How to Thicken your Smoothies: Guar and Xanthan Gum Info and Smoothie Porn

OK folks, usually I try to make my blog a bit fun. I like to keep things light for the most part and goof around. But today, I hope that you are ready to revisit science class. Grab your blankie, and curl up because you might end up head-bobbing while trying desperately to stay awake to read the scientific stuff at the end of this post. (Or you can always skip it!)

I have a few new readers (welcome to all of you and thank you if you have de-lurked!) and some of you are asking about the gums I use in my smoothies. Here's a link to my previous post about it. Also I have links to information from Bob's Red Mill on Xanthan and Guar Gums. Both gums are usually available at health food stores, online or even at some regular supermarkets.

Here is the basic story: the gums are natural carbohydrates and they do have calories: 20 per 7 g of Guar and 30 per 9g of Xanthan. They impart no flavor to smoothies, but make the shakes thicker and creamier. They prevent ice crystals from forming and therefore make very thick and luscious smoothies and ice creams. They are also used in gluten-free baking. It is not necessary to use the gums in smoothies, but they do improve the consistency and volume. Many, many processed food items already contain them, such as many ice creams and protein powders. Read some labels- you might be surprised. Even last night, Derek was cooking and happened to glance at the "I Can't believe It's Not Butter Spray". Yup, you guessed it- xanthan gum.

By the way, the best way to use the gums is to use them TOGETHER! They have synergistic properties and each one doesn't work as well without the other. Just an FYI from personal experience. If you must choose one, it should be xanthan. Guar does almost nothing on its own. This is, of course, my opinion.
Turns out that some people actually use these gums in much higher doses as over-the-counter medications for the treatment of constipation, diabetes, elevated cholesterol, IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) and other ailments (WHO KNEW!?). And when you use something as a medication, there are risks and side effects. There seem to be interactions with existing medications, and also with medical conditions- even pregnancy and breast feeding, so please read about them if you want to use these gums safely. Keep in mind that I typically use roughly 1/8-1/4 of a TEASPOON in each serving of my smoothie. The maximum recommended safe doses seems to be about 15 g of each, which is about 1.5-2 Tablespoons. That's way more than anyone could or should ever use in smoothies. (Your blender's motor would literally stop working due to the thickness of the smoothie).

Anyway, here is some smoothie porn and for those interested in the medical portion of this post, please read below.

Typical PB&J smoothie in a jar

End of smoothie porn. Begin Science-Speak:


The All-You-Need-To-Know article from WebMD:

Xanthan Gum:
Xanthan gum is a sugar-like compound made by mixing aged (fermented) sugars with a certain kind of bacteria. It is used to make medicine.

How does it work?

Xanthan gum swells in the intestine, which stimulates the digestive tract to push stool through. It also might slow the absorption of sugar from the digestive tract and work like saliva to lubricate and wet the mouth in people who don't produce enough saliva.

Possibly Effective for:

  • Use as a bulk-forming laxative to treat constipation.
  • Lowering blood sugar in people with diabetes.
  • Lowering cholesterol levels in people with diabetes.
  • Use as a saliva substitute for dry mouth.

XANTHAN GUM Side Effects & Safety
Xanthan gum is safe when up to 15 grams per day are taken. It can cause some side effects such as intestinal gas (flatulence) and bloating.
[Insert Deb giggle here. Tee hee hee]

People who are exposed to xanthan gum powder might experience flu-like symptoms, nose and throat irritation, and lung problems.

Do not take xanthan gum if:
  • You are pregnant or breast-feeding.
  • You have appendicitis.
  • You have a narrowing of your intestines (intestinal stenosis).
  • You have a blockage in your bowel.
  • You are scheduled for surgery in the next two weeks
Moderate Interaction Be cautious with this combination of medicines:

  • Medications for diabetes (Antidiabetes drugs) interacts with XANTHAN GUM
    Xanthan gum might decrease blood sugar by decreasing the absorption of sugars from food. Diabetes medications are also used to lower blood sugar. Taking xanthan gum with diabetes medications might cause your blood sugar to be too low. Monitor your blood sugar closely. The dose of your diabetes medication might need to be changed.
    Some medications used for diabetes include glimepiride (Amaryl), glyburide (DiaBeta, Glynase PresTab, Micronase), insulin, pioglitazone (Actos), rosiglitazone (Avandia), chlorpropamide (Diabinese), glipizide (Glucotrol), tolbutamide (Orinase), and others.

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) has set the maximum acceptable intake for xanthan gum as a food additive at 10 mg/kg per day and as a laxative at 15 grams per day. For safety and effectiveness, bulk laxatives such as xanthan gum require extra fluids.
  • For diabetes: a typical dose is 12 grams per day as an ingredient in muffins.

Guar gum is a fiber from the seed of the guar plant.

