What is it?
Xanthan Gum : Please note that a little goes a long way, and as it is synthesized from cabbage, can give you the toots if you go over the recommended amount.
If you like getting technical, (I don't but often accidentally toss big words around anyway... my apologies, and no one likes playing Scrabble with me as a result.)
Xanthan gum is a polysaccharide, derived from the bacterial coat of Xanthomonas campestris, used as a food additive and rheology modifier, commonly used as a food thickening agent (in salad dressings, for example) and a stabilizer (in cosmetic products, for example, to prevent ingredients from separating). It is produced by the fermentation of glucose, sucrose, or lactose by the Xanthomonas campestris bacterium. After a fermentation period, the polysaccharide is precipitated from a growth medium with isopropyl alcohol, dried, and ground into a fine powder. Later, it is added to a liquid medium to form the gum.
My thanks to (and you won't hear this often) Wikipedia for that particular alphabet soup!
So, basically, another beneficial bacteria, used in small amounts to aid in thickening for gravies, soups, salad dressings etc (Cornstarch works well here, as well)- ground down into a powdered-gum-form. (I fear I may lose a reader here.)
Also, it has the ability to hold small particles together (I Can't Believe It's Not Cardboard! gluten-free breads annoy the hell out of me. Hence, I stick with the rice and tapioca Udis or the rice and corn Schar---the Udis being rather thick and quite a bit like fluffy Italian bread).
So, thickness, stickiness, and fluffiness, and lack of that God-awful "I can't believe it's not cardboard! (Actually, I can't believe it's not I can't believe it's not cardboard, and there really is more cardboard in the world than we thought.)
All from the fruit of a lowly little cabbage. If they tell you, "Use one teaspoon"... don't say "A little more won't hurt."
I use one particular brand, because they test with the ELISA test mentioned earlier (How Testing For Gluten Is Done) ( I will go in search of a simple wording on that) and because I know it won't come from a potentially dangerous wheat form, which also exists.
There are alternatives, and I am sad to see Wiki's list is missing a lot. I will be searching these out. In the mean time, please also see:
Despite its rather alien-sounding name, xanthan gum is as natural as any other fermented corn sugar polysaccharide. The name is derived from the strain of bacteria used during the fermentation process, Xanthomonas campestris. This is the same bacteria responsible for causing black rot to form on broccoli, cauliflower and other leafy vegetables. The bacteria form a slimy substance which acts as a natural stabilizer or thickener. It was developed when the United States Department of Agriculture ran a number of experiments involving bacteria and various sugars to develop a new thickening agent similar to corn starch or guar gum.
Xanthan gum is considered a polysaccharide in scientific circles, because it is a long chain of three different forms of sugar. What's important to know is that all three of these natural sugars are present in corn sugar, a derivative of the more familiar corn syrup. The Xanthomonas campestris bacteria eat a supply of this corn sugar under controlled conditions, and the digestion process converts the individual sugars into a single substance with properties similar to cornstarch. Xanthan gum is used in dairy products and salad dressings as a thickening agent and stabilizer; it prevents ice crystals from forming in ice creams, and also provides a "fat feel" in low or no-fat dairy products.
Another use for xanthan gum is the stabilization and binding of cosmetic products. One advantage of xanthan gum is that a little goes an incredibly long way; cosmetic manufacturers only have to add a very small amount of xanthan gum to their cream-based products in order to keep the individual ingredients from separating. Despite the use of bacteria during processing, xanthan gum itself is not generally harmful to human skin or digestive systems, though some individuals may find they are allergic to it.Thanks to: Wise Geek dot com
This diet has taught me a lot: What may be good for many is not good for some, and even things that can be bad, can be used for good purposes. Awesome!