In this article, "Let's Talk Gluten Replacers" from Art of Gluten Free Baking, there is a terrific description of the process used to create xanthan gum that clarifies why xanthan gum does not contain any corn, wheat or soy.
So, let’s talk about xanthan gum. It’s what I use and what I feel works best in the baking I do. And, there is a lot of misinformation floating around about xanthan gum that I want to clear up. Clearly, you need to choose what’s best for you, but I really want folks to make a truly informed choice.
As described earlier, xanthan gum is made from the fermentation of the bacteria Xanthomonas campestris. What this means is that the bacteria is introduced to a sugar solution—which is most often made from wheat, corn, soy, or dairy. The bacteria is broken down during the fermentation process, creating a by-product—xanthan gum. The xanthan gum is then harvested and dried into a powder.
What is important to note about the process is that the xanthan gum is a product of the process that uses Xanthomonas campestris and the sugar medium. It is not, itself, either of these things. It is something new. What this means is that xanthan gum is no longer the sugar it’s grown on. This is one of the reasons why xanthan gum can be grown on something like wheat sugar and still be gluten-free. The other reason is that the growing medium is sugar. And the sugar is not the part of the food that people react to when they have a food allergy/intolerance/sensitivity—including celiac. The part of the food people react to is the protein (in wheat the protein we react to is the gluten). Since there is no protein in sugar, there is no gluten in wheat sugar.
According to the food scientists I’ve spoken to and the research I’ve done, this means is that no matter what sugar medium the xanthan gum is grown on, scientifically there is none of the protein associated with that growing medium in the sugar or the resulting xanthan gum. Therefore, if you avoid xanthan gum because you think it’s a corn product: it’s not. And, if you avoid xanthan gum because you’re allergic to thing that provides the sugar for the growing medium: you may not have to.
Of course, you could be sensitive to the xanthan gum itself (or to guar gum or to the seeds). But I think it’s important to be clear with yourself about what you’re sensitive to. If you avoid xanthan gum simply because of reading incorrect information about it, you might want to give it a chance.
Statement from Bob’s Red Mill about their xanthan gum:
“6/11/12 UPDATE: Regarding corn in xanthan gum: The microorganism that produces [Bob’s Red Mill] xanthan gum is actually fed a glucose solution that is derived from wheat starch. Gluten is found in the protein part of the wheat kernel and no gluten is contained in the solution of glucose. Additionally, after the bacteria eats the glucose, there is no wheat to be found in the outer coating that it produces, which is what makes up xanthan gum. The short answer here is, there is no corn used at all in the making of [Bob’s Red Mill] xanthan gum.”
By Jefferson Adams
08/19/2015 – For the first time since it was described and named by 1st century Greek physician Aretaeus of Cappadocia, first linked to wheat in the 1940’s, and specifically linked to gluten in 1952, scientists have discovered the cause of celiac disease.
Professor Ludvig Sollid, and his team at the Centre for Immune Regulation at University of Oslo, have discovered that people with celiac disease suffer from one of two defective human leukocyteantigens (HLAs), which cause the immune system to see gluten molecules as dangerous, triggering the immune response that causes classic celiac-associated inflammation and other symptoms.
To be true, the team was not working in the dark. They were armed with a complete map of the genes, an understanding that two types of HLA (HLA-DQ2 and HLA-DQ8) predispose a person for celiac disease, and the very crucial recent discovery by a team of German colleagues that celiac patients have antibodiesfor a very precise enzyme: transglutaminase 2.
“We also found that the bits of gluten that were presented to the T-cells have some changes caused by an enzyme in the body – transglutaminase 2″, says Sollid. HLAs are proteins which act as markers, binding to fragments of other proteins, and telling T-cells how to treat them.
So it wasn’t much of a stretch for Professor Sollid’s team to determine that the defective HLAs bind to fragments of gluten, causing the T-cells to treat them asbacteria or viruses.
Basically, two HLA types present gluten remnants to the T-cells, causing the T-cells to regard the gluten as dangerous, and to trigger immune reactions that cause inflammation in the intestines, and this is what causes celiac disease.
“We think that this is huge,” Sollid said. “We understand the immune cells that are activated and why they are activated.”
At present, Professor Sollid and his group are investigating how antibodies against transglutaminase are formed.
This is a simple, but huge moment in the annals of medicine and in the annals of celiac disease. It’s a discovery that will help researchers develop new approaches to treatment, and/or a cure for celiac disease in the future.
Wheat and grain-based foods are all around us. We love our bagels, pasta, bread and breakfast cereals. For many, the thought of eliminating these staples from our diets seems wholly unreasonable, if not ludicrous. But a growing number of people are switching to wheat-free diets -- and for very good reason. As science is increasingly showing, eating wheat increases the potential for a surprising number of health problems. Here's why you should probably stop eating wheat.
Without a doubt, wheat plays a major role in our diets. It supplies about 20 percent of the total food calories worldwide, and is a national staple in most countries.
But as is well known, some people, like those with celiac disease, need to stay away from it. The problem is that their small intestine is unable to properly digest gluten, a protein that's found in grains. But wheat is being increasingly blamed for the onset of other health conditions, like obesity, heart disease, and a host of digestive problems, including the dramatic rise in celiac-like disorders.
So what's going on? And why is everybody suddenly blaming wheat?
The answer, it appears, has to do with a whole lot of nastiness that's present in grain-based foods. Wheat raises blood sugar levels, causes immunoreactive problems, inhibits the absorption of important minerals and aggravates our intestines.
