It’s no secret that many of us are stopped up. In fact, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, about 42 million Americans are chronically constipated, making this one of the most common gastrointestinal problems in the United States.
Why can’t we go? According to researchers, this is a modern-day problem. Our ancient ancestors had no problems pooping, they say, largely because of the quantity of fruits and vegetables, (i.e. fiber) in their daily diets. Compare this to the average American diet today, heavy on fast and convenient food, and it’s not hard to see the difference:
- Prehistoric man: 100-150 grams/day
- Doctor recommended: 38 grams/day for males, 25 grams/day for females
- What we really eat: 14-18 grams/day
What is Chicory Root Fiber?
Chicory is a perennial flowering herb that grows throughout the United States. While its blue blossoms are eye-catching, its most attractive qualities can be found beneath the surface. The chicory plant’s roots are rich in a vegetable fiber known