There’s a new fiber in town. It’s called Inulin.
Inulin is a new factory-made fiber additive that’s secretly being added to foods. Watch out – it may cause digestive problems, especially for sensitive people. This fiber is quickly invading our food supply…but what’s the deal? Isn’t fiber supposed to be good for you? Read on, and you’ll learn what inulin is, why it’s used, & tips you can take with you to the supermarket.
Inulin is actually a naturally occurring water soluble fiber found in foods like bananas, yams, artichokes, onion and chicory root. In its natural state, inulin improves digestion, nutrient absorption and regularity. Sounds wholesome enough…but, is there a difference between natural inulin and factory-made inulin?
Factory-made inulin (as a food additive) *does not* get processed in our bodies the same way natural whole-food inulin does. Studies repeatedly show that isolating and extracting single nutrients from whole foods can lead to undesired (and sometimes dangerous) side effects, allergies, and food intolerance. Factory-made inulin is no exception. Here’s the difference:
Safe, balanced and impossible to overdose
Natural inulin has a naturally slow prebiotic fermentation; it’s safe and self-limiting. So, unless you regularly chow down on 50 bananas or 10lbs of artichoke in one sitting, it’s nearly impossible to overdose on inulin found in its natural state.
Easy to overdose, may create digestive discomfort
Because factory-made inulin is refined and concentrated fiber extract, it’s super easy to overeat and overdose on it. Factory-made inulin can cause unnaturally fast prebiotic fermentation, which may also spark overgrowth of harmful bacteria and/or yeast (candida) in the gut.
A study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association (June 2010) revealed that even small quantities of inulin may cause gut discomfort. Inulin can cause mild to severe stomach discomfort, even in small quantities. Well, then…why do food companies bother with it?
Food scientists created inulin to solve two problems with natural “whole food” fiber.
Problem #1: Natural fiber is not particularly tasty – it’s often stripped away during food-manufacturing and replaced with addictive sweeteners, synthetic flavors and texture improvement agents instead.
Problem #2: Natural fiber decreases desirable texture and mouth-feel in addictive processed foods.
Factory-made Inulin (Pros & Cons)
Modern food science is always investing in research to make processed food taste better, so that it’s more addictive, so that people buy more. However, experiments in food chemistry can be a double-edged sword – they may make processed food taste better, but at the expense of your health. So, what does inulin do that’s so great?
The seductive “mouth-feel” of factory-made inulin is brief, but the unpleasant gut- and butt-feel that follows may stick around much longer. You should be especially on guard if you have digestive issues.
If you have a sensitive GI you should avoid foods with added inulin because they can cause abdominal cramps, gas, bloating and diarrhea. Avoiding products with inulin is especially important for people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Colitis, Crohn’s Disease, GERD, Gastritis or Celiac Disease.
So, how do you avoid inulin? Here are some tips:
Carefully read the ingredients list before you buy food. Here’s inulin hidden in the ingredients of a yogurt snack for kids:
Inulin comes in many disguises. Keep an eye out for other common names for inulin fiber, such as:
If you’re looking for extra fiber, stick to fresh whole foods. Reduce or eliminate processed foods from your diet, especially those containing extra inulin fiber…Your gut, and butt, will thank you.
How do you get *your* fiber? Got something to say about inulin? Let us know in the comments.