was allergic to dairy, but it’s actually the guar they put in cottage cheese, sour cream, ice cream, etc. So, caution my friends.

    (I, too, wish I could get coconut milk without the gums!!)

  • Reply GMN's April Link Love 2013 | Girl Meets NourishmentGirl Meets Nourishment May 3, 2013 at 3:44 pm

    [...] ingredient list of many “organic” foods (and even the not-so-natural foods)? Find out what guar gum is in one of my posts from this month and decide whether or not you want to be consuming [...]

  • Reply Sherri @The Well Floured Kitchen May 5, 2013 at 12:54 pm

    Great article! I do try to avoid guar gum, but it really is everywhere. I find myself making almost everything from scratch, including ice cream! The homemade stuff is so much better than anything in the store. I have a compressor ice cream maker (don’t have to freeze the bowl), so you’d think I would make ice cream all the time. But I still buy a package every once in a while.

  • Reply Easy Homemade Coconut Milk | Girl Meets NourishmentGirl Meets Nourishment June 2, 2013 at 3:23 pm

    [...] being so easy to make, you can avoid extra additives like guar gum and completely ditch the aluminum cans (which may contain BPA) when you make coconut milk at home! [...]

  • Reply farmer_liz June 9, 2013 at 3:30 am

    Thanks for explaining this, I have been wondering the same, I generally try to avoid ingredients that I don’t recognise from my own kitchen, even if they sound harmless. I came to the same conclusion as you about ice cream after reading all the ingredients lists and not find any that I wanted to eat! I recently bought a manual turn ice cream maker on ebay, and after our house cow calved we had plenty of cream to experiment with. My favourite recipe had 1 cup raw cream, 1 cup raw milk, 1/2 cup rapadura and 4 raw eggs :) Yum! The only downside is the lack of ice cream containers, they are pretty handy….

  • Reply What's the Deal with the Organic Seal? | Girl Meets NourishmentGirl Meets Nourishment June 13, 2013 at 11:38 am

    [...] am a huge label reader. If I see soy lecithin, I put it back where it came from. Guar gum? Eh, I am little more lenient. If you are a label reader too, I bet you’ve seen the bright [...]

  • Reply Testy June 29, 2013 at 10:49 pm

    Guar gum gives me several symptoms. It makes me itch, especially on my ankles and inner arm. The softer skin areas. If eaten for several days in small amounts causes a rash or circular patch or sore. If a large amount is consumed, then flushing all over and painful bloating and urgent multiple trips to bathroom like food poisoning.

  • Reply Heather July 6, 2013 at 5:13 am

    If organic and tolerated by the individual, I do not see that this is a problem. I’d MUCH rather use this for thickening than cornstarch. It was also recommended by our naturopathic physician as a fiber to add to our morning breakfast smoothies to help balance blood sugar. I just don’t see it as an evil.

    • Reply Katie July 6, 2013 at 11:06 am

      Hello Heather,

      In my post, I specified near the end:

      “If you are going to consume guar gum, make sure that is comes from an organic and trustworthy source as this crop can be contaminated with pesticides. Also, the processing with alcohol solvents is something I would rather avoid.

      I do believe that if you enjoy a small bowl of ice cream here and there, you will be just fine (80/20 rule!). Try to educate yourself on the source of the food and the guar gum to make an educated decision.”

      I do not see it as evil either, I just believe that it should come from a good source. For thickening sauces and soups – I am a big fan of arrowroot powder, which you can great more about in my post “Arrowroot Powder vs. Cornstarch: Why Arrowroot Powder is a Better Choice”: http://girlmeetsnourishment.com/gmnwordpress1/arrowroot-vs-cornstarch/

      Thank you for sharing! :)
      Katie

  • Reply Is Locust Bean Gum Really Made from Locusts? | Girl Meets NourishmentGirl Meets Nourishment July 14, 2013 at 12:08 pm

    [...] used in food, like I shared in the past with Guar Gum and Xanthan Gum, are used to preserve, stabilize, alter texture, emulsify, or thicken in some way. [...]

  • Reply Homemade Creamy Coconut Milk - The Sprouting Seed July 16, 2013 at 12:51 am

    [...] gum–it is often difficult to digest and can cause tummy trouble (for more info, check out this post from Girl Meets [...]

  • Reply Douglas Wallace August 4, 2013 at 9:49 am

    Thanks for the informative research. I saw this in a bottle of Aloe Gel, and was wondering what it was. (I have to dissect every ingredient I put in my body)

  • Reply Angela August 27, 2013 at 7:34 pm

    Awhile back I was wondering what had happened to ice cream…why it just didn’t taste the same. That’s when I discovered the “gums” that are now in virtually all ice creams…even ones that claim to be natural. Luckily, I discovered the Turkey Hill “All Natural” ice creams with the brown tops. Delicious! And the ice cream actually melts! Not all Turkey Hill is natural so read your labels!

    • Reply Josh September 9, 2013 at 9:07 am

      Guar Gum fits all the criteria to be natural here in the US. In fact, it really is more natural than alot of other things they could put in there.

      Not claiming it is good, but the term ‘natural’ is nebulous at best and should never be the final criteria used to decide what to buy.

  • Reply Megan December 21, 2013 at 8:14 am

    They tell you that milk is natural. But milk is natural as it comes from the cow, not when it has been pissteurized and killed.

  • Reply Green Your Halloween in 3 Simple Steps | Naturally Mindful January 12, 2014 at 12:36 pm

    […] and FD&C Yellow 5 and Blue 1 that can alter a child’s behavior (source), emulsifiers like gums and soy lecithin, and stabilizers like benzoates, nitrates, and […]

  • Reply Ki February 2, 2014 at 12:38 pm

    I had 1/5 of a pint of “So Delicious” brand chocolate coconut milk and I am sick to my stomach. I had stomach pains and gas and then diarrhea and throwing up and hard keep liquids down so getting headaches. In my research seems they use to much guar gum as it’s high in fiber but low in fat (cocnut milk is usually high in fat per cup). I came to find a handful of others had similar experiences with this brand and other brands of coconut ice cream that use guar gum. The next day and I’m still writhing in sickness /:

  • Reply What The Hell is Guar Gum? | Hummus Is My Homegirl March 3, 2014 at 9:16 am

    […] 2007, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported high levels of dioxins due to pesticide contamination in guar gum food products obtained from India—a large and […]

  • Reply Scott March 17, 2014 at 4:22 pm

    I contacted Namaste Foods and asked them about their Guar Gum in their flour. They advertise their flour as free of corn, so I contacted and asked them. They replied, “Namaste Foods uses xanthan gum that is not derived from corn or corn sources. It is certified by the manufacturer to be free of all carbohydrates including corn, wheat and soy. Additionally, we receive allergen statements and verifications of third party inspections and testing.”

    Good to know there are sources other than corn, and manufacturers willing to use those other sources.

  • Reply nil October 4, 2014 at 7:49 am

    hi, liked your article…. thanks

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