Fiber consists of the carbohydrates that are not broken down or absorbed by your digestive tract. Because increasing your dietary fiber can benefit your body in many ways, many manufacturers have begun to add fiber sources, such as inulin, to their products to boost the fiber content. This can benefit your digestive tract and may help keep you feeling full longer. However, consuming inulin can cause some mild side effects, though they are generally not serious.
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Inulin is a kind of soluble fiber which can be found in many fruits and vegetables, such as garlic, wheat, bananas and onions. Inulin belongs to a class of compounds known as fructans, which are classified as fibers because they are unabsorbed by the human digestive tract. Although inulin occurs naturally in some foods, it can also be extracted from chicory root and used as an additive to increase the amount of fiber present in some foods.
Just because inulin is not absorbed by your body does not mean that it doesn't cause any side effects. A 2010 article in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association examined the side effects of consuming inulin in volunteers. People who consumed inulin occasionally experience flatulence and bloating. Notably, these side effects were most severe for the volunteers who consumed 10 g of inulin, which was the highest dose.
Gas Side Effects
Although inulin doesn't get broken down by your digestive enzymes, it does not pass through your digestive tract completely unchanged. As a 2005 article in the British Journal of Nutrition explains, inulin functions as a prebiotic, which means that it serves as a food source for the bacteria which naturally live in your intestines. This is actually one of the benefits of inulin, as these bacteria are important for the health of your digestive tract. On the other hand, when these bacteria break down inulin, they produce gas, resulting in flatulence and bloating.
Preventing Side Effects
One way to reduce the side effects of consuming inulin is to start with a low level and gradually increase the amount you consume. Starting with a high dose of inulin may be difficult for your digestive tract and can increase the side effects. By starting with a lower dose, you give your intestines and their bacteria time to adjust to the inulin, which can minimize the gas produced.