Source: The Amazing Healing Powers of Nature, Reader’s Digest
The health benefits of guar gum
Guar bean (Cyamopsis tetragonoloba)’most commonly ground and used as guar gum’is a common ingredient in both processed foods and gluten-free baking. It also has health benefits and has been used to treat the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). It can also help balance ‘good’ bacteria in your system and may be useful as an add-on treatment
The guar bean plant is grown in India and Pakistan as a vegetable and cattle fodder. The bean contains large amounts of galactomannan gum, which turns into a gel when guar bean is ground into a powder then mixed with water. It is this powdered form, guar gum, which is used both as an ingredient in foods and for use as a supplement.
How to use guar gum
Guar gum is sold in powdered form as a thickener and binder for baking and cooking and is often used in gluten-free recipes. If you’d like to try it as a supplement, the typical dose used in research studies, such as those in people with diabetes conducted at the University of Helsinki, is 1 teaspoon (5 grams) mixed into water, juice or milk 3 times a day. Talk with your doctor first; guar gum can decrease the effectiveness of some birth control pills, antibiotics and diabetes medications.
For baking: add 2 teaspoons (10 milligrams) for every cup (225 milligrams) of flour in a recipe.
Relief for digestive discomfort
The latest on the health benefits of guar gum comes from the Gastroenterology Unit at Italy’s University of Genoa, where, in a series of studies, digestive-disease expert Edoardo Giannini added small amounts of this soluble fibre to the diets of a group of people with irritable bowel syndrome. Giannini’s first study, published in the journal Nutrition, attracted worldwide attention because the guar gum appeared to ease both the diarrhea and constipation that can come with IBS and soothed abdominal pain.
In a second study, Giannini found that adding guar gum to one of the newest IBS therapies’an antibiotic that knocks out overgrowths of bacteria in the small intestine’wiped out 91 percent of errant bacteria, compared to 86 percent with drugs alone. The guar gum advantage? It could be the fact that this fibre also reduces intestinal ‘transit time,’ moving stools’and presumably unwanted bacteria’out more swiftly. Other studies show that guar gum can help ease constipation and also promotes release of a natural, bowel-soothing lubricant called mucin, too.
Feeding the good bugs
Bacteria aren’t just illness-causing villains. A growing stack of research shows that maintaining a healthy balance of ‘good bugs,’ or probiotics, in your digestive system could help ward off gastrointestinal problems, discourage the development of allergies in children and even influence how much you weigh and how well you. One key to nurturing the beneficial bugs: feed them well with ‘prebiotics’ such as guar gum.
Researchers from Italy’s University of Genoa found in a 2006 study that people who took guar gum daily had more of 2 types of good-bug probiotics, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria, in their intestinal tract. Findings were similar in a study by the United Kingdom’s University of Reading, where 31 volunteers munched biscuits laced with guar gum or a placebo. The guar group’s levels of good bugs went up.
In the 1980s and 1990s, scientists in Finland took a closer look at guar gum powder’s effects in people with diabetes and high cholesterol, with intriguing results. University of Kuopio researchers asked 39 people with type 2 diabetes to have a teaspoon (5 milligrams) of guar gum, stirred into milk, juice or water, 3 times a day. After 13 months, their total cholesterol levels had fallen by up to 7 percent. In a pair of similar studies at the University of Helsinki involving 32 people with type 1 and 2 diabetes, guar gum lowered blood glucose after meals and improved long-term blood glucose control’which can lower risk for diabetes-related complications such as vision loss and kidney failure. The take-home lesson? According to lead researcher Helena Vuorinen-Markkola, guar gum should never replace diabetes medications, but could be an adjunct treatment.