And much of this may stem from the fact that wheat simply ain't what it used to be.
Indeed, today's wheat is a far cry from what it was 50 years ago.
Back in the 1950s, scientists began cross-breeding wheat to make it hardier, shorter, and better-growing. This work, which was the basis for the Green Revolution -- and one that won U.S. plant scientist Norman Borlaug the Nobel Prize -- introduced some compounds to wheat that aren't entirely human friendly.
As cardiologist Dr. William Davis noted in his book, Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight and Find Your Path Back to Health, today's hybridized wheat contains sodium azide, a known toxin. It also goes through a gamma irradiation process during manufacturing.
But as Davis also points out, today's hybridized wheat contains novel proteins that aren't typically found in either the parent or the plant, some of which are difficult for us to properly digest. Consequently, some scientists now suspect that the gluten and other compounds found in today's modern wheat is what's responsible for the rising prevalence of celiac disease, "gluten sensitivity," and other problems.
Gluten and Gliadin
No doubt, gluten is a growing concern -- and it's starting to have a serious impact on our health, and as a result, our dietary choices.
Gluten is a protein composite of gliadin and glutenin that appears in wheat as well as other grains like rye, barley, and spelt. It's also what gives certain foods that wonderful, chewy texture. Gluten also helps dough to rise and keep its shape.
The problem, however, is in how it's metabolized. According to Alessio Fasano, the Medical Director for The University of Maryland's Center for Celiac Research, no one can properly digest gluten.
"We do not have the enzymes to break it down," he said in a recent interview with TenderFoodie. "It all depends upon how well our intestinal walls close after we ingest it and how our immune system reacts to it." His concern is that the gluten protein, which is abundant in the endosperm of barley, rye, and wheat kernels, is setting off an aberrant immune response.
Specifically, the gliadin and glutenin are acting as immunogenic anti-nutrients. Unlike fruits, which are meant to be eaten, grains have a way of fighting back. They create an immunogenic response which increases intestinal permeability, thus triggering systemic inflammation by the immune system, what can lead to any number of autoimmune diseases, including celiac, rheumatoid arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome and so on. And this holds true for people who don't have celiac disease.
Davis also believes that gliadin degrades to a morphine-like compound after eating, what creates an appetite for more wheat; his claim, therefore, is that wheat actually has an addictive quality to it.
Gliadin, what scientists call the "toxic fraction of gluten," has also been implicated in gut permeability. When someone has an adverse reaction, it's because gliadin cross talks with our cells — what causes confusion and a leak in the small intestines. Fasano explains:
Gliadin is a strange protein that our enzymes can't break down from the amino acids (glutamine and proline) into elements small enough for us to digest. Our enzymes can only break down the gliadin into peptides. Peptides are too large to be absorbed properly through the small intestine. Our intestinal walls or gates, then, have to separate in order to let the larger peptide through. The immune system sees the peptide as an enemy and begins to attack.
The difference is that in a normal person, the intestinal walls close back up, the small intestine becomes normal again, and the peptides remain in the intestinal tract and are simply excreted before the immune system notices them. In a person who reacts to gluten, the walls stay open as long as you are consuming gluten. How your body reacts (with a gluten sensitivity, wheat allergy or Celiac Disease) depends upon how long the gates stay open, the number of "enemies" let through and the number of soldiers that our immune system sends to defend our bodies. For someone with Celiac Disease, the soldiers get confused and start shooting at the intestinal walls.
The effects of gluten and gliadin clearly vary from person to person. But as a recent study showed, nearly 1.8 million Americans have celiac disease, and another 1.4 million are likely undiagnosed. And surprisingly, another 1.6 million have adopted a gluten-free diet despite having no diagnosis.
In addition, it's estimated that about 18 million Americans have "non-celiac gluten sensitivity," which results in cramps and diarrhea.
High Glycemic Index
Wheat also raises blood sugar. As Davis notes, the glycemic index of wheat is very high. It contains amylopectin A, which is more efficiently converted to blood sugar than just about any other carbohydrate, including table sugar.
Consequently, two slices of whole wheat bread increases blood sugar levels higher than a single candy bar. Overdoing the wheat, says Davis, can result in "deep visceral fat."
Wheat can also trigger effects that aren't immediately noticeable. Small low-density lipoprotein (LDL) particles form after eating lots of carbohydrates — which are responsible for atherosclerotic plaque, which in turn can trigger heart disease and stroke. And in fact, it has been shown that a wheat-free diet can improve glucose tolerance in individuals with ischaemic heart disease.
Lectins, which are a class of molecules, can be found in beans, cereal grains, nuts, and potatoes. And when consumed in excess, or when not cooked properly, they can be harmful.
Now, most lectins are actually quite benign, and in some cases they can even be therapeutic -- like fighting some forms of HIV.
But the problem with some lectins, like the ones found in whole grains, is that they bind to our insulin receptors and intestinal lining. This increases inflammation and contributes to autoimmune disease and insulin resistance. It also facilitates the symptoms of metabolic syndrome outside of obesity.
The Fiber Myth
Lastly, a common argument in favor of continuing to eat whole grains is that they provide necessary fiber. This is actually a bit of a myth. As nutrition expert Mark Sisson has noted, "Apart from maintaining social conventions in certain situations and obtaining cheap sugar calories, there is absolutely no reason to eat grains."
And indeed, we can get adequate amounts of insoluble fiber simply by eating plenty of fruits and vegetables.