It is in most canned coconut milk, but is guar gum paleo? We wanted to know if this additive is harmless or if we should avoid it like other strange named foods and additives.
Many of us started the Paleo diet for health reasons and no not want to start eating junk again. The Paleo diet is a great way to ensure your health while still enjoying a variety of delicious foods. However, it can present some challenges, especially if you’re just starting out and don’t know where to draw the line. For instance, when purchasing pre-made foods, the ingredients can be confusing. Making good choices is complicated by the fact that it can be difficult to find definitive information on an ingredient’s Paleo status. One such ingredient is guar gum.
What Is It?
Guar gum is derived from the seeds of a legume called the guar plant. These seeds undergo extensive processing wherein they are husked, split, roasted, re-hydrated, milled, ground, sieved and polished. The finished product is used in a wide variety of products including medications and supplements, yogurts, puddings, baked goods, sauces, cereals and especially coconut milk. Guar’s main purpose is to thicken and stabilize products.
So far, that right there should make us more than a little suspicious…but we are open-minded so let’s find out more.
Is Guar Gum Paleo? Should I Avoid It?
Well, the fact that guar gum is extensively processed and comes from a legume makes it a Paleo no-no for many people. After all, it’s certain that our paleolithic forebears would not have harvested guar beans and subjected them to the rigorous industrial processing required to extract the finished product seen in foods today. But…despite the caveman, we want to know how it will effect US.
Of course, even if you’re practicing a more liberal interpretation of the Paleo diet, there are guar’s potential health risks to contend with. The substance is known to increase intestinal permeability, paving the way to inflammation, allergies and food intolerances. It also bears consideration that guar gum is used in laboratories as a growth medium for bacterial samples. Indeed, the gum has been found to encourage the proliferation of a harmful strain of E. coli in the small intestine. This means that consuming guar can promote small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).
At the very least, guar is capable of causing gas, bloating and abdominal discomfort because it’s a form of soluble fiber.
If that’s not bad enough, the nature of guar gum means it can reduce the absorption of medications and nutrients by surrounding them and allowing them to pass through the intestinal tract untouched. In this way, guar can not only promote nutrient deficiencies but also pose medical risks.
Varying Expert Opinions
That sounds pretty bad, but we decided to see what some of the popular Paleo experts think about its risks. Naturally, even Paleo pros have varying opinions on whether guar gum is problematic enough to avoid.
Chris Kresser M.S., L.Ac, an expert on the Paleo diet and ancestral health, says, “Legumes have a variety of compounds in them that make them hard to digest. In my experience, many people’s gut problems resolve when they remove guar from their diet.” He goes on to state, “However, there’s no hard evidence that guar causes serious harm. If you’re able to tolerate guar gum, there’s no reason to avoid it. If it does cause you problems, you can find products without it, or better yet, make your own at home.”
Sarah Ballantyne, Ph.D., better known as The Paleo Mom, says about guar gum, “There’s a big difference between using dried fruit and nuts and root starches to create a Paleo-friendly food and using heavily processed ingredients like guar gum. Although it’s not as problematic as gluten, it’s pretty poor planning to replace one gut irritant with another just to improve a food’s texture.”
Robb Wolf a biochemist, opines, “Guar gum is often added to canned coconut milk to prevent the water and oil from separating, but it can cause gastrointestinal distress in some people. It’s not the worst choice you can make, though. Plus, depending on your personal goals, tolerances and the strictness of your diet, there can be a place for it. I’d just prefer not see the multitude of added ingredients become a mainstay of my diet.”
So What Should YOU Do?
When deciding whether or not guar gum should be a part of your Paleo diet, it’s simply a matter of personal preference and tolerance.As with any questionable food, we recommend eliminating it first to heal your gut completely. Then reintroduce it so you can see if it affects you or not. If it causes problems for you, or if you’d rather avoid unnecessary processed ingredients, then just steer clear. Otherwise, it’s probably okay in limited moderation.