When you’re following a low FODMAP diet, reading the label of the foods you buy is very important. This is because even a small amount of high FODMAP ingredients can trigger digestive symptoms. One of those ingredients that can be hidden in some processed food products is inulin. Let’s learn about inulin, inulin intolerance, and what part it plays in gut health.
What is inulin?
Inulin is a soluble fiber, found in many plants, that is considered a fructan. A fructan, if you remember from the low FODMAP diet overview, is a compound similar to fructose that contains FODMAPs. These fructans are basically a chain of fructose molecules. However, they are bound together in a way that can’t be digested by the small intestine.
About inulin intolerance
According to Monash University, inulin can trigger symptoms in those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Since those with IBS can benefit from a low FODMAP diet, if they consume inulin, symptoms such as gas may worsen. This is because inulin is highly fermentable.
Inulin can be found in such foods as:
- Chicory root
- Jerusalem artichokes
- Yacon root
Besides these whole foods, inulin can also be found in a variety of processed food products and supplements. Examples of some inulin-containing ingredients include:
- Native chicory
- High-performance inulin
These ingredients can be found in such processed food products as cereal bars, granola bars, protein bars, certain beverages, ice cream products, as well as yogurt, cheese or candy bars. Inulin is usually added for substance, bulk, or to add more fiber.
Inulin and Gut Health
Even though inulin can’t be digested, it doesn’t mean it can’t benefit health. In fact, inulin functions as a prebiotic in the lower gut where it acts as a fuel source for beneficial bacteria. The prebiotics and inulin are converted by your gut’s healthy bacteria to short chain fatty acids that can nourish the colon as well as provide metabolic and heart health benefits.
However, since some people, especially those with digestive conditions like IBS, can have a worsening of symptoms with inulin, you may think they may not be able to reap such gut health benefits. However, there are plenty of other prebiotic foods that someone on a low FODMAP diet can enjoy so they too can feed the healthy bacteria in their gut. Here is a list of some low FODMAP prebiotics and the safe Monash University-approved low FODMAP serving size in parentheses.
Prebiotics that are ok to consume on the low FODMAP diet include:
- Chicory leaves (1/2 cup is considered low FODMAP)
- Yams (1 cup diced is considered low FODMAP)
- Bananas (1 medium unripe banana is low FODMAP-friendly; 1/3 ripe banana)
- Oats (1/2 cup uncooked is considered low FODMAP)
- Cocoa (2 heaped teaspoons of cocoa powder is considered low FODMAP)
- Flaxseeds (1 tablespoon is considered low FODMAP)
If you feel like you don’ t eat enough of the low FODMAP prebiotics daily, then you may need a prebiotic supplement. Some great prebiotic products include the prebiotic and probiotic supplement or the prebiotic protein snack bar by Casa de Sante.
Take home message
Inulin is a fiber found in many foods and processed food products. It may not be always apparent that inulin is in certain food products, so its important to check the ingredient label of foods before you purchase them. This is because those with certain digestive conditions like IBS may experience a worsening of symptoms when consuming inulin.
And although inulin can be a gut-friendly prebiotic to those not sensitive to fructans, there are still plenty of low FODMAP prebiotics for those with IBS and other conditions to enjoy. For more resources on gut health, be sure to visit the Casa de Sante website for recipes, tips, information, low FODMAP products, and more.
-written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD of LighttrackNutrition.com