Is Xanthan Gum Vegan? Is it Healthy?

You’re analyzing the ingredient list of a delicious-looking product at the grocery store, trying to determine whether it’s vegan or not. Everything looks good until you get to xanthan gum. What exactly is this ingredient, and is it okay for vegans to eat?

If you’re also wondering whether xanthan gum has any health risks, you’re not alone.

As a vegan registered dietitian, I’ll discuss how xanthan gum is made, whether it’s vegan-friendly, why it’s added to foods, and the available research on its safety and health effects.

Keep reading to learn more about this food additive!

Scoop of xanthan gum powder

What is xanthan gum?

Xanthan gum is a natural substance secreted by the Xanthomonas campestris bacterium when fed a source of sugar. X. campestris produces xanthan gum through the fermentation of whatever sugar it’s fed, similar to the fermentation of grapes for wine. This bacterium is found naturally on vegetables like cabbage, but the production of xanthan gum must happen under controlled laboratory conditions for manufacturers to meet demand.

Xanthan gum is a polysaccharide, a long chain of carbohydrates. It’s also considered a soluble fiber, a type of dietary fiber.

Once dried into a powder, xanthan gum is used to thicken a variety of foods and beverages. It’s also used in gluten-free baking to provide the structure and elasticity that you’d normally get from using wheat flour.

Xanthan gum is approved as a food additive in the United States and the European Union. In Europe, it’s referred to by its E-number E415.

Is xanthan gum vegan?

Xanthan gum is vegan when plant-based sources of glucose or sucrose are used to feed X. campestris. Corn, wheat, and soy are the most commonly used sources. 

Does xanthan gum contain milk?

It’s possible for lactose (milk sugar) to serve as a sugar source, which would make the resulting xanthan gum non-vegan. It’s highly unlikely that lactose would be used, however, since X. campestris doesn’t use lactose very efficiently1. This is because X. campestris doesn’t have enough beta-galactosidase, an enzyme that assists in digesting lactose.

The table below compares the xanthan gum yield when X. campestris is provided with different sources of sugar:

Table listing xanthan gum yields with different carbohydrate sources

As you can see, lactose is dead last on the list. It wouldn’t make sense for manufacturers to use an inefficient fuel source when they need to produce large quantities of xanthan gum.

Is xanthan gum processed with eggs?

Another concern I came across in my research is that xanthan gum might be processed with eggs. 

Fortunately, the Vegetarian Resource Group2 conducted an in-depth investigation into this issue and discovered that xanthan gum is sometimes manufactured in the same facilities that manufacture egg-containing foods, creating the potential for cross-contamination. However, eggs are not used as an ingredient or as a processing aid during xanthan gum production.

Given all of this information, VRG concluded that xanthan gum is vegan-friendly.

Gluten-free blueberry muffins cooling on a rack

Why is xanthan gum added to foods?

Apart from using it at home for gluten-free baking, you’ll find xanthan gum as a food additive in processed foods. 

Xanthan gum is used as a thickener. As a soluble fiber, it dissolves in cold water and forms a viscous gel, adding thickness to thin liquids. It also acts as an emulsifier and stabilizer, giving beverages a smooth, more homogenous texture.

Vegan-friendly foods containing xanthan gum can include:

  • Bottled salad dressings (full-fat or low-fat)
  • Non-dairy milk
  • Non-dairy ice cream
  • Fruit juices
  • Barbecue sauce
  • Spaghetti sauce
  • Boxed cake mixes
  • Gluten-free baked goods
  • Liquid-thickening products for people with dysphagia

Health effects

With so many processed foods available to us, it’s understandable to be concerned about the potential health effects of food additives like xanthan gum. It isn’t as recognizable as other ingredients like spices or added vitamins and minerals, and claims about its negative effects on gut health are seemingly everywhere.

It’s best to turn to research when coming across an ingredient you aren’t familiar with rather than unquestioningly taking the word of non-experts. Let’s discuss what the scientific evidence says about xanthan gum so you can make a well-informed decision about consuming it. 

Toxicity & safety

The European Food Safety Authority’s Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources Added to Food re-evaluated the safety of xanthan gum3 in 2017. After reviewing the available research, they concluded that xanthan gum is safe and does not cause any adverse effects when consumed in normal amounts present in food, which they estimated to be 64 milligrams for every kilogram of body weight for adults. This is about 4364 milligrams (4.4 grams) for a 150-pound person. 

Xanthan gum also has no potential to cause DNA damage since its particles are too large to be absorbed by the body. 

Gut health

Claims about xanthan gum’s effects on gut health are among the most heated and controversial. Many people online claim that gums like xanthan gum can trigger conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or “leaky gut”, but are these claims true?

In short, they’re mostly exaggerated.

Xanthan gum is a type of soluble fiber fermented by gut bacteria. These beneficial bacteria use soluble fiber as fuel to produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), helpful compounds that reduce inflammation and improve the strength of the gut lining.  

