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What Are the Side Effects of Inulin?

A.E. Freeman
By
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Side effects of inulin typically involve the digestive system. Some people may experience stomach pain and gas if they consume too much inulin. Other common side effects include feelings of nausea and diarrhea. Usually, side effects occur if people unknowingly eat foods with added inulin or take inulin supplements. It is possible for inulin to cause an allergic reaction in some people.

Inulin is a type of carbohydrate. It is naturally found in many vegetables and fruits, such as onions and bananas. The carbohydrate is considered a type of soluble fiber, as it is not absorbed by the digestive system. Instead, it promotes the growth of healthy bacteria in the intestine. As it is not bacteria itself but has an impact on the number of bacteria in the body, it is considered a prebiotic.

Side effects of inulin usually occur only when a person consumes too much of the fiber in the course of a day. Tests and studies have demonstrated that people showed gastrointestinal sides effects of inulin when they consumed more than 10 grams of it in a day. Typical side effects reported with inulin use included cramps in the stomach, stomach rumbling, and diarrhea. Some people reported feelings of bloating as well as gas and flatulence.

Many food manufacturers add inulin to foods such as cereal or yogurt to increase the fiber content without making the food taste bitter. Inulin typically has a sweet taste, so adding it to food not only boosts fiber, it also can improve the food's flavor. As more and more manufacturers add the fiber to foods, the risk of side effects of inulin grows, as people may consume more than intended without realizing it.

Inulin is also available as as supplement or an injection and is designed to help ease constipation or reduce triglyceride levels, as it prevents the body from absorbing triglycerides. Some people believe it can help lower cholesterol or help patients lose weight. When used as directed as a supplement, the side effects of inulin are typically low or nonexistent.

Some people may be allergic to inulin. Signs of an allergic reaction vary, depending on the severity of the allergy. Common allergy reactions include coughing or having trouble breathing after eating a food that contains the fiber, even vegetables that contain inulin naturally. As the fiber is added to more and more foods, the appearance of allergic reactions may increase.

What Is Inulin Used For?

Inulin has many potential uses, including promoting gut health and assisting with weight loss. Some people use it to lower cholesterol and balance blood sugar levels. Other people use inulin to improve bowel regularity and prevent constipation.

Gut Health

A healthy gut is essential for the body to function properly. Your digestive system has a careful balance of bacteria that help to break down the foods you eat, absorb valuable nutrients and produce energy for your cells.

Inulin can feed the positive bacteria in your gut, helping keep your digestive system healthy and improving your defenses against illness and infections. Many scientists also think that gut health is even linked to your emotional wellbeing and energy levels. 

Relief From Constipation and Other Digestive Troubles

This type of prebiotic can improve the consistency of stools and increase the regularity of bowel movements. Inulin is considered soluble fiber, meaning it dissolves in water and turns into a helpful gel that eases digestion. Many supplements and over-the-counter remedies for constipation include a significant amount of inulin. 

Weight Loss

There is some evidence that increasing the amount of inulin in your diet can assist with weight loss goals. A diet rich in fiber provides many benefits for losing weight:

  • Keeping you full longer: Soluble fiber sends signals to the digestive system that slow down digestion and make you feel satisfied longer.
  • Reducing hunger cravings: Inulin stimulates the body to produce certain hormones that suppress your appetite. Without those cravings for junk foods, it can be easier to lose weight and avoid gaining it back.
  • Providing valuable nutrients: Natural fiber is a valuable source of nutrients, with virtually zero calories. When you enjoy nutrient-dense foods instead of empty carbs, you may lose weight more easily.

This doesn’t mean that inulin alone will magically make fat disappear. As part of a healthy diet, however, fiber can assist with reducing calorie consumption.

Help With Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Some studies suggest that prebiotics such as inulin can help people who have IBD to experience a level of relief. Promoting a healthy gut microbiota (the balance of gut bacteria) can ease digestive symptoms related to IBD and reduce inflammation in the colon and other parts of the GI tract.

There is some evidence that inulin may provide similar anti-inflammatory benefits for ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. That said, more evidence is needed to definitively recommend this prebiotic as a treatment for IBD, UC or Crohn’s disease. People who have these conditions may decide to try supplementation personally to see if they notice improvement.

Heart Health

Some physicians recommend introducing more inulin in the diet to improve heart health. Inulin supplements may help lower “bad” cholesterol and improve “good” cholesterol levels. They may also reduce triglycerides.

