What Is Inulin and What Does It Do?

By Sher Warkentin in Natural Products

Perhaps you're already versed in naturally occurring dietary fiber and how it can help your digestive system. But did you know that some fibers have prebiotic properties? Inulin is both a soluble fiber and a prebiotic, which is a nutrient that promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria in and on your body. With these properties, inulin may make an excellent addition to your personal care routine.

What Is Inulin?

Inulin is a prebiotic and soluble fiber. It occurs naturally and is found in many types of plants including asparagus, chicory root, garlic, Jerusalem artichokes, jicama, onions, and yacon root.

Naturally occurring inulin in plants such as Cichorium intybus (chicory) roots and Agave tequilana pina (agave) can be extracted for use in personal care products using hot water. Once extracted, it undergoes further purification. Inulin derived from chicory roots usually undergoes deproteinization, ion exchange, and enzymatic purification, while inulin derived from agave is typically filtered. The resulting product is spray dried to form a powder.

Inulin is derived from natural plants like agave.

Dietary Benefits of Inulin

Since inulin occurs naturally in many edible fruits and vegetables, you can enjoy its internal health benefits by eating a diet rich in the foods that contain the inulin prebiotic. Inulin prebiotics can also be found as over-the-counter supplements. As a dietary ingredient, inulin helps to boost your digestive health. The Food and Drug Administration has identified inulin as a dietary fiber ingredient that has beneficial effects on human health, such as lowering blood sugar and cholesterol levels, reducing caloric intake, and improving bowel movements.

Several studies, including one published in Current Developments in Nutrition, have found that dietary sources of inulin can aid in digestive health due to their fermentability. A study published in the journal Nutrients further explains, noting that prebiotic dietary fiber supplements improve gastrointestinal health by stimulating the growth of beneficial bacteria and helping to support a healthy balance—both of which are beneficial to your body's natural microbiome. Prebiotics, such as inulin, help to feed and foster the growth of good bacteria that exist in and on your body.

Onion harvest on farm

What Is Inulin Used for in Personal Care Products?

In addition to boosting your gut health, inulin can be used as a beneficial ingredient in personal care and oral care products. As a prebiotic, inulin used in skin and oral care products can help to maintain a healthy balance of bacteria for your body's microbiome.

Though it might be unpleasant to think about, bacteria exist naturally all over your body. Not all bacteria are bad for you, though. In fact, killing all bacteria may do more harm than good. Instead of simply eliminating all bacteria, prebiotics can help the good bacteria thrive. You can find prebiotics in a variety of personal care products, making it easy to incorporate their benefits in your daily routine.

Cleansers such as a prebiotic body wash, hand soap, or bar soap that contain inulin can help to support good bacteria. They can also help keep skin in a healthy balance by promoting the growth of good bacteria and retaining skin's natural moisture. According to a study published in Beneficial Microbes, prebiotics and probiotics have the ability to "optimize, maintain, and restore the microbiota of the skin." The study also concluded that prebiotics in cosmetic formulations can "increase selectively the activity and growth of beneficial 'normal' skin microbiota" and can help keep your skin in a healthy balance.

It's a well-known fact that mouths harbor bacteria. In fact, according to a review article in the Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology, your mouth is home to over 700 species of bacteria. Of course, some of these are good bacteria. Natural prebiotic toothpaste containing inulin uses the ingredient to help support the growth of good bacteria to crowd out the bad. It helps the natural prebiotic toothpaste maintain a healthy balance by feeding the good bacteria in your mouth and reducing odor associated with bad breath.

An inulin prebiotic isn't just beneficial to your digestive health. It offers plenty of ways to give the good bacteria on your skin and in your mouth a boost as well. As a naturally derived ingredient, you can feel confident that personal care products containing inulin align with your goals of living more naturally and sustainably.

Want to learn more about how naturally derived ingredients like inulin can benefit your personal care routine? Check out the Ingredients from Nature board by @tomsofmaine on Pinterest for more info on natural products!

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Why It's Good

Inulin is a naturally derived ingredient that offers benefits for your body. In personal care products that include inulin, it helps to maintain a healthy balance in your body's microbiome by promoting the growth of good bacteria.