Why I Broke up with “Gums”

If there’s one thing I pride myself in, it’s being in tune with my body. When something feels “off” I don’t look for a quick fix or band-aid to cover up the problem. I’ve learned to dig deep and look for the cause – the root of the problem. Over the last few months, I’ve struggled a bit with feeling bloated (sorry, for the overshare) and my initial thought was that it had to be oats. Back when I had to go gluten-free (nine years ago), I was unable to consume gluten-free oats – I’m talking lots of pain and I looked like I was pregnant. I later became OK with gf oats after doing a cleanse and removing soy from my diet, but back in October, I began to notice the bloating and minor pain returned. I immediately cut oats out of my diet and within a week or two, I started to notice a difference. Fast forward a couple of months….bloating returned, but I hadn’t consumed any oats. I was seriously stumped.

After a lot of research, looking through our pantry and fridge, and by elimination, I figured out the culprit. GUMS! And I’m not talking about chewing gum, I’m talking about the additives found in SO MANY foods, baked goods, flours, protein powders, beverages, etc. For those with sensitive digestive systems, those who have IBS or other gut issues (leaky gut, etc.), I would HIGHLY recommend doing a little research or some trial and error. The purpose of all of these gums is to act as a “glue” to hold baked goods together (especially gluten-free, vegan items), thicken products such as coconut milk, ice cream, yogurt, etc.

image from LoveToKnow
  • Xanthan Gum – a substance produced by bacterial fermentation (or synthetically) and used in foods as a gelling agent and thickener. It’s actually the same bacteria that causes black spots (“rot”) on broccoli and cauliflower. Since it’s derived mainly from corn or soy, if the products you’re buying aren’t organic and they contain xanthan gum, there’s a very high chance it’s genetically modified (GMO) unless it actually states “certified non GMO.”
  • Guar Gum – actually comes from food and used as a thickener…but can cause stomach upset in those with a sensitive digestive system. Click HERE for a great breakdown about this ingredient.
  • Gellan Gum – similar to xanthan gum in that it is produced by bacterial fermentation.

We had been making our own nut + seed milks for about six years, but would always supplement with a store bought one as well. Being mindful about the ingredient list and avoiding ones that contained carrageenan or sweeteners. Over the last couple of years we got a bit lazy and began to enjoy the convenience of store bought and made less homemade. THEN Kite Hill had to go ahead and create a dreamy soy-free yogurt that actually tasted amazing!! Have you tried it…we were hooked.

Well, it all caught up with me.

The day I dumped out my jar of xanthan gum and tried rinsing it out was the day I woke up. Holy crap. Have you ever tried cleaning that junk up? It was goop-y, slimy and gross…and thinking about that sitting in my system literally made me feel ill. You might be wondering, “why did you have a jar of actual xanthan gum sitting around?!” Answer: for the few times a gluten-free recipe called for it. I know better now.

I thought I was doing an awesome job over the years of watching my intake of xanthan gum (and any other gums), but then I took a closer look. It was in our unsweetened almond milk, yogurt, bread, flatbread pizza crust, crackers and SO much more. All the little things began to add up. I was horrified. Knowing the effect it was taking on me and my sensitive system, I immediately thought, “what is it doing to little Willow?!”

Some of my favorite products contain some type of gum:

  • Trader Joe’s Sriracha
  • Mary’s Gone Crackers Graham Crackers
  • OrganicVille’s Sweet Chili Sauce
  • Organic, soft, corn tortillas
  • Full fat coconut milk (canned)
  • Store bought vegan cheese
  • Kite Hill cream cheese
  • Coconut Bliss Ice Cream
  • Steve’s Ice Cream

None of the above items are things we would consume on a regular basis, but still…crazy to think just how many products contain some type of gum (xanthan, guar, gellan, etc).

Luckily, our favorite protein powders are xanthan gum-free! We LOVE Sunwarrior’s Warrior Blend Vanilla and Garden of Life’s Organic Plant Protein (Smooth Chocolate). Again, we don’t use them all the time, but it’s good to know these products don’t contain any sneaky gums.

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I am in NO way trying to scare anyone and don’t claim to be an expert about any of this, BUT I wanted to share my personal experience and how I’ve improved. I also do not want to come off as elitist nor do I judge anyone for consuming pre-packaged foods that contain gums.

Am I cutting gums out 100%? No.

Am I going to do my very best to do so? Yes.

Considering it’s in just about everything that’s store bought/pre-made, I will do what I can to stop purchasing products that contain it and if we happen to go out to eat, I’m not going to stress about it. We’ve always been good about limiting our processed food purchases, but I will be the first to admit that when you’ve had a rough day, week, month, sometimes foods of convenience become a go-to…but planning ahead and food prepping has been huge for us. For the last few weeks we’ve gone back to exclusively making ALL of our milks at home (almond, cashew, hazelnut, hemp) as well as making our own yogurt. Here’s my current go-to  yogurt recipe. We blend it up and let it set in our yogurt maker for 13-14 hours – literally the best texture I’ve had AND way less sweet.

We’ve had our T-Fal yogurt maker for a few years and I can’t seem to find it on Amazon anymore…HERE is one that is similar.

Why I Broke up with "Gums"

Why I Broke up with "Gums"

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I’ve shared in a few of my posts how we make our own milk, but here’s a quick recap:

1 cup of raw, organic nuts (soaked overnight, drain & rinse)

3.5-4 cups filtered water

Sweeten if desired with maple syrup, coconut sugar or dates

Blend until smooth, strain using a nutmilk bag and store in fridge. You can sweeten if desired, but we always leave it unsweetened since we use it for various savory dishes as well.

It tastes WAY better than any store-bought milk and it’s less expensive.

Why I Broke up with "Gums"

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What about recipes that call for xanthan gum? Pizza crust, breads, etc? You can actually substitute it with psyllium husks!

Now that I’ve rambled all over the place, let me swing it back to the beginning where I talked about oats. I did a test and made some oatmeal…no pains anymore! I’m still limiting my intake just in case and I don’t want to overdo it – even though I’m insanely anxious to make all the recipes I’ve missed out on for the last four months! I’ve been consuming almost no xanthan gum and I no longer look like a pregnant woman and my digestive system is back to normal.

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Since I get so many questions about our favorite breads and flours, here they are and they do not contain “gums”:

Silver Hills Gluten-Free Chia Chia Bread or Gluten-Free Omega Flax Bread (organic, non GMO, sprouted)

King Arthur Gluten-Free Mulit-Purpose Flour >> We don’t use it very often as it is pricey, but it’s the best gf flour you can buy. We find it at Natural Grocers, Whole Foods or order it online (depends on who has the best deal).

Another fantastic gluten-free flour blend is a homemade version found in Somer’s book The Abundance Diet.

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If you’re experiencing stomach cramps, inflammation, migraines/headaches, bloating or any other digestive discomfort, I would definitely take a closer look at your labels – you might be consuming more “gums” than you think…I know I was. And if your kiddo is on a gluten-free “diet” I would absolutely be more mindful of labels.

Here are some articles and/or blog posts that I found interesting and helpful during my quest to learn more about these sneaky ingredients:

And HERE is a book that’s on my to-read list.

Again, I am only sharing this because I found out what was causing trouble for me and maybe this information could help someone else. I’m not a health expert, but I know my body and what it can and cannot tolerate. I urge you to do your own research and make your own conclusions.

Thanks for stopping by!