When we talk about "fructans" we actually refer to two different varieties of soluble dietary fiber - inulin and oligofructose. Fructans occur naturally in a number of foods and they are also added to several other foods with a view to enhance their dietary fiber content without altering their texture and taste to a great extent. While fructans offer us a number of health benefits, consuming them in excess may also result in undesirable side effects.

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Fructans occur naturally in several foods such as bananas, onions, garlic, chicory root, asparagus, wheat, leeks and artichokes. Consuming mentioned foods help in augmenting your intake of fructans and also the overall dietary fiber you obtain from your diet, because these foods also enclose various other types of fructans as well as fiber.

Apart from the foods mentioned above, several processed foods also enclose different amounts of fructans, which are added to them. These processed foods are marketed as high-fiber foods. When you are purchasing processed foods from the stores read their ingredient labels carefully to known whether they contain fructooligosaccharides, oligosaccharides, inulin, scFOS, FOS or any other variety of chicory and also to ascertain which foods have added fructans. In fact, there are foods that you may not be expecting to contain fiber, for instance ice creams and beverages, but they may still contain added fructans.

Health benefits

Unlike various other nutrients, fructans are not digested in our small intestines as humans lack the fructan digestive enzyme. On the other hand, the beneficial bacteria present in our gut ferment fructans consumed by us.

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Fructans, which are excellent sources of soluble dietary fiber, have been associated with a number of health benefits. Ingesting high amounts of fructans may help protect us against various health conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, obesity and also some types of gastrointestinal problems.

The other health benefits of intake of dietary fiber include promoting regularity as well as preventing constipation. In addition, consuming foods rich in dietary fiber content also helps you to remain satiated and keep your appetite under control. This not only aids in weight loss, but helps to keep the blood sugar levels in check. In addition, intake of proper amount of dietary fiber aids in enhancing your gut micro biome health, which is related to all things right from augmented immunity to decreased inflammation.

On the other hand, despite providing a remarkable range of health benefits that are attributed to dietary fiber, some varieties of dietary fiber, such as fructans, may also cause negative effects on our health. This is true when it is consumed in large amounts or with people who are sensitive to fructans.

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While some people have no problem at all consuming foods rich in fructan content, there are many others who suffer from serious gastrointestinal problems when they consume even the slightest amount of fructans. People with fructan intolerance usually suffer from symptoms like gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea and abdominal pain when they intake foods containing fructans.

It is worth mentioning here that fructan intolerance is different from fructose malabsorption. It is also different from fructoseallergy". Fructan intolerance is a result of a reaction to different units that comprise fructans. In fact, fructans are a type of simple sugars which are known as fructose. While fructans and fructose can result in similar symptoms, the major difference between the two is that fructose is primarily found in fruits, fruit juices, honey, agave nectar, table sugar, molasses and corn syrup containing high concentration of fructose. On the other hand, fructans are present in specific vegetables, grains and processed foods.

At the same time, it is vital to bear in mind that any type of sensitivity to fructans is different from small bacterial overgrowth. Fructan intolerance is a health condition that is distinguished by presence of excessive bacteria in the small intestine. As a result fructan intolerance may lead to problems such as diarrhea and malabsorption provided the condition is not treated timely. When you have fructan intolerance, the major problem is not the bacteria in your gut, but the manner in which your body deals with fructans.

Oligofructose may be beneficial for your health as it may function like a probiotic, thereby aiding in increasing the number of beneficial or good bacteria in the digestive tract. By itself, oligofructose may aid in treating as well as preventing specific types of diarrhea. At the same time, oligofructose may give you a feeling of enhanced fullness (satiation) and decrease your hunger or craving for food. Usually, these happen when you consume foods that contain oligofructose.

It is worth mentioning here that even inulin offers a number of health benefits. It possesses the potential to enhance the functioning of your immune system, reduce the chances of developing colon cancer, augmenting the absorption of calcium and magnesium from ingested foods and, at the same time, bringing down the levels of triglyceride and cholesterol.

Fructans intolerance

In fact, most people have no problem whatsoever in tolerating fructans, which is a shifty source of the soluble dietary fiber called inulin. However, some people are incapable of tolerating fructans and, as a result, their digestive health suffers immensely. In fact, fructans wreck havoc with the digestive health of such persons. Findings of a number of studies have revealed fructans may be a concealed culprit of specific food intolerances and cause unrelenting gastrointestinal problems. Moreover, findings of some other studies hint at the fact that many people who think that they are sensitive to gluten may in reality be suffering from fructans intolerance.

If you are constantly suffering from gas, bloating or even abdominal pain, it is advisable that you should reduce your intake of fructans. You may seriously consider this if you wish to get rid of the above problems.

While conditions such as fructose and fructan intolerance are fairly common, these conditions may be hard to diagnose as well as deal with. Usually, such conditions are diagnosed by undertaking breath tests, which actually measure the gas produced after eating fructans in small amounts.

It is important to identify your symptoms because this will largely help in diagnosing the condition. Fructans intolerance may cause a number of symptoms, which may include bloating, gas formation, constipation, diarrhea, stomach pain, discomfort in the abdominal region, cramps and nausea.

You should essentially reduce your fructan intake if you suffer from any of the above mentioned symptoms. Apart from the breath test, you may also try a diet which does not include fructans to ascertain if you are sensitive to fructans. If a fructans-less diet does not result in any of the above mentioned symptoms, you may be sure that you do not have fructans intolerance.

Side effects and cautions

Although fructans offer us a number of health benefits, they may result in unpleasant side effects when consumed in large amounts. Hence, you need to be cautious while consuming foods containing this source of soluble dietary fiber.

Increasing your fructans intake in your diet all of a sudden may result in gastrointestinal problems like gas, bloating and discomfort in the abdomen. You are likely to suffer from these conditions if you intake over 15 grams of fructans every day. In fact, 15 grams of fructans is the minimum daily requirement of these soluble fibers to obtain their several health benefits. In June 2010, the "Journal of American Dietetic Association" published a study, which found that people have a propensity to tolerate fructans best if they consume these soluble dietary fibers in measured amounts. According to the study, the ideal intake of inulin should be less than 10 milligrams daily, while oligofructose should be consumed below 5 grams every day. On average, a common American gets just about 3.5 grams of fructans from their diet every day, which is much less than the daily required amount to obtain their full health benefits.


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