What is Inulin Powder?
Anyone who has recently been reading up on gut health has come across inulin. What is inulin powder though and what exactly does it do? Is inulin a hormone? Well, no. Inulin is a soluble fibre which naturally occurs in a variety of common herbs, fruits, and vegetables such as sweet potatoes, onions, wheat, asparagus, etc. Being a fructooligosaccharide, it contains several simple sugars which give it a sweet taste. For this reason, inulin may at times be used as a sweetener.
How Does It Work?
Inulin is considered to be a fibre because it does not get absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract. It instead promotes digestive health by supporting the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. These gut bacteria are then responsible for converting the inulin into short-chain fatty acids responsible for the nourishment of colon cells.
A healthy colon will result in healthy bowel movement as well as promoting general health. On top of that, intake of inulin will result in the body being unable to make certain kinds of fats thus regulating weight and cholesterol levels.
Sources of Inulin Powder
Who discovered inulin? This fibre was discovered in 1804 by Valentin Rose – a German scientist. Even before that though the fiber had existed for centuries in common plants such as:
- Chicory root
- Jerusalem artichoke
The fiber can also be manufactured as a supplement in which case you are likely to find it in powder form. The powder is extracted from chicory root and is commonly used as an ingredient in yogurt, cereal bars, and protein bars.
When modified for commercial use, inulin may be found in 3 main forms:
When longer molecules have been removed from inulin.
- High-performance (HP)
When shorter molecules have been removed from inulin.
- Fructooligosaccharides (FOS)
Comprise short inulin molecules synthesised from sugar.
Inulin Powder Benefits
1.Gives a feeling of fullness
Inulin is a soluble fibre meaning that it dissolves into water when in the stomach. The gelatinous substance formed hence:
- Increases fullness.
- Slows digestion.
- Removes cholesterol along the digestive tract.
When overall digestion is slowed down, the body can better absorb the nutrients in food that has been consumed.
2.Promotes digestive health
Being prebiotic, inulin stimulates the growth of good bacteria in the gut. These bacteria help in:
- Fending off bad bacteria and pathogens.
- Preventing infections.
- Boosting the immune system.
Intake of inulin gives stool bulkiness and promotes more frequent bowel movements. This in turn relieves constipation.
4.Controls blood sugar levels
In this case, the high-performance (HP) inulin has proven to be the most effective.
Inulin slows down digestion including the digestion of carbohydrates. This allows for slow release of sugar hence no spiking, and thus blood sugar levels are kept at a regulated level.
Looking at it from another angle, inulin reduces fats such as triglycerides in the liver hence helping to reduce insulin resistance. This could potentially lead to the reversal of type 2 diabetes.
5.Promotes weight loss
Though not much research has been conducted in this area, there are users that have reported notable weight loss since they began taking inulin.
Scientifically, the idea is that better absorption of nutrients can potentially lead to the better removal of toxins in the body.
Also, owing to the fiber qualities which keep one feeling full for longer periods, you would tend to eat less.
The final aspect would be the fact that inulin can be used as a sweetener. When used as a substitute for sugar, you would be keeping watch over both your calories and your weight.
When using inulin, visceral fat would also be kept at bay.
6.Improves sleep and reduces stress levels
New research suggests that prebiotics have a positive impact on sleep patterns and stress levels. Inulin sleep could be attributed to the stimulation of good bacteria in the gut.
How to Take Inulin Powder?
Inulin powder derived from chicory roots is an excellent source of fibre, and it can be taken in virtually any form. It mixes well with hot and cold drinks and beverages, food, shakes, etc. You could incorporate it into your food as a thickening agent or as a sweetener.
The latter could be used as a healthier substitute for sugar thus ensuring you get two benefits in one.
When embarking on an inulin-rich diet, it would be wise to start slow. Perhaps you may want to start by regularly incorporating foods rich in inulin in your diet. Should you choose to go for oral supplements though, you may want to start with 2-3 grams a day for 1-2 weeks.
After that, increase the dosage by 1 or 2 grams at a time, taking the time to see how your body reacts before you settle for a dosage which works for you.
How much inulin powder per day for the average person? For high triglycerides, the usual dose of inulin is about 10-14 grams a day. Older people struggling with constipation may find a dosage of 20-40 grams per day to be more ideal.
You may find that different manufacturers have different dosage recommendations so be sure to read the label carefully each time you make a purchase of inulin supplements.
Inulin Side Effects
When taking inulin using the required dosage, no side effects should be experienced. In some instances, though the user may notice stomach problems such as cramps, excessive flatulence, bloating, uncomfortable bowel movements, loose stools, and diarrhea. Some users may even experience constipation.
All these may be kept in check by paying close attention to your water intake and increasing it if necessary. This particularly applies for those with irritable bowel syndrome or those who have a sensitive digestive tract. Also, it might be worth mentioning that the inulin powder side effects lessen with continued use whereby your body can better tolerate the supplement.
Pregnant women should always consult their doctor before taking any supplement, including inulin.
Inulin vs. Psyllium
Both are plant-based soluble fibers, and both are just as effective in promoting digestive tract health among other benefits. Perhaps psyllium has a slight upper hand in the sense that it does not get digested by intestinal bacteria.