Inulin is a starchy substance that is present in the roots of a number of different plants. More specifically, it is a type of prebiotic fiber from the fructan fiber group that has long been used for its health benefits.
Inulin can't be digested by the small intestine. Rather, it serves as a prebiotic once it reaches the lower gut and provides the healthy bacteria that live there with a food source. The gut bacteria then converts inulin into short-chain fatty acids, which are important for the cells of the colon.
- Health Benefits Of Inulin
- Signs Of Inulin Deficiency
- Foods That Contain Inulin
- How To Use Inulin
- Supplementing With Inulin
Health Benefits Of Inulin:
Inulin offers a number of health benefits, including the following.
Inulin May Help Improve Digestion
Because inulin is a type of fiber, it can help promote optimal digestion. Fiber provides the colon cells with the energy needed to keep them healthy as well as to make sure the digestive tract continues to flow and keep bowel movements soft and regular.
Further, inulin has a prebiotic effect, which helps to stimulate the production of healthy bacteria in the colon and thereby aid with digestion.
Inulin Could Help Support Normal Blood Sugar Levels
Some studies suggest that inulin may help to regulate blood sugar levels in diabetic and pre-diabetic patients. More specifically, the high-performance (HP) type of inulin may be particularly helpful in this scenario.
One study, in particular, showed that HP inulin lowered fat in the livers of pre-diabetes patients, which helps to reduce insulin resistance and potentially even reverse Type II diabetes.
Another study showed that patients with Type II diabetes who took HP inulin every day experienced a decrease in fasting blood sugar.
Inulin May Help With Weight Loss Or Maintenance
Fiber is effective at slowing digestion and increasing satiety, helping people feel fuller for longer. As such, it can help decrease and regulate the appetite, which may be effective at helping people lose or maintain weight.
In fact, some studies suggest that inulin may be a great weight loss aid. One particular study showed that overweight participants who took inulin everyday experienced a decrease in hunger hormone levels and an increase in fullness hormone levels. Over a 12-week period, those who took inulin lost an average of two pounds compared to the control group, which gained an average of one pound.
Inulin Could Help Reduce the Risk of Cancer
As a prebiotic that helps to boost the immune system, inulin may have an effect on reducing the overall risk of developing cancer. Research continues to solidify the potential connection, though continued studies are needed. That said, one study showed that the combination of probiotics and prebiotics like inulin may have the potential to reduce the risk of colon cancer.
Inulin May Help to Promote a Healthy Heart
Some research suggests that inulin may help to support cardiovascular strength because it may be effective at improving various markers associated with heart health. One particular animal study found that inulin may reduce blood triglycerides and cholesterol levels. However, more studies are needed to prove that a link between inulin consumption and heart health exists.
Inulin Potentially Helps Promote Stronger Bones
Some animal studies suggest that inulin can improve the absorption of calcium and magnesium in the bones, therefore promoting stronger bone density. In human studies, it has been suggested that children have much better bone mineralization and calcium absorption when consuming inulin.
Read More: What Causes Constipation?
Signs of Inulin Deficiency:
People who don't get enough fiber in their diet, such as inulin, may experience any one of the following symptoms:
- Irregular bowel movements
- Weight Gain
- Ravenous appetite
- High cholesterol levels
- High blood glucose levels
- Deficiency in other nutrients
Note* - Getting too much fiber in the diet can also be an issue. Making sure to get just the right amount of fiber in your diet, not too much or too little, will help ensure your digestion and hormonal profile remain optimal.
Foods That Contain Inulin:
Inulin is naturally occurring in many different types of foods, including:
- Chicory root
Inulin is also available in supplement form or can be added to yogurt and other food products. Manufactured inulin can be found in the following formats:
- High-performance (HP) inulin
- Fructooligosaccharides (FOS)
How To Use Inulin:
In order to increase inulin intake, it's recommended to start by adding inulin-rich foods to the diet, such as those mentioned above. Otherwise, inulin supplements may be taken.
There are several inulin powder and capsule supplements available on the market that can be taken to supplement the diet with this healthy prebiotic fiber.
It's suggested that no more than 2-3 grams of inulin be taken per day for at least 1-2 weeks to start. Then, the dosage may slowly be increased by 1 -2 grams at a time until 5 -10 grams per day is taken. It's not recommended to take any more than 10-30 grams of inulin a day, especially for an extended period of time. If you are eating along the guidelines of The Thermo Diet then you should be able to supplement in the lower end of the range and still see the benefits as your diet will cover many of your bases.
Read More: 10 Foods That Cause You Bloating
Supplementing With Inulin:
While inulin is safe for most people to take, some may suffer certain side effects from its consumption. As such, it's important to start with very low doses and work up to higher doses to minimize the odds of suffering any negative effects.
Some side effects of inulin use may include:
- Abdominal pain and discomfort
Getting enough fiber in the diet can help with digestion, especially if you have loose stools. As a type of prebiotic fiber, inulin can serve a number of benefits, including improving gut health and digestion. Many potential benefits of inulin continue to be looked into with continued research.
Be sure to discuss your needs with your physician and take the recommended daily dose of inulin to ensure maximum benefits with minimal side effects.