The food Additive that triggers belly bloat


Do you get belly bloat after eating healthy foods?

One particular food additive seems most responsible for tummy upsets such as bloating, gas and abdominal pain.

Inulin, a naturally occurring fiber in some fruits and vegetables such as asparagus but also garlic, is often used as a food additive in a lot of "healthy foods". Not to be confused with insulin, inulin is a soluble fiber that food manufacturers love adding to everything from yogurts to breakfast bars and beverages.

Clever additive

Inulin as an additive is derived from chicory root extract. Inulin boosts the soluble fiber in foods, drinks and powdered products. It provides a sweet taste that doesn’t interfere or override other flavours in the product.

Inulin also provides a creamy texture and smooth “mouth-feel” that people characteristically love in yogurts and other packaged products that makes us feel full and satisfied, it does this invisibly with no smell, colour or extra calories/kilojules. Now you can see why food manufacturers love adding inulin to everything from cereal, to breakfast biscuits, healthfood bars and beverage products.

Even if it's a healthy food, if it comes in a packet it will probably contain Inulin

The problem

The body cannot digest inulin so it stays in the gut where it acts as a prebiotic providing nutrition for friendly gut bacteria. In turn these good bacteria break down inulin turning it into gas and passed as ‘wind’. The process is actually important for stool and bowel movement that helps lower blood cholesterol.

Obviously, some people are more sensitive to inulin than others. Often, as we age, this sensitivity can develop or increase. Some people can afford to consume lots of inulin containing products with no unwanted affects, whereas others may have to avoid products that contain inulin altogether.

How do you spot inulin?

Foods that are packaged for sale by law have to have an ingredients list, and inulin is often found under dietary fiber. It can also be listed as chicory rootfiber, fructans or oligofructose – these are all terms for Inulin.

As an additive, inulin provides sweetness and a smooth creamy texture to many ‘healthy’ packaged, processed foods. Breakfast cereals, bars, beverages, yogurts and other “creamy but healthy” products will contain some form of inulin.

Due to the gratification these foods provide, many health conscious people have no idea how much 'healthy" packaged products have crept into their staple diet. Before you blame that little portion of broccoli for your bloat, take a careful look at the amount of packaged/processed “healthy foods” that have made their way into your day.

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Inulin and oligofructose as dietary fiber: a review of the evidence.
Flamm G, Glinsmann W, Kritchevsky D, Prosky L, Roberfroid M.
Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2001 Jul;41(5):353-62.

Technological functionality of inulin and oligofructose.
Franck A. Br J Nutr. 2002 May;87 Suppl 2:S287-91.

Introducing inulin-type fructans.
Roberfroid MB. Br J Nutr. 2005 Apr;93 Suppl 1:S13-25.

Caloric value of inulin and oligofructose.
Roberfroid MB. J Nutr. 1999 Jul;129(7 Suppl):1436S-7S.

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