In the EFSA’s 2017 re-evaluation of xanthan gum, they discussed multiple studies that looked at xanthan gum’s impact on digestive health. They found that the only effects of this food additive on gut health when taking between 10-15 grams per day were to act as a bulking laxative increasing stool output, increasing stool frequency, and increasing gas production. 

When we remember that xanthan gum is a type of dietary fiber, it makes sense that higher intakes would increase your daily trips to the bathroom. 10-15 grams is much more than you’d get from normal amounts of food, however, so eating foods with xanthan gum likely wouldn’t be a significant cause of these symptoms. 

Increased gas production is also a well-known side effect of eating more fiber. Although undesirable, it isn’t dangerous. Often, it’s just a sign that your gut bacteria are doing their job of fermenting the fiber you eat. 

There isn’t any evidence that eating foods with xanthan gum causes digestive conditions like IBS or “leaky gut”. From what I can tell, these claims stem from taking the results of animal studies out of context.

For example, one study in mice found that consuming xanthan gum increased the prevalence of a certain type of bacteria associated with having a severely inflamed colon. However, a big caveat is that the mice were fed 400 milligrams per kilogram of body weight every day – more than 6 times the amount that you could expect to get from our current food supply. Overall, this study doesn’t do much to show that xanthan gum is a problem for humans with colitis.

Xanthan gum is low-FODMAP and is well-tolerated by most people with IBS4 when consumed in normal amounts found in food. Every person is different, however, and some people may experience a flare when consuming xanthan gum, especially when combined with other types of gums.

Heart health

High intakes of xanthan gum have been shown to moderately reduce cholesterol levels in the blood, likely by reducing how much cholesterol is produced by the body itself. 

You probably wouldn’t get this much xanthan gum from food normally, so I wouldn’t specifically seek out foods containing xanthan gum just to try and lower your cholesterol. However, it does reflect the fact that diets high in fiber are good for the heart.

Premature infants

A unique use of xanthan gum is in products used to thicken breastmilk or formula for premature infants with swallowing issues. One product in particular, SimplyThick, was implicated in the development of necrotizing enterocolitis (a dangerous infection in the intestines) in 22 premature infants5 in 2011.

The digestive systems of many premature infants are underdeveloped from being born so early, and it’s possible that they weren’t mature enough to handle the amount of xanthan gum in the product.

While it was never proven that SimplyThick was the cause of necrotizing enterocolitis in these babies, the FDA issued a warning that it shouldn’t be given to infants under a year old out of an abundance of caution. 


Xanthan gum is a vegan-friendly food additive and soluble fiber produced by the bacterium Xanthomonas campestris. Plant-based sugar sources like corn, soy, and wheat are used to “feed” the bacteria. Since X. campestris doesn’t use lactose efficiently, it’s more than likely never used in the commercial production of xanthan gum.

Research shows that xanthan gum is safe and non-toxic when consumed in amounts you’d normally get from the food supply. It hasn’t been shown to cause any health issues in humans, including digestive conditions like IBS, Crohn’s disease, or ulcerative colitis. It’s also generally well-tolerated by people with IBS.

Of course, some people may respond differently to xanthan gum than others. If you think you have an intolerance to xanthan gum, a registered dietitian can help you determine whether this is the case. 

Is xanthan gum vegan? – FAQs

Is xanthan gum extracted from plants?

Xanthan gum is vegan, but it isn’t extracted from plants. It’s produced during the fermentation of sugars by the bacterium Xanthomonas campestris under laboratory conditions.

Does xanthan gum trigger IBS? Is xantham gum low FODMAP?

Xanthan gum is low-FODMAP and should be well-tolerated for most people with IBS when consumed in normal amounts found in food. Since every individual is different, however, some people may experience some digestive discomfort when consuming xanthan gum, especially when combined with other types of gums.

The scientific information in this article was accurate at the time of publishing but may change over time as new research becomes available.


  1. Rosalam S, England R. Review of xanthan gum production from unmodified starches by Xanthomonas comprestris sp. EMT. 2006;39(2):197-207. Published 2006 Jun 26. doi:10.1016/j.enzmictec.2005.10.019
  2. Yacoubou, Jeanne. Xanthan Gum is Vegan — No Egg Whites. The Vegetarian Resource Group Blog. Accessed 12/1/23.
  3. EFSA Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources added to Food (ANS), Mortensen A, Aguilar F, et al. Re-evaluation of xanthan gum (E 415) as a food additive. EFSA J. 2017;15(7):e04909. Published 2017 Jul 14. doi:10.2903/j.efsa.2017.4909
  4. So, Daniel. More than FODMAPs: Fermentable fibres & IBS. Monash University website. Accessed 12/1/23.
  5. Beal J, Silverman B, Bellant J, Young TE, Klontz K. Late onset necrotizing enterocolitis in infants following use of a xanthan gum-containing thickening agent. J Pediatr. 2012;161(2):354-356. doi:10.1016/j.jpeds.2012.03.054

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