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Toxic Food Additives Are Common In Gluten Free Foods

Are These Toxic Food Additives Derailing Your Gluten Free Diet?


In this episode of the Gluten Free Warrior Podcast, I have Mira Dessy, The Ingredient Guru, on the show to discuss how hidden toxic food additives and ingredients can sabotage your gluten free diet . We discuss common gums and hidden sugar additives and why you should look to avoid many of them.

Can Food Gums Damage the Gut?

Gums are commonly used food additives that are used to increase the “stickiness” that gluten typically gives to foods. They can be used as thickening agents as well, and are common ingredients in processed foods like, mayo, salad dressings, yogurt, milks, soups, ice cream, and sauces. These gums are also found in non edible items like toothpaste and lotions. In small amounts, they might not be a big problem, but when you gravitate toward a diet where gums are present in the bulk of what you are eating, they can become disruptive to the gut for two major reasons.

  1. Many gums draw water into the gut, and…
  2. Many gums are difficult to digest (especially in those with gut damage already). Symptoms to look out for include – diarrhea, bloating, cramping, stomach pain, runny nose, sinus congestion, and in some cases severe body pain and hives. Common gums include:
  • Carrageenan Gum – It is recommended that you avoid this seaweed derived gum, as multiple research studies show that this common food additive can create GI inflammation. It has the highest potential for harm. It is most commonly found in non-dairy milk (almond and coconut). It is also found in toothpastes, which is safe to use if not ingested.
  • Agar – Like carrageenan, this compound is derived from seawood. It can pull water into the gut, expanding it. It is used as a weight loss agent in some cultures. If taken without adequate fluids, esophageal and bowel obstruction are possible.
  • Tara Gum – This is derived from the seed of a legume (Tara tree) through bacterial fermentation. This gum was used to replace most of the healthy fat in Breyers ice cream. It is relatively new and has not been tested for safety in humans.
  • Gellan Gum – This is similar to Xanthum Gum, which is produced by bacterial fermantation. There is limited data on its safety, but avoid if you have a sensitive gut.
  • Xantham Gum – This is a byproduct of the bacteria Xanthomonas Camestris. The problem with this gum is that it is produced by the bacterial fermentation of corn, wheat, and other grain based sugars. Many with gluten issues also have issues with this gum, and I highly recommend avoiding it, if you are following the TRUE gluten free diet.
  • Guar Gum – This is derived from the guar bean, this gum can be a cause of GI symptoms. If you are going gluten free and have persistent GI issues, you might want to check your diet for this ingredient.
  • Locust Bean Gum – As it’s name implies, this gum is bean derived (carob). If you have persistent gut issues while on the gluten free diet, you might want to check for this gum. Though no known toxicity in humans has been identified, like many bean based foods, it can be hard to digest. Especially in those trying to recover from years of GI damage caused by gluten.
  • Fenugreek Gum – It is extracted from the seeds of the fenugreek plant (legume). It is not recognized as safe by the FDA, and toxic effects are unknown. It can be fermented by beneficial intestinal bacteria to gases. Hypoglycemia, uterine contractions, and blood thinning can be side effects of its use. Those with a soy or legume allergy should avoid using it.
  • Karaya Gum – This gum is derived from the sap of a tree from India. It is generally recognized as safe by the FDA, with no known toxic effects. However, allergic reactions are possible. If it is not taken with enough water, it can cause bowel obstruction. If taken in excess, it can cause diarrhea.
  • Konjac Gum (Glucomannan) – It is extracted from a tuber of Amorphophallus. It should be taken with enough water to avoid choking, esophageal or bowel obstruction. Side effects include bloating, diarrhea, and excessive gas. Konjac gum is commonly used in low carb noodles, such as shirataki noodles. It is not recognized as safe by the FDA.
  • Acacia or Arabic Gum – This gum food additive is derived from the sap of the acacia tree. No known toxicity effect in humans has been reported, and of all the gums, this one is gets my vote for use in small amounts. It is actually a prebiotic gum that can help feed the healthy bacteria living in your GI tract.

Hidden Sugars

Syrups and fruit juice concentrates are common food additive ingredients that manufacturers use to hide sugar. Because these are commonly viewed as “natural”, they are commonly confused as healthy ingredients. Some of these are GMO based and grown with pesticides that can disrupt gut function. Examples include –

  • “sweetened with fruit juice concentrate”
  • rice syrup
  • natural fruit juice
  • malt syrup
  • Maltodextrin
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)
  • Crystalline fructose
  • carob syrup
  • caramel
  • Maltose
  • Galactose
  • Barley malt or barley sugar
  • Beet sugar
  • Date sugar
  • Demerara sugar
  • Evaporate cane juice
  • Fructose
  • Galactose
  • Molasses
  • Muscovado sugar
  • Cane sugar
  • Dextrose
  • Sorghum syrup
  • Sucrose
  • Treacle
  • Turbinado sugar
  • Glucose
  • Invert sugar
  • Brown Sugar