Bone Health

Some research by well-known organizations, including the Food and Drug Administration, indicates that inulin can improve bone health. This prebiotic can improve the amount of calcium and magnesium you absorb from food, which are essential minerals for strong bones. Improved bone density can decrease your risk of fractures and potentially help with conditions such as osteoporosis.

Does Inulin Lower Blood Sugar?

Quite a few studies indicate that inulin may balance blood sugar levels in the body. It can reduce blood sugar spikes by stabilizing the digestion of foods. Research suggests inulin can lower fasting blood sugar, potentially helping patients who have prediabetes, type 1 and type 2 diabetes. This soluble fiber also appears to reduce fasting insulin levels, which is an added benefit for blood sugar management.

Due to the importance of carefully managing diabetes, however, it’s always best to speak with your doctor before making any changes to your diet. You can ask specifically about foods and supplements containing inulin to see if they’re a good choice for your treatment plan.

Is Inulin Safe?

Health professionals consider inulin to be safe. For most people, including more of it in your diet doesn’t produce any negative effects. The only exception is an exceedingly rare food allergy that can cause life-threatening anaphylactic shock.

While safe for human consumption, inulin can produce digestive discomfort and other side effects in some people. This is related to FODMAP intolerance. In these cases, foods containing fermentable prebiotics such as inulin can trigger bloating, diarrhea, gas and abdominal pain. These symptoms are more likely to appear with larger doses of inulin.

More research is needed to confirm all of the beneficial effects of this plant-based compound, but overall it seems to have a positive effect on digestive health. As a prebiotic and a valuable source of dietary fiber, inulin can help you take care of your gut naturally.

Does Inulin Cause Gas?

Sometimes, food contains additives such as inulin to ensure that people are getting enough fiber or other vitamins and minerals in their daily diets. Unfortunately, these additives don't always agree with a person's digestive system. Some people who ingest too much of the prebiotic inulin will experience uncomfortable or even painful symptoms, such as gas, bloating, and stomachaches. People who have gastrointestinal disorders such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) are more likely to be sensitive to inulin than other people are.

How Does Inulin Work in the Body?

Inulin is a prebiotic fiber, which means that it feeds the existing healthy bacteria that are already in your gut and helps them to function well. When a person ingests inulin, it moves through the body undigested until it reaches the large intestine and is fermented by the bacteria there. Sometimes, the colon processes it too quickly, which is what causes the gas and bloating.

Does Everybody Experience Gastrointestinal Problems When Ingesting Inulin?

No, not every person will experience bloating, gas, or diarrhea after ingesting inulin. Some people can eat the fiber, even in larger quantities, without ever experiencing symptoms. Other people may experience symptoms if they eat too much of the fiber in one sitting. Finally, some people are very intolerant to fiber and will experience symptoms even if they only have a small amount of inulin.

Does Inulin Lower Blood Sugar?

According to research conducted by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), replacing a portion of the sugars in a food product with inulin may lower the person's blood glucose response after they ingest the food. Two clinical trials were performed to come to this conclusion. Conducted at the University of Oxford, the trials were randomized, had a controlled cross-over design, and were double-blind.

Both trials used foods that were composed identically, with the exception of sugar. Some foods contained full sugar while other foods replaced part of their sugars with inulin. The studies noted a 16% reduction in blood glucose response among the people who participated in the study. It also noted that insulin response reduced by 40%. The research indicates that switching out some sugars for inulin could reduce the risk of some metabolic diseases.

What Is a Substitute for Inulin?

Although inulin powder is typically available in drug stores, there are sometimes shortages of it. If you wish for a comparable alternative, you can use a simple fiber supplement product. Another option is to purchase whole or ground psyllium seed husks. Psyllium is the fiber that comes from the seeds of Plantago ovata, otherwise known as ispaghula. However, it is important to note that this form of fiber is most commonly used as a laxative so should be used in very small doses. To measure the equivalent of any fiber compared to inulin powder, keep in mind that two teaspoons of inulin is the equivalent of four grams.

Can People Who Are on the Keto Diet Ingest Inulin?

Inulin, which is sometimes marketed as chicory root, is shown to be healthy for people who are on the keto diet. The root is an excellent alternative to sugar for people who have a sweet tooth. The packaged form of the product is light enough and sweet enough to add to tea, coffee, and even smoothies. It's also an excellent baking substitute.

