Articles by Natural Health Author Barbara Minton

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Tired of Intestinal Uproar? Blame These Food Additives

by Barbara Minton
See all TBYIL articles by Barbara Minton

(The Best Years in Life) Have you developed gas, bloating and an intestinal tract that feels like it's filled with concrete and sounds like a thunder storm? If you are wondering what's behind all this, here is information on a group of food additives that may be causing your distress.

These food additives are relatively new in the food chain, and are used to make food products thick, creamy and stable. They are also used to replace real healthy fat found in products such as ice cream, sauces and salad dressing, because real fat costs more than these food additives do.

Why do these food additives create such havoc in the intestinal tract? Each is an indigestible polysaccharide that is extracted from a plant not normally eaten by humans. When you eat foods containing these additives, the affect is as though you have taken a heavy dose of a laxative at the same time you have eaten dinner. The result is intestinal chaos! The only way to stop this is by completely eliminating these food additives from your diet.

Food additives to avoid if you want to feel like your old self again

Carrageenan is extracted from red algae, and is probably the worst of the lot. It is commonly found in "healthy" processed milks such as almond or soy, but it can be found in dairy products such as ice cream, whipping cream and sour cream too. It's also used abundantly in baked goods.

Animal studies have shown that carrageenan induces intestinal damage. Effects observed in rats include epithelial cell loss, increased intestinal permeability, and diarrhea. In guinea pigs it caused colon ulcers. Degraded forms of carrageenan have been repeatedly identified as potential carcinogens. New research has demonstrated the role these forms play in inducing an inflammatory reaction and aggravating the effect of lipopolysaccharides on macrophages.

Human studies of carrageenan are scarce. However two studies using undegraded carrageean also found that it upregulated inflammation. Another study found that undegraded carageenan reduced activity of many sulfatease enzymes, resulting in a potentially negative outcome for the function and vitality of human epithelial cells.

Xanthan gum is derived from bacteria. It is found in many processed food items because of its unique binding properties which make it a good replacement for gluten in bread and other baked goods. But it doesn't stop there. Xanthan can is now used in milk shakes, yogurt, pudding, whipped cream, ice cream, soups, sauces, gravies, mayonnaise and other condiments that have a creamy texture, and even in processed meats. In fact, you have to really look to find any processed or prepared food in a grocery store or restaurant that does not contain Xanthan gum. It is also widely used in pharmaceuticals.

Been having migraine headaches or skin rashes? The culprit is likely to be xanthan gum, and it gets worse the more you consume.

The FDA has issued a warning telling parents and other caregivers to void feeding infants products containing xanthan gum because it has been linked to illness and death in infants. Over-the-counter medicines containing xanthan gum or other water soluble gums must carry warnings about choking. In 2011, the FDA issued a press release saying xanthan gum may cause necrotizing enterocolitis, the death of intestinal tissue.

Xanthan gum can trigger an allergic response in people sensitive to the growth medium used to create it, which is usually corn, soy or wheat.

A study in which healthy participants took, 15g/day of xanthan gum for 10 days found it to be an efficient laxative. Some people experienced intestinal bloating and diarrhea with even smaller amounts.

Guar gum is the ground endosperm of guar beans. In the digestive systems of humans, guar gum can function as a laxative by forming a bulky gel that shoves the intestinal tract contents along, and in the process creates gas, bloating and discomfort. Too much guar gum consumed with too little water can cause esophogeal blockage.

In a study, participants were given 21g of guar gum per day for thee months.  Several of them dropped out before the study was completed, complaining of abdominal gas and discomfort.

Tara gum seems to be the newest gum in town, brought into the public eye a few years ago when Unilever bought Breyer's ice cream and substituted tara gum for a large portion of its dairy fat.  Unilever also added artificial ingredients including maltodextrin and propylene glycol (a component of antifreeze), and artificially separated and extracted ingredients such as corn syrup, whey and other. But lovers of the old healthy Breyer's rebelled, and the price of the ice cream has plummeted from loss of demand.


What you lose when dairy fat is replaced by these food additives

High-fat dairy foods contain many anti-cancer factors including conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). Scientists in Sweden have found that women who consumed four or more servings of high-fat dairy foods daily reduced their risk of colorectal cancer by a whopping 41% compared with the women who consumed less than one serving daily.  CLA has also been shown to inhibit the body’s mechanism for storing fat and results in the  utilization of fatty reserves for energy rather than for creating obesity.

High fat dairy foods are rich in nutrients that protect the heart. First among them is the antioxidant Vitamin A, needed for health of the thyroid and adrenal glands which help maintain proper functioning of the whole cardiovascular system. Dairy fat is the most readily absorbed source of Vitamin A. It also contains lecithin, a substance needed for the proper assimilation and metabolism of cholesterol and other fat constituents. Dairy fat also contains antioxidant Vitamin E and selenium, which are protective of the cardiovascular system and prevent cancer.

Short and medium chain fatty acids found in dairy fat have immune system strengthening properties. These medium chain fatty acids are more easily absorbed, digested, and utilized as energy than are long chain fatty acids found in processed seed oils.

Short and medium fatty acid chains have strong anti-tumor effects, particularly 12-carbon lauric acid, a medium chain fatty acid found only in dairy fat.

The anti-fungal and anti-tumor effects of butyric acid, a short chain fatty acid, are unique to dairy fat. Butyric acid is an energy source for the cells lining the colon, where it is plays a part in development and maintenance. It reduces chronic inflammation of the colon and correlates with decreased colon cancer risk. In people with compromised immune systems, undifferentiated cell growth can be inhibited by butyric acid.

Our cell walls are made of cholesterol, protein, and saturated and monounsaturated fats. A diet high in dairy fat helps maintain cell wall integrity.

How to avoid carrageenan and gums

There are several other gums used in food processing, all producing the same symptoms in the digestive tract. So what can you do to avoid them? Right off the bat, reading the labels is the only way to avoid gums and other additives such as carrageenan. But when you discover these additives in food, communicating your displeasure to the food manufacturing company using them may ultimately bring a stop to it, although this has not worked for fans of the old Breyer's.

If you have not been a label reader up until now, it probably seems like a big task. But once you start looking to see what is really in your food, you will probably read every label you can get your hands on, and develop a terrific sense of empowerment.

Here's a head start tip: whether its conventional or organic, the only nationally distributed ice cream that does not contain carrageenan or gums is Haagen Dazs.

See also:

Which Milk is the Best Milk?

The Many Health Benefits of Goat’s Milk

Researchers Discover the Cause of IBS - It's in the Gut, Not Your Mind

Study finds that anxiety may originate in your gut, not in your head

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About the Author:

Barbara is a school psychologist and the author of Dividend Capture, a book on personal finance. She is a breast cancer survivor using bioidentical hormone therapy, and a passionate advocate of natural health with hundreds of articles on many aspects of health and wellness. She is the editor and publisher of AlignLife's Health Secrets Newsletter.

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