What is inulin?


The natural origin of most inulin you buy in the shops is probably chicory root.  Because of it’s high concentration, chicory root makes the ideal source of inulin for health supplements, food and beverages.  Inulin is extracted from the roots with hot water.

So what is inulin good for?

To understand this, we need to understand the role of dietary fiber in our digestive system.

More dietary fiber helps the good bacteria in your stomach combat the bad bacteria like E. Coli.

Probiotics are live bacteria that are found in foods, like yoghurt, that are good for our digestive tract.  Prebiotics are the food for those good bacteria.   Prebiotic dietary fiber is found naturally in garlic, onion, asparagus, artichokes and bananas (many of these contain inulin).  Foods like this will grow beneficial bacteria in your gut, and this fortifies your immune system.

Our ancestors ate up to 100g of dietary fiber per day.  The average American?  Just 12g.

Try to get 10-15 different sources of dietary fiber every week.

So, back to inulin.

Inulin as Dietary Fiber

Inulin seems to be the new dietary fiber everyone is talking about.  However, to be a dietary fiber, it needs to meet strict criteria.  In an article published on PubMed, the researchers concluded that:

“Inulin and oligofructose are not digested in the upper part of the gastrointestinal tract or are they absorbed and metabolized in the glycolytic pathway, or directly stored as glycogen like ‘sugars' or starches. None of the molecules of fructose and glucose that form inulin and oligofructose appear in the portal blood. These materials are quantitatively fermented by the microflora of the colon; further, it has been demonstrated that this fermentation leads to the selective stimulation of the growth of the bifidobacteria population. After reviewing their chemistry, origin, and physiological effects, it is the opinion of the authors that inulin and oligofructose are dietary fiber.”

Read the Abstract here.

Therefore, inulin shares the common characteristics of dietary fiber.  Namely:

  1. They are of plant origin (chicory root),
  2. Resistant to digestion and absorption in the small intestine,
  3. fermentation in the colon (induces a bulking effect) to produce short-chain fatty acids that are absorbed and used by the body.

So what does Inulin do in our body?

As a dietary fiber, inulin acts as a prebiotic feeding the good bacteria in our gut, which helps them fight off any bad bacteria that may find their way into your digestive system.  This means your gut’s immune system is getting a boost from it.   Fiber like inulin helps improve the efficiency of nutrient absorption in the gut, and helps with digestion.  Since the inulin does not get broken down in our gut, it has no effect on blood sugar levels, but it does bulk out the waste (as all fibers do) to help the transit out of the body.

 

Where can you get inulin fiber?

Well, we have already mentioned natural sources in this article.  If you want a digestive supplement, there is a good one called “Essential Digestive Plus”, that contains both inulin and a range of digestive enzymes

Here is the complete list.:

  1. 150mg inulin
  2. 82,000 HUT Protease SP Blend
  3. 8,000 DU Amylase
  4. 300GLA Alpha Galactosidase
  5. 20 AGU Glucoamylase
  6. 1,000 ALU Lactase
  7. 600 CU Cellulase
  8. 525 INVU Invertase
  9. 55 endo PGU Pectinase
  10. 1,350 FIP lipase

Don’t worry too much about the varied units in these enzymes.  They typically just mean active units.

Need a Probiotic?

If on the other hand you are looking for a good probiotic (that is the bacteria to repopulate your gut, then a good one is Probiotic 14.  It contains 9,000,000,000 colony forming units of:

  • Lactobacillus acidophilus
  • Bifidobacterium bifidum
  • Lactobacillus plantarum
  • Bacillus subtilus
  • Bifidobacterium lactis
  • Lactobacillus bulgaricus
  • Streptococcus thermophilus
  • Lactobacillus casei
  • Lactobacillus salivarius
  • Bifidobacterium breve
  • Lactobacillus paracasei
  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus
  • Lactococcus lactis
  • Lactobacillus brevis

.. and according to the Good Health Naturally website it can help prevent fungus, resolve diarrhea, prevent herpes, prevent parasites, avoid food allergies, etc.

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About Andy Williams

In a processed food culture, simply eating may not be enough. Andy Williams, B.SC., Ph.D. is a scientist with a strong interest in Juicing and how it can supply the body with the nutrients it needs to thrive in modern society. You can subscribe to his free daily paper called Juicing The Rainbow and follow him on Facebook orTwitter. You can also follow me on Google +

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