Are There Different Types of Inulin?

There are different types of inulin. The two most common types that you'll find are "inulin in hot" and "inulin in cold." You can determine which kind you have by looking at the nutrition information. Inulin in hot is 99% fiber, but inulin in cold is only about 90% fiber. The other 10% is sugars. Some suppliers also provide other types of inulin, so it is important to check nutrition information before purchasing a new type.

Where Can a Person Purchase Inulin?

Most countries provide chicory root-based inulin. You can find it at drug stores, in grocery stores, and even on the internet. You may find the product listed as inulin powder, chicory root fiber, native chicory inulin, or other several similar names. Some countries carry others types of inulin that may be easier to find. For example, South America sells blue agave, while Jerusalem is more likely to sell artichoke inulin.

How Sweet Is Inulin?

It depends on the type you purchase. Inulin in cold is about 10 times less sweet than sugar, which means that you may need to do some experimenting if you plan to use the product for baking. Inulin in hot is not sweet at all. For this reason, it's used as a fat replacement rather than a sugar replacement.

Does Inulin Cause Gas?

Inulin is a fiber-boosting ingredient that, if consumed in excess quantities, can cause bloating, abdominal pain, and gas. This is because the body does not digest fiber. Instead, it goes into the large intestine, where it is fermented by the bacteria in the intestine and feeds your healthy gut bacteria. However, not everyone will experience gas and other gastrointestinal side effects when consuming inulin. Some people are not as sensitive to the ingredient as others are. Some people are more sensitive than the average person and will experience gastrointestinal symptoms even when only ingesting a small amount of inulin.

What Foods Contain Inulin?

Many foods and plants naturally contain inulin. In your everyday foods, inulin can be found in bananas, garlic, asparagus, onions, leeks, and Jerusalem artichokes. Although many people don't eat these plants, inulin is also common and edible in burdock, dandelion root, and chicory. Sometimes, inulin is added to processed foods in place of fat, so it may sometimes be found in yogurt, ice cream, candy bars, and cheese.

Does Inulin Help Constipation?

Because inulin is a type of fiber (a prebiotic fiber to be specific), it is known to relieve constipation. One study showed that participants had improved stool consistency and another showed that older adults who consumed at least 15 grams of inulin per day had better digestion and less constipation.

What Are the Benefits of Taking Inulin?

In addition to helping with constipation symptoms, inulin has several other benefits. Perhaps most importantly, it helps to increase the healthy bacteria in the colon, which in turn creates a healthier immune system that can increase the amount of calcium and other menus that you can absorb. It may also lower the number of triglycerides in the blood.

For some people, inulin may help to promote weight loss. Some studies have shown that people who take inulin instead of cellulose fiber lose significantly more weight. Inulin may also help to control diabetes by improving overall blood sugar, although this benefit may depend on the type of inulin that a person takes. Other potential benefits of taking inulin include better heart health, the potential to prevent colon cancer, and the potential to help treat irritable bowel disease.

What Are the Side Effects of Inulin?

Inulin is safe for most people in small doses, although those who are intolerant to FODMAPS will typically have more significant side effects. Chicory-based inulin may also cause side effects in people who are allergic to ragweed. It is important to add inulin to your diet in small amounts to determine whether you have an intolerance to the ingredient. The most common side effects of ingesting inulin are flatulence, abdominal discomfort, bloating, and diarrhea. The more inulin that you ingest, the more likely you are to deal with side effects.

What Is the Correct Dosage of Inulin?

Add small amounts of inulin-rich foods to your diet to start. If you decide to take inulin supplements, it is important not to overdo it. Begin with 2-3 grams a day and stick to that amount for 1-2 weeks. After two weeks, you can begin slowly increasing the dose and wait another week or two to raise it again. You shouldn't exceed 5-10 grams of inulin per day.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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A.E. Freeman
By A.E. Freeman
Amy Freeman, a freelance copywriter and content creator, makes engaging copy that drives customer acquisition and retention. With a background in the arts, she combines her writing prowess with best practices to deliver compelling content across various domains and effectively connect with target audiences.
Discussion Comments
By anon1005992 — On Jan 06, 2022

you mistake inulin with insulin in this article a couple of times

A.E. Freeman
A.E. Freeman
Amy Freeman, a freelance copywriter and content creator, makes engaging copy that drives customer acquisition and...
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