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Inulin Benefits: Enhance Your Wellness with This Prebiotic Fiber

Inulin Benefits: Enhance Your Wellness with This Prebiotic Fiber

Prebiotics are a pivotal player in creating ideal gut health, and inulin is one such heavy hitter that can positively affect our health from the inside out. From directly supporting the microbiome to promoting blood sugar balance, this ingredient has vast therapeutic potential throughout the body.

And best of all, you can consume it in regular, plant-based products, as you will discover in this blog post. In this article, we will learn about what inulin is, how it functions in the body, the benefits of consuming it, and where to find it outside of supplements!

I generally encourage a food-first approach to creating long term health and wellness, but a quality supplemental source can be a great way to establish a wellness baseline - especially in today’s nutrient-depleted reality!

What is Inulin?

Inulin is a prebiotic fiber that comes from plants, and it is classified as a fructan. A fructan is a large sugar molecule or fiber that is made up of many chains of fructose, aka “fruit sugar.” Though humans cannot digest it because of its complexity, several species of microbes in our gut can.

It tastes slightly sweet, which is a property that serves many other practical uses that we will explore further. Anything that tastes good AND has health benefits starts to sound pretty nice!

How Inulin Functions in the Body

Inulin functions as any other prebiotic and meets the three requirements to be deemed as such. First, its complex chemical structure of many chains of fructose molecules is unable to be broken down by our stomach acid and digestive enzymes by us human hosts. With this property it is able to pass through the digestive tract, adding bulk to the digestive products, until it reaches the large intestine.

Next, in the large intestine, it selectively interacts with species within the gut microbiome. It especially stimulates the growth and activity of the beneficial Bifidobacterium species. One of the amazing things about prebiotics is that they act as food for specific species, which speaks to why the diversity of plant-based fibers is so important to optimize diversity in the microbial community!

Lastly, inulin intake imparts benefits to us, the human hosts, through its bulk-forming properties and through the actions of our good microbes processing it. Let’s take a zoomed-out look at some of the benefits of inulin that have been studied next.

Benefits of Inulin in the Research

Natural Sources of Inulin in Your Diet

Inulin is a prebiotic easily found in many plant-based sources. Here is a list of some great foods to focus on if you’re trying to increase this particular prebiotic in your “food as medicine” regimen:

  • Bananas
  • Garlic
  • Leeks
  • Asparagus
  • Burdock Root
  • Barley
  • Onions

When it comes to sourcing inulin for supplements, many are made from Jerusalem artichokes and chicory root, as these have particularly high concentrations of inulin.

Potential Side Effects of Inulin

It’s important to talk about and recognize the possible side effects of any kind of supplementation or nutrition information, and prebiotics are no exception. Since prebiotics, whether food or supplements have a real, measurable effect on the gut, that’s where the most common symptoms lie.

Inulin can cause bloating, gas production, stomach cramping, and nausea in some people, especially if increasing sources of fiber too quickly. Additionally, inulin is a fructan, which is one of the fibers (the “F” in FODMAPs) that can cause flare ups in patients with SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

To frame a short conversation around this idea of the side effects of this food, I like to remind patients, especially those with SIBO, that “the food isn’t the problem. The imbalance in the microbiome is. Definitely reach out to a health and wellness provider for more personalized guidance if you have such reactions to food!

Tips for Increasing Inulin in Your Diet or Supplements

  • Start low and go slow - especially if you don’t eat a lot of fiber, such as inulin. Start with lower dosages to avoid the uncomfortable side effects discussed above.
  • Start with food sources before considering concentrated supplementation, especially if you have a sensitive constitution to supplements in general.
  • If you do experience side effects from “normal foods,” consult with a healthcare provider such as a functional medicine practitioner or integrative gastroenterologist.
  • Fiber is relatively scarce in the Standard American Diet (SAD). Recommendations are to consume a minimum of 25-30 grams per day, while the average American gets around 15 grams.
  • If choosing to supplement, make sure to look for a quality supplement that uses certified Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and other quality control measures. I recommend trying Horizon.

Conclusion

As you can see, inulin can be a key player in cultivating optimal gut health and overall well-being. We dove into some of its researched benefits, and hopefully, you take away the fact that consuming a wide variety of prebiotics, including inulin, is a great way to increase the diversity in your microbiome.

From supporting the immune system to aiding in blood sugar regulation, the benefits of this natural, plant-based fiber can be superb! Whether sourced from natural foods or high-quality supplements, integrating inulin into your diet can pave the way for balanced and enhanced health outcomes.

Remember to start gradually, prioritize natural sources, and seek guidance from healthcare professionals if needed. For more wellness education and to stay connected, check out Cielo and Dr. Kenny online!

About the Author

Dr. Kenny Mittelstadt, DACM, DC, L.Ac., Dipl.OM.

Kenny Mittelstadt is a functional health practitioner and acupuncturist based in San Antonio, Texas. He is trained through the Institute for Functional Medicine and received both of his doctorate degrees with highest honors from Southern California University of Health Sciences. He focuses on empowering patients through wellness education and root-cause healing – transforming health through personalized, lab-based functional medicine programs!

Website: DrKennyMittelstadt.com

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