What Exactly is Guar Gum and Is It Safe to Eat?

Read most processed food packages and, while many of the ingredients listed on the label will be different, one ingredient will show up in a wide range of foods we eat, from ice cream to bean chips. That ingredient is known as “guar gum.” Let’s face it: anything with the name “gum” in it doesn’t sound all that appetizing. So, what exactly is guar gum and should we eat it? Here’s what you need to know.

Guar gum is the fibrous part of a seed known as the “guar” bean, primarily grown in India and Pakistan. Used as a thickening and binding agent in the manufacturing of many foods, of which ice cream is the most popular, guar gum acts as a laxative in the body. It absorbs plentiful amounts of water as it moves through the intestines, bulking up and moving fecal matter along.

Because of its binding properties, it is now also used in the oil and gas industry as part of the process of hydraulic fracturing, or “hydrofracking.” It absorbs water and aids in the process of moving sand or earth in the extraction of oil. As a result of the demand for guar gum in this industry, the price of guar gum has skyrocketed and is now almost twenty times its 2010 price.

Back in the 1980s, companies began manufacturing guar gum diet pills for weight loss. The pills expanded in the intestines and purportedly increased the feeling of fullness; however, by 1992 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned these pills because they could block the esophagus of people taking them without drinking sufficient water to move the guar gum through the digestive tract.

The amount used in the food industry tends to be much smaller than that used in the diet pills, thereby removing most of the risk of premature expansion of the GI tract, causing blockages. It’s still a good idea to drink some water whenever you eat foods containing guar gum. Some people may experience diarrhea, bloating or loose stools after eating foods containing guar gum, but based on our current understanding of the food additive, it seems fairly safe for most people. Of course, as with any type of food or additive, some individuals could be allergic, but that’s extremely rare in the case of guar gum.

Guar gum has also been found to lower blood sugar levels. Diabetics taking medications that have the same effect may wish to monitor their blood sugar levels when eating foods with guar gum or avoid them altogether. If you have a gastrointestinal obstruction or narrowing of the intestines, such as in the case in diverticulosis, you may wish to avoid foods with guar gum. For women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, little is known as to whether guar gum may cause any issues for the baby. In these instances, the natural food additive is considered “possibly safe” so you’ll need to decide whether foods containing guar gum is right for you.

But, for the most part, guar gum is a natural food additive that appears to be a much safer one than most others.

Related
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What Exactly is Chewing Gum?
The Nasty Carcinogen Lurking in Your Bread

56 comments

Batista c.
Past Member about a year ago

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus1 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Marianne R.
Marianne R1 years ago

Good to know.

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Marianne R.
Marianne R1 years ago

Good to know.

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Genoveva M G.
Genoveva M M1 years ago

Thanks for sharing

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Carole R.
Carole R1 years ago

Good to know. Thanks.

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M. M.
M. M1 years ago

TYFS

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Nikki Davey
Nikki Davey1 years ago

Interesting article thanks.

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Fi T.
Past Member 1 years ago

Check well before consumption

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Naomi R.
Naomi R1 years ago

thanks

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