Xanthan gum is a bacterial secretion produced by fermenting lactose, sucrose or glucose to form a polysaccharide or complex carbohydrate. It is a commonly used thickening agent and food additive which increases the viscosity of liquids. It is able to alter its chemical binding properties to enable liquids to become less viscous for pouring purposes, but then to revert to its viscous state, particularly useful in such things as condiments and salad dressings.
It can also function as a stabiliser, to combine active ingredients uniformly, and as a gluten replacement in bakery products to render the dough glutinous. Care must be taken to determine the growth medium of the bacteria, however, in case the original cultures are derived from gluten-bearing grains.
Xanthan gum is a common laxative, as it can bind to liquids and make them more viscous, contributing to the overall bulk in the intestinal tract. Thickeners based on the gum may also be helpful in increasing the viscosity of liquids for people with oesophageal disorders which make swallowing difficult, such as nerve or muscle deterioration as a result of stroke. It may also help reduce imbalances of blood sugar and aid in balancing insulin production.