When I first started baking gluten-free foods I did what I was told and bought xanthum gum and included it in my cooking. I also bought gf baked goods that had it in. However, I rapidly noticed that I had gut problems when I ate anything with the gum in and stopped using it. The times I ate xanthum gum were reduced to those occasions where kind friends bought things for me to eat that had it in and I ate a little.
I did some research when I first suspected that it was a problem and found that it is used as a laxative. That was good enough for me - I stopped using it completely. I note that the discussions around whether xanthum gum has unwanted effects are increasing - to start with I seemed to be the only person saying be careful, especially to coeliacs who still find their bowel urgency makes travelling difficult but who are eating all the prescription foods with xanthum gum in.
This article gives a clear description of the sources, benefits, uses, and possible side effects of xanthum gum. I have not traced back their sources to original research in peer reviewed journals, but I think it is a good start if you want to know more about the issue. I particularly found this statement interesting
"Xanthan gum may be derived from a variety of source products that are themselves common allergens, such as corn, wheat, or soy. As such, persons with known sensitivities or allergies to food products are advised to avoid foods including generic xanthan gum or first determine the source for the xanthan gum before consuming the food.
Specifically, an allergic response may be triggered in people sensitive to the growth medium, usually corn, soy, or wheat. For example, residual wheat gluten has been detected on xanthan gum made using wheat. This may trigger a response in people highly sensitive to gluten. Some consider this to be a separate allergy to xanthan gum with similar symptoms to gluten allergy. Xanthan gum is a "highly efficient laxative", according to a study that fed 15g/day for 10 days to 18 normal volunteers. Some people react to much smaller amounts of xanthan gum, with symptoms of intestinal bloating and diarrhea."
accessed Dec 29 2010 19:13