Inulin Intolerance and Allergy (Is it safe during Pregnancy?)


Table of Contents

What is Inulin intolerance?

Inulin intolerance is a condition that can worsen the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), it may be caused after consuming inulin (a fructan, known as FOS or fructooligosaccharide) if you have IBS or follow a low-FODMAP diet.

A study shows consuming larger quantities exceeding 7.5 grams can cause intolerance while a dosage of 5 grams/ day was found to be tolerable. 

It is recommended to gradually increase the intake of inulin starting from 2-3 grams/ day to avoid symptoms of IBS or inulin intolerance. 

Inulin is a prebiotic that belongs to the fructooligosaccharide group. It travels undigested through the digestive tract and upon reaching the large intestine it can get fermented by bacteria resulting in symptoms of IBS. such as:

  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Abdominal discomfort and pain
  • Cramping
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation

Can Inulin cause an allergy?

In very rare instances inulin can cause an allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis. A case report describes the anaphylactic reaction in a child to multiple exposures. Inulin is well tolerated at a smaller dosage, however, in larger quantities, it may cause some side effects. 

Inulin is found in many common plants such as:

  • Asparagus
  • Banana
  • Chicory root
  • Dandelion root
  • Garlic
  • Jerusalem artichoke

Inulin is also used in many processed food items to replace sugar and fat. It is commonly referred to as dietary fiber or fructan on the food label. 

The researchers recommend increasing knowledge about ingredients to identify different constituents in food items to avoid their possible allergies.

In the video below, Mike from “HealingFoodsCompany” explains how even small amounts of Inulin may cause digestive discomfort like gas, bloating, and diarrhea:

This is our recommended Probiotic Supplement with Inulin:


Biotics 8 – Probiotic Formula For Overall Gut Health

Can Inulin cause farts?

Inulin can cause farts when consumed in larger quantities. Flatulence is a common side effect of consuming inulin. A study shows side effects are more pronounced when consumed in quantities exceeding 7.8 grams per day. 

Flatulence is caused due to the gas produced from inulin fermentation by bacteria present in the large intestine. It is usually associated with other symptoms such as bloating and abdominal pain. 

In a study performed to evaluate the gastrointestinal tolerance of chicory root inulin the participants were given inulin dosages of 5 and 10 grams. In the study, the 5-gram dose increased the GI symptoms mildly while the 10-gram dose increased the symptoms substantially. During the study, flatulence followed by bloating was the most often reported symptom. However, depending on the questionnaire given to the participants the researchers concluded that both dosages were well tolerated by subjects. 

Does Inulin feed bad bacteria?

Inulin does not feed bad bacteria, instead, it feeds good bacteria helping improve gut health. 

Studies show that inulin stimulates the growth of beneficial bifidobacterium bacteria resulting in a decrease in constipation, symptoms of IBS, and crying in children. While decreasing Bilophila results in an improved constipation-related quality of life. 

A review of literature studying the effects of inulin consumption on gut flora shows inulin increases the following bacteria:

  • Bifidobacterium
  • Anaerostipes: may protect against colon cancer
  • Faecalibacterium: exerts anti-inflammatory action
  • Lactobacilli

And decreases:

  • Bacteroides: causes various infections
  • Bilophila: causes bad-smelling farts and constipation

What are the side effects of Inulin fibre?

Inulin fibre in moderate quantities is safe for consumption, and it is regarded as GRAS “Generally Regarded As Safe” by the USFDA. However, in larger quantities, it can cause some side effects. 

The most common side effects of Inulin fibre are:

  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased frequency of stools

Inulin from chicory root can cause some allergies involving oral, cutaneous, and respiratory infections. Chicory root-derived inulin can also cross-react with birch pollen and cause oral allergic symptoms. A case of allergy was also reported by a person working in the inulin production facility. 

Can Inulin cause liver cancer?

Inulin may cause liver cancer because it has adverse effects on liver metabolism and function.

An animal study was performed to assess the effects of short-term consumption of inulin on the liver. In this study mice were fed with a diet containing inulin, the study revealed that the short-term (5 days) consumption increased short chain fatty acid production, disturbed bile acid metabolism, lowered plasma cholesterol levels, and aggravated a condition known as cholestasis. The study concluded that the short-term consumption of inulin in mice can affect liver function. 

Another study performed on soluble inulin fiber found that consumption of inulin in mice caused liver cancer characterized by cholestasis, inflammation, and death of liver cells. 

The researchers advise exercising caution while using fermentable fiber in the diet and food products.

Is Inulin safe during pregnancy?

Consuming Inulin during pregnancy may be safe as it is regarded as GRAS (Generally Considered As Safe), however, the regulatory agencies have not declared any safe amount that can be taken during pregnancy. 

Research on animals shows consuming inulin during pregnancy has beneficial effects. In one study, pregnant rats were given inulin orally. The study found that the administration of inulin decreased oxidative stress in the maternal cortex, which could possibly protect from neurodegenerative diseases. Also, the researchers documented improvement in fetal weight.

In another study performed on mice, the researchers supplemented the subjects with prebiotics containing inulin. The researchers found that prebiotic supplementation improved the composition of maternal gut microbiota and improved the number of key immune cells in the fetus. The researchers concluded that the consumption of prebiotics during pregnancy may have beneficial effects on the immunity of infants. 

However, the studies were performed on animals, hence it is recommended to consult with a physician before consuming prebiotics during pregnancy. 

Is it safe to consume Inulin while breastfeeding?

Inulin in moderate amounts can be safe to consume while breastfeeding. Inulin is added to some infant formulas and studies show it has beneficial effects on infants. 

In a study performed on 252 infants, researchers administered a formula containing inulin during the first 4 months. The study found that the formula containing prebiotics was safe and efficacious during the first 4 months of life, as well it promoted the gut bacteria closer to their breastfed counterparts.

Given the research shows direct administration of inulin to infants is safe, it can be concluded that consuming inulin in moderate amounts by the mother during breastfeeding probably be safe. 

When should you take a probiotic without Inulin?

A probiotic without inulin should be taken if you want to avoid possible side effects of inulin such as gas, bloating, and abdominal discomfort. 

Several commercial probiotic products without inulin are available that can be consumed by people who follow a low FODMAP diet. 

However, it would be more beneficial to consume a probiotic with inulin because probiotics contain good bacteria while a prebiotic feeds those good bacteria. So a prebiotic can make a probiotic work more efficiently. 

Want to know more?

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This article makes use of information from the U.S. National Library of Medicine under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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Inulin Intolerance and Allergy (Is it safe during Pregnancy?)
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