Archive for the ‘Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)’ Category

(Reuters Health) – “Stealth fiber” increasingly added to processed foods, while not a problem for most, can cause gastrointestinal discomfort for some who may not know they’re consuming too much of it, Minnesota researchers warn. The fiber is called “inulin.”  http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6675QC20100708

Here’s what AKA has to say about Inulin:

With health recommendations pointing to the benefits of increased fiber intake as well as acknowledging those of beneficial bacteria (‘probiotics’), much attention is being given to sources of fiber and prebiotic fiber. The following reviews inulin, a polyfructose (meaning several fructose chain) or fructan carbohydrate, and from a nutrition standpoint is known for its fiber and prebiotic benefits.

For humans, inulin is known as an indigestible fiber meaning that it passes through the stomach and small intestine into the large intestine which provides for its health benefits. On arrival in the large intestine, bacteria ferment the inulin, a process which produces carbon dioxide (and / or methane) and short chain fatty acids. Many of the short chain fatty acids (i.e., acetic, propionic, and butyric acids) have known health benefits from aiding hepatic cells to cancer prevention (especially for the colon) to cholesterol and insulin optimization as well as increased mineral absorption. The production of carbon dioxide and / or methane can trigger bloating and release of gas and be painful for individuals with sensitive digestive tracts or those that over consume inulin containing foods or supplements.

So what do we need to know about inulin as it relates to food production?

Key Points

  1. Although chemically similar, inulin and FOS are different (fructan versus fructo-oligosaccharide) which can explain differences in how they are received in the digestive tract. Some people are sensitive to one versus the other, some to both, others to none.
  2. There are only a few whole food sources of inulin (chicory root, sunchokes / Jerusalem artichoke, dandelion and burdock roots and small amounts in garlic and onion). Note that growing behavior and storage conditions may affect the inulin content
  3. Food first? While it makes sense that inulin’s benefits would be best conferred by consuming the food, since the inulin portion of inulin-containing foods goes undigested through to the large intestine, its benefits will maintain intact even if properly isolated and used as an isolated supplement. That said, the foods that contain inulin have lots of health benefits beyond inulin – so, as always, go for whole food first.
  4. High heat causes inulin’s molecules to separate so inulin processed under high heat would likely not retain its health benefits
  5. Contraindications:
    1. based on inulin’s ability to cause digestive distress in some (see data statement below), I would recommend avoiding inulin (in its food sources and as an ingredient) if you suffer from gastrointestinal issues – celiac disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), candida (no sugar), SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth),
      1. It has been speculated that people fall into one of three categories regarding sensitivity to inulin: 1) nonsensitive persons can consume 30 g/d (grams per day) or more of the compound with little or no symptoms as described 2) sensitive persons can consume 10 g/d of the compound without discomfort but might experience undesirable reactions with doses of 20 g/d; 3) very sensitive persons can experience symptoms of intolerance at doses as small as of 10 g/d.
    2. It is not clear if only beneficial bacteria ferment and thrive from the presence of inulin – meaning that inulin may feed bad bacteria as well
    3. Children
      1. I would use caution with supplemental inulin quantity in products targeted for children for concern of digestive distress due to lack of adequate water intake, gram to size of GI tract ratio (the above noted grams are for adult digestive tract not children), and known health benefits from whole foods.
  6. Opportunities
    1. Products containing inulin can provide health benefits for diabetics, persons with elevated cholesterol levels (including triglycerides), with fatty liver, and at risk for colon cancer.
    2. For healthy individuals (especially digestive tracts), inulin can improve the body’s ability to retain bifidobacteria and lactobacillus probiotics which have a host of health benefits as well.
    3. Consider using foods containing inulin such as burdock, Jerusalem artichoke (sunchokes) and chicory roots for their inulin content

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