Guar gum is used as a laxative. It is also used for treating diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), obesity, and diabetes; for reducing cholesterol; and for preventing “hardening of the arteries” (atherosclerosis).

In foods and beverages, guar gum is used as a thickening, stabilizing, suspending, and binding agent.

In manufacturing, guar gum is used as a binding agent in tablets, and as a thickening agent in lotions and creams.

How does it work?

Guar gum is a fiber that normalizes the moisture content of the stool, absorbing excess liquid in diarrhea, and softening the stool in constipation. It also might help decrease the amount of cholesterol and glucose that is absorbed in the stomach and intestines.

There is some interest in using guar gum for weight loss because it expands in the intestine, causing a sense of fullness. This may decrease appetite.

Possibly Effective for:

  • Diarrhea. Adding guar gum to the tube feeding formula given to critical care patients may shorten episodes of diarrhea from about 30 days to about 8 days.
  • High cholesterol. Taking guar gum seems to lower cholesterol levels in people with high cholesterol. Guar gum and pectin, taken with small amounts of insoluble fiber, also lower total and “bad” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, but don't affect “good” high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol or other blood fats called triglycerides.
  • Diabetes. Taking guar gum with meals seems to lower blood sugar after meals in people with diabetes. By slowing stomach emptying, guar gum may also lessen after-meal drops in blood pressure that occur frequently in people with diabetes.
  • Constipation.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Possibly Ineffective for:

  • Weight loss.
Insufficient Evidence for:
  • Hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis).
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of guar gum for these uses.

Guar gum is LIKELY SAFE for most people when taken with at least 8 ounces of liquid. The water is important because it reduces the chance of choking or developing a blockage in the intestine.

Side effects include increased gas production, diarrhea, and loose stools. These side effects usually decrease or disappear after several days of use. High doses of guar gum or not drinking enough fluid with the dose of guar gum can cause blockage of the esophagus and the intestines.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Taking guar gum during pregnancy in typical amounts is POSSIBLY SAFE. But not enough is known about the safety of taking guar gum during breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

Gastrointestinal (GI) obstruction: Don’t take guar gum if you have a condition that causes obstruction or narrowing of your esophagus or intestine.

Surgery: Because guar gum might affect blood glucose levels, there is a concern that it might interfere with blood glucose control during and after surgery. Stop taking guar gum at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.

Moderate Interaction Be cautious with this combination

  • Ethinyl estradiol interacts with GUAR GUM
    Ethinyl estradiol is a form of estrogen that's in some estrogen products and birth control pills. Guar gum can decrease how much ethinyl estradiol the body absorbs. Taking guar gum along with estrogen-containing medicines might decrease the effectiveness of estrogen.
  • Medications for diabetes (Antidiabetes drugs) interacts with GUAR GUM
    Guar gum might decrease blood sugar. Diabetes medications are also used to lower blood sugar. Taking guar gum along with diabetes medications might cause your blood sugar to go too low. Monitor your blood sugar closely. The dose of your diabetes medication might need to be changed.
    Some medications used for diabetes include glimepiride (Amaryl), glyburide (DiaBeta, Glynase PresTab, Micronase), insulin, pioglitazone (Actos), rosiglitazone (Avandia), chlorpropamide (Diabinese), glipizide (Glucotrol), tolbutamide (Orinase), and others.
  • Metformin (Glucophage) interacts with GUAR GUM
    Guar gum can decrease how much metformin the body absorbs. Taking guar gum along with metformin can decrease the effectiveness of metformin.
  • Penicillin (Penicillin VK, Pen VK, Veetids) interacts with GUAR GUM
    Guar gum can decrease how much penicillin the body absorbs. Taking guar gum along with penicillin can decrease the ability of penicillin to fight infection.
Minor Interaction Be watchful with this combination
  • Digoxin (Lanoxin) interacts with GUAR GUM
    Some people worry that guar gum can decrease how much digoxin the body absorbs. But it is unlikely that guar gum will significantly affect digoxin absorption.

The following doses have been studied in scientific research:

  • For constipation: 12 grams per day. Start with a small dose of 4 grams per day and increase the dose slowly over time to limit unwanted gastrointestinal (GI) side effects.
  • For diabetes: 15 grams per day.
  • For high cholesterol: 15 grams per day of guar gum plus pectin in combination with 5 grams insoluble fiber.
  • For irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): 5 grams of partially hydrolyzed guar gum (PHGG). PHGG is guar gum that has been chemically treated to make it dissolve in liquids and keep it from being broken down by acid or heat.
Did you have a good snooze? Sorry if that was boring. But some of it is important.

Q: Have you tried the gums? If so, what was your experience with them?


Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) said...

