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Guar Gum

What Should I Know About It?

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Updated September 26, 2012

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Guar gum is a type of fiber extracted from guar beans (a plant mainly found in India and Pakistan). Used as an ingredient in certain foods, guar gum is also available in dietary supplement form.

Why Do People Use Guar Gum?

Guar gum is often used as a laxative. In addition, guar gum is touted as a natural remedy for the following conditions:

Guar gum is also said to promote weight loss and prevent atherosclerosis.

Benefits of Guar Gum

Although research on the health effects of guar gum is fairly limited, there's some evidence that guar gum may offer certain benefits. Here's a look at some key findings from the available studies:

1)Constipation

Partially hydrolyzed guar gum (a commonly available form of guar gum) may help treat childhood constipation, according to a 2010 study from the Turkish Journal of Gastroenterology. For the study, 61 children with constipation were given either partially hydrolyzed guar gum or lactulose (a laxative) for four weeks. Study results revealed that both treatments were similarly effective in relieving constipation and the associated abdominal pain. However, partially hydrolyzed guar gum appeared to produce fewer side effects than lactulose.

2) Irritable Bowel Syndrome

A study published in Digestive Diseases and Sciences in 2005 indicates that guar gum may be beneficial in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome. For the study, 86 patients with irritable bowel syndrome took either five or 10 grams of partially hydrolyzed guar gum every day for three months. By the end of the treatment period, both groups showed significant improvement in gastrointestinal symptoms and quality of life.

3) Diabetes

Preliminary research suggests that guar gum may help protect against diabetes. In a 2012 study published in the Iranian journal Pharmacognosy, for instance, scientists demonstrated that guar gum was more effective than the anti-diabetes drug glibenclamide in lowering cholesterol and blood sugar levels in diabetic rats. The study also determined that guar gum helped reduce body weight and food intake. However, it's too soon to tell whether guar gum may have a similar effect on human health.

Safety

Although guar gum is generally considered safe for most people, it may cause a number of side effects (including loose stools, gas, and diarrhea). When taken in high doses, guar gum may obstruct the esophagus and/or the intestines.

Since there's some concern that guar gum may alter your blood sugar levels, it's important to avoid use of guar gum within two weeks of surgery. In addition, people taking diabetes medication should seek medical advice prior to using guar gum.

Where to Find Guar Gum

Widely available for purchase online, guar gum can also be found in many natural-foods stores and in stores specializing in dietary supplements.

When Should You Use It?

Although there's some evidence that guar gum may help with certain health problems (such as constipation and irritable bowel syndrome), it's important to consult your primary care provider before using guar gum in treatment of a chronic health problem. Self-treating a chronic condition with guar gum and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.

Sources:

Giannini EG, Mansi C, Dulbecco P, Savarino V. "Role of partially hydrolyzed guar gum in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome." Nutrition. 2006 Mar;22(3):334-42.

Parisi G, Bottona E, Carrara M, Cardin F, Faedo A, Goldin D, Marino M, Pantalena M, Tafner G, Verdianelli G, Zilli M, Leandro G. "Treatment effects of partially hydrolyzed guar gum on symptoms and quality of life of patients with irritable bowel syndrome. A multicenter randomized open trial." Dig Dis Sci. 2005 Jun;50(6):1107-12.

Saeed S, Mosa-Al-Reza H, Fatemeh AN, Saeideh D. "Antihyperglycemic and antihyperlipidemic effects of guar gum on streptozotocin-induced diabetes in male rats." Pharmacogn Mag. 2012 Jan;8(29):65-72.

Slavin JL, Greenberg NA. "Partially hydrolyzed guar gum: clinical nutrition uses." Nutrition. 2003 Jun;19(6):549-52.

Üstündağ G, Kuloğlu Z, Kirbaş N, Kansu A. "Can partially hydrolyzed guar gum be an alternative to lactulose in treatment of childhood constipation?" Turk J Gastroenterol. 2010 Dec;21(4):360-4.

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