Article developed in partnership with Canadian Digestive Health Foundation (CDHF)
Fibre is an important part of a healthy, balanced diet, and yet Canadians don’t consume enough of it. The majority of us consume less than half the daily recommended amount when we should be consuming anywhere between 25 grams of fibre for women and 38 grams of fibre for men.
Not meeting this goal may cause digestive ailments, which can impact your overall health.
What is fibre and inulin?
Also known as roughage or bulk, fibre is found in plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, grain products, lentils, nuts and seeds. There are many different types of fibres, the most common being soluble and insoluble. As their name suggests, soluble fibres dissolve in water.
As they travel through the digestive tract absorbing water in the stomach and intestine, they create a gel-like substance that slows digestion and prevents certain fats and sugars from being broken down and absorbed. Soluble fibres are fermented and used by bacteria in the intestine. Insoluble fibres are neither broken down nor absorbed. They remain intact and provide bulk to what travels down the digestive tract.
Inulin is a soluble fibre that is naturally found in many plants and vegetables. A good source of inulin is chicory root. Other foods high in naturally occurring inulin include:
- Raw asparagus
- Jerusalem artichokes
Inulin is additionally available as a supplement, in capsule form, as a pill or powder, and most recently in gummies.
Inulin is also a fructan. Fructans are made up of chains of fructose molecules that link together in a way that the small intestine cannot break down. In its place, they travel to the lower gut and act as a prebiotic, where they feed beneficial gut bacteria. Prebiotics are food for the healthy bacteria (probiotics) in your digestive system. They can encourage the growth of those beneficial bacteria, helping to support and maintain a healthy digestive system.
Benefits of Inulin on Digestive Health
Research has linked inulin fibre to several health benefits, including supporting a healthy digestive system and relieving constipation.
Your digestive tract is home to trillions of bacteria, collectively called your gut microbiota. The bacteria in your gut contribute to your overall health.
Inulin acts as a “prebiotic,” which feeds healthy bacteria in our gut. Soluble fibres like inulin help regulate the speed at which food moves through the digestive system, which over time, can be beneficial for those who struggle with constipation.
A meta-analysis found that people taking inulin experienced more frequent bowel movements and improved stool consistency, and another four-week study showed adults who consumed inulin daily reported improved constipation.
Although more research in this area is needed, we know that inulin has several potential health benefits, including promoting gut health and relieving constipation.