Medical disclaimer info, just cant get away from that stuff :) Speaking of that, I have to be careful when I do too much XG GG or even Stevia or it's bathroom city for me. Not that you needed this but hey the medi disclaimer was an open door for me :)

And if there was the Gourmet Magazine equivalent of Smoothie Gourmet, yours would make the covers!!!!!!!!!!!

Kettle Corn, Tropical, it's all good!

Allie (Protein Girl) said...

Would you please come to my house and photograph my shakes for me? Thanks.

Your post is my dream come true - the intersection of pornography and science! Um, I meant food porn. No really I did!

Your post shall be replacing Professor Wikipedia as my go-to reference for gums!

homecookedem said...

WOW! That was a very informative post!! I've been curious about those ingredients. Who knew there were so many risks for people with diabetes... my husband has type 1 so I'm glad to be aware of it now.

Lovin the smoothie porn!! Cookies n creme is my fave picture!!

Susan said...

I have a bag of each sitting at home waiting to be used when I get back! So this info is puuurfectly timed for me. I'll definitely be referring to this post and past posts of yours when I crack them open. Here's hoping there are no blender disasters!

Janetha said...

that really is al i ever needed to know about the gums! which, sadly, i havent started using (yet).. i want to give them a try but i always forget to buy them. and to be honest i have not been drinking as many smoothies lately since it is winter. but that smoothie porn makes me want to whip one up! haha.. averie was dead on about the covers of smoothie gourmet ;) hah.. i told my mom i wanted a glass square bowl for christmas~like the ones here. she misunderstood and got me a GIANT square bowl. im like "gee mom that will hold a LOT of oatmeal!"


love you :)

Deb (Smoothie Girl Eats Too) said...

Janetha= are you cuh-razy? Your mom just gave you the most rad Hugh Jass Salad bowl ever! Do you eat HJs?

Heather McD (Heather Eats Almond Butter) said...

Gosh, I totally drool over that Cookies & Creme smoothie every time I see it.

Thanks for another great gums post Deb. You know I love directing people to you whenever they ask me about the gums. So, I find these post very helpful...interesting about the estrogen thing...

*Naomi* said...

thank you thank you Deb!!! I never knew the effects and also benefits of these two ingredients. I see them EVERWHERE and of course I should've guessed you would have done a tutorial on them! your smoothies look UNREAL, that popcorn one is so creative...well acutally they are all SO creative! I love reading the ingredients and looking at the pictures! almost too pretty to eat-ALMOST :)

Pure2Raw Twins said...

always have to use gums in our gluten free baking to help with final product ;) though have never used in smoothies... all yours look delicious

Hayley said...

LOTS and LOTS of smoothie porn! I am loving this post even though I don't often drink (eat?) many smoothies.

Thank you so much for posting the info on the xanthum and guar gums! I have the former and have not yet used it. No wonder why they say to only use a very small amount...hehehe. It looks as though it has a decent amount of benefits though.

Steph said...

Since you use so little of each of the gums per use, how do you store them? Just in a cool dry place or in the freezer?

Deb (Smoothie Girl Eats Too) said...

Steph- love my readers. You have so many smart Qs! I don't store the gums in a special way- they are in the cupboard at room temp.

Bekah said...

Did not know that xantham/guars acted as a laxative! (I'm going to have to remember that one....) :):) Hah!
Insert Beek giggle here.

Thanks for the other info as well. (Maybe that's why my guar is in capsule form??)

And holy wow, even before I read this post, I was like wow, Deb, smooothie porn. YUM.

Jennifer said...

Do you have a recipe for a thick tasty vegan recipe made with rice or hemp or soy protein powder instead of whey? Thanks

Deb (Smoothie Girl Eats Too) said...

Hi Jennifer,

Gosh, vegan, huh? Well, my absolute favorite chocolate shake of all time happens to be soy based. It's this one:

I can't explain why it tastes so good but it does. Sadly the calories are about 110 per scoop (not 80 like they claim) if you 'do the math', but it's still well worth it for the fabulous consistency and taste. I still use a little bit of the gums with it, but not too much as I believe it already contains some.

I got ahold of some Ray Robb Rice powder and had to throw it in the trash because it was so vile (in my very humble opinion- unless you like eating dirt).

Hope that helps!

Deb (Smoothie Girl Eats Too) said...

Jennifer...PS. I should have mentioned the name of my favorite soy based shake: Skinny mini by Nature's plus.

You can make many of my shakes vegan by subbing the vegan powder of your choice. Many of my add-ins are vegan.

guar gum manufacturer said...

thanks for the share........thats heaps of good information about guar gum and xanthan. I admire your recommendation and cautions with the use of gums. keep it up.

The Mind Relaxer said...

Hmm, so it's good for diabetic type person.. should try this gum and see if it's effective..

Ann Katherine said...

Very interesting. I subscribed to see future posts. Thanks!

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