Artificial Sugars – These Food Additives Are Just as Bad – Possibly Worse

toxic sweeteners and food additives

  • Aspartame – also know as Nutrasweet. This is the common sweetener in the blue packet, known to cause nerve damage. It is also linked to migraine headaches.
  • Sucralose – Often times referred to as Splenda is the sweetener often found in the little yellow packets. This sugar substitute is linked to allergic skin rashes, headaches, and GI problems. This artificial compound contains the halide, chlorine. Chlorine in excess interferes with iodine absorption in your thyroid gland and can contribute to the symptoms of hypothyroidism.
  • Acesulfame – Aside from processed food, this toxic food additive (sweetener) is commonly found in tooth paste, chewing gum, and lipsticks. One of the ingredients in this product is methylene chloride – a known carcinogen. This chemical can also cause liver and kidney damage.
  • Saccharin – Sometimes referred to as Sweet N Low, this sweetener is found in the little pink packets on most restaurant tables. 700 times sweeter than sugar, it has been linked to headaches, breathing problems, elevations in insulin, and cancer.

The Following Diagram Will be Helpful in Trying to Navigate Safe Vs. Toxic Sweeteners:

Keep in mind that small quantities mean occasional to rare use. NOT DAILY USE 🙂


Learn More About Food Ingredients & Labels

Get more information on how to navigate food labels, food additives, and other food ingredients at Mira’s website here <<< Make sure you grab her free download on reading food labels.

Always looking out for you,

Dr. Osborne – The Gluten Free Warrior

…and if you have had bad experience with any of these ingredients, don’t be shy. Share your story below…

29 Responses

  1. tnx for info – very informative BUT would be VERY HELPFUL, if after your long list of bad sugars, you did not what sugars to opt for!

      1. What about GALLAN gum?? Why did Google bring me here when I searched “is gallan gum gluten-free” if you don’t list it?!??!?!??!!?????? I bought chocolate milk, organic at 7/11 called 7 select, reduced fat, sadly. i’m experiencing gastric weird noises, moving around. not good for “ORGANIC” milk! :-/

      1. My wife is Gluten intolerant and trying to eat gluten free.
        From testing, she also has a lesser toxicity to tapioca.
        Could you comment on that?

      2. Every one of these have their own issues depending on who it is to consume the final product. Eggs are an allergen, so some folks will be allergic to products containing egg, and others follow a strictly vegan diet won’t eat anything containing eggs. Arrowroot has been blamed to constipation and other digestive irritations. Tapioca is associated with contaminants (cyanide poisoning). Chia seeds are not safe for people with high triglyceride levels and they are suspected to increase the chance of prostate cancer.

        And the gum arabic mentioned in the article can cause allergies too. It is also associated with blocking important enzyme activity.

        So, no matter how you look at it, everything you eat has issues associated with it. It is ridiculous to suggest to completely cut out foods because of there potentially being issues for certain people at certain dosages. This is equivalent to the proverbial throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

        Anyone who has a properly diagnosed allergy or intolerance, will of course have to model their diet around those allergies and intolerances, whatever they may be. But they do not need to model their diet around potential allergies and intolerances of other people, ones they have not been diagnosed with.

        As allergies and intolerances vary from person to person, it is irresponsible to give out general avoidance advice. He who has an allergy needs to avoid that allergen, he who does not, does not.

        Apart from allergies, it is always about dosages. Anything is unhealthy at an unhealthy dosage. So, the advice should always be to look at the recommended maximum daily intake dosages for substances and then use them accordingly.

        This also applies to gelling agents to be used as gluten substitutes in gluten-free foods.

        Many of them have maximum daily intake recommendations and one’s consumption should always take that into account.

        And most gluten-free food advisors and cooks and bakers generally use too much substitute. Many have a favourite substitute and they tend to recommend and use that, whatever the reason for it may be.

        But using only a single gelling agent automatically leads to high dosages. No single gelling agent is powerful enough to do the gelling work by itself and therefore when only a single agent is used, it is always used in much higher dosages than necessary.

        This is even the case with gluten. The reason why wheat gluten is so strong is not some magically powerful property. The reason is a synergistic effect between two components, gliadins which contribute viscosity, and glutenins which contribute elasticity. Neither one of these alone would produce a good gelling effect. The effect is synergistic.

        It should therefore not be surprising that any substitute for wheat gluten that works equally or at least similarly well, would also have to make use of such a synergistic effect of two (or more) components.

        And indeed, many of the gelling agents used in gluten-free foods do exhibit such synergies. For example, xanthan exhibits synergies with locust bean gum, guar gum and konjac. The most powerful synergy is the one between xanthan and konjac. At 1% solution in water, konjac has a viscosity of 29000 cps and xanthan 8000 cps. But when xanthan and konjac are used synergistically, a 0.8% konjac and 0.2% xanthan solution in water has a viscosity of 160000 cps. These figures are taken from the Handbook of Hydrocolloids by Phillips & Williams, Woodhead Publishing. The synergistic effect thus increases the viscosity 20 fold relative to xanthan alone, and 5.3 fold relative to konjac alone. This means, both substances can be significantly reduced to achieve the same gelling effect. For example, in a recipe that requires 5g of xanthan, we can divide the amount by 20, giving 0.25g of xanthan, and multiply that by four, giving 1g of konjac.

        It should become clear that by making use of these synergistic effects between certain gelling agents, the total amount of substances can be drastically reduced and thereby the chance that thresholds are surpassed that have an effect on any potential allergies or intolerances is thereby much lower.

        One should not use these gluten substitutes alone. One should always make use of synergies and use them accordingly in combination. This is the safest path one can take.

  2. I was having trouble catching my breath, just felt like I couldn’t get a deep breath. I thought what have I changed in my lifestyle that could cause this chest tension? The answer, xylitol gum. I had been chewing the gum for about a month. Two days after I quit the xylitol I was fine. It certainly isn’t a good substitute for me. I researched online after I discovered the problem and sure enough other people had experienced the same symptom.

    1. All sugar alcohols are as bad as fake sugars. As they get into your bloodstream faster (less processing in the body needed – worse in gums as below the tongue is one of the fastest routes to get medicine into the body (anally is just as fast, but large amounts, therefore more benefit or damages can be done that way).
      The only sugar I try to get in LIQUID STEVIA – uses the WHOLE plant – not just parts, and the processing is different than any other type. (This was prescribed to me by my LYME dr as Liquid Stevia has many benefits (lowers/controls blood sugars, natural antibiotic/antimicrobial /antifungal, etc. – Shown to kill Lyme as well as or better than some antibiotics by prescription).

  3. This is incredibly helpful while learning to navigate a diet free from gluten and all dairy. Thank you so much!

  4. I have been using the dried stevia herb to sweeten my herbal tea. About 1/4 tsp per cup, adjust to your desired sweetness. I order organic stevia herb (cut and sifted) from starwest botanicals.

      1. Actually Stevia is part of the ragweed family. If you have allergies to ragweed such as marigolds and the such, you may experience an allergic reaction to Stevia. I know my nose was always stuffy and I couldn’t figure out what was doing it until I discovered this reaction was caused by Stevia. I researched sugar substitutes and their effects on the body. Suzy Cohen has a great explanation on Stevia here:

  5. Or … simply let go of trying to duplicate gluten life with a gluten-free life. We can’t. GF pizza bleh. Maybe pick one or two things you hold on to and let the rest all go by the wayside into the distant past. Keep life simple. People act like some fruit or vegetable and cheese is not a meal if the food isn’t hot and on a plate. People act like trail mix isn’t a meal, but it was for thousands of years. Redefine what a meal is. Let go of what marketing and the USDA have done to our beliefs about food.

    1. Agreed & thank you!
      We’ve been programmed to view food a certain way.
      We’re better off giving consideration to food on a cellular level instead of catering to our taste buds.

  6. Is Inulin and D-Ribose recommended for a gluten free diet? I’ve read that Inulin is a probiotic for good gut bacteria and that D-Ribose is good for the heart. Are you aware of any negative health issues for those on a gluten free diet if they consume inulin and D-Ribose? Thanks.

  7. Hi
    Thank you very much to you Dr Osborne and lady with same as my name . Wondering where doess She come from ?!
    Thank you for all info very Important .
    Im gluten & diary free ,as i Have autoimmune disease .
    Wish you come to London UK soo

  8. I know now why you recommend steering clear of the processed almond or coconut milks. Thanks for sharing this ! Very informative!

  9. Peter Osborne, can you make coconut milk for all of us??? It would be fantastic for autoimmune disease, or to be dairy free. Thanks

  10. Thank you for the Food Gum portion of article – For years now, noticed that ice cream & nut milks caused my motility to **slow down**. Once I switched to pure 5 ingredient ice cream – no issue! After scouring the web for a connection as suspected the ‘gums’ (no luck), this is the first reference finally found, inadvertently, when researching another subject. Thank you for addressing it.

  11. Stevia is related to the ragweed family. I am very allergic to ragweed and Stevia as well as other plants in the Compositae family like echinacea and camomile. Many people do not know that the Stevia plant is in this family. Be aware that it is not posted and I had to be a detective to determine that this sweetener was causing my mouth erythema…

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