In Belgium it is hard to find coconut milk without some additives. Even the organic brands add guar-gum. Do I need to worry about this?
Some info on wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guar_gum), but I don't like the sound of: "Guar gum, also called guaran, is a galactomannan. It is primarily the ground endosperm of guar beans". Especially the bean part rings a bell.
Guar Gum might work for many, but some people can have pretty severe reactions to it…
My Experience: I've been strict paleo and stayed away from all processed food for the last 6 months. 2 days ago I decided to get myself a little 'treat' and made myself a coconut curry with some lite coconut milk (with Guar Gum) for my first packaged food splurge.
2 hours later I was laying on the floor with severe abdominal pain and cramping, flatulence and diarrhea- NOT a fun night. (sorry if that's TMI!)
Although it is sometimes recommended to help with “promoting regular bowel movements and relieve constipation” (wiki- Guar Gum), people with IBS-like symptoms can have severe problems with it.
From sharecare.com: “The most common side effect of taking guar gum is flatulence. About 50 percent of those using guar gum experience this side effect”. http://www.sharecare.com/question/side-effects-of-guar-gum
“Guar gum may sometimes cause gastrointestinal (GI) complications. These complications include pain, flatulence, nausea, and diarrhea.” http://www.sharecare.com/question/know-before-taking-guar-gum
Trust me, they aren’t kidding!
After doing further research I ran across several additional sites and forum threads describing people's personal experiences with the gut irritating effects of Guar Gum:
Love this short article entitled “Why is someone putting laxatives in my soup?”: http://www.islandfoodie.com/guar%20gum.htm
http://www.ehow.com/about_5032973_guar-gum-side-effects.html - several of the commenters after the main article mention their reactions- which mirrored mine.
http://www.healthboards.com/irritable-bowel-syndrome/3019.html -another fun reaction…
http://www.ic-network.com/forum/showthread.php?t=22290 - from the interstitial cystitis forum
Anyway, Thought that it would be good to put this out there for those of us who are a bit more sensitive than the average bear. In case you are experiencing any of these problems you might want to avoid guar gum...
Maybe you'd appreciate what Mark Sisson says about Guar Gum:
"The thick, creamy liquid that comes out is coconut milk and can be used for Thai curries and Brazilian seafood stew. Personally, I love drinking a big chilled glass of it by itself. Because people tend to misinterpret the natural separation of coconut milk in the can as spoilage, most canned coconut milk often includes thickening agents like guar gum, especially the stuff sold in Western countries. I wouldn’t worry too much about guar gum."
He doesn't say why he wouldn't worry about it. Probably because the good of the coconut product outweighs the bad of the industrially refined polysaccharide "guar gum." A galactomannan is just a refined carb that, in this case, has thickening and binding properties. I.E. it's a "gum." If it's pure it won't have any evil "bean" lectins or anything like that.
You can mail order coconut products from Tropical Traditions. They don't have coconut milk, but something they call "coconut cream concentrate". It is not liquid, it is solid, sort of like unsweetened peanut butter but made from coconut. You can mix it with warm water to get something like unsweetened coconut milk. I wrote about it here. I use it a lot in curries, smoothies, and just drinking by itself.
Even though it isn't as sweet or convenient as store-bought coconut milk, I think it is way better for you. Commercial coconut milks are produced using lots of heat and chemicals, and sugars and stabilizers are added to them too. This stuff is extracted by hand and is about 70% fat and so is a good source of coconut oil.
I'm not sure the guar gum is harmful. I haven't found any brand that doesn't have some sort of additive. The one in my pantry now was manufactured in Thailand -- no guar gum or other thickener, but it does have citric acid and a sulfite preservative. Maybe if we go to an Asian grocer we'll find something better.
for me it is a problem. Every time I eat some coconut cream with guar gum in it i get bloated like back in the day when i ate grains. Really awful and for a while I did not know what was causing it. I heard a podcast by the healthy skeptic (one with Robb Wolf, Mat Lalonde and Chris Kresser) and they spoke about it. I did an n=1 experiment and bingo. :(( It sucks
Be suspicious! Any coconut cream or milk HAS to contain a 'thickening agent' (i.e. guar gum) to give it that homogenous cream consistency.. no matter how 'pure' it may seem according to the packaging. I personally only trust the ones which separate into water and fatty solids. If you shake or blend these the emulsion will last for a couple of minutes rather than days and weeks and months.. if they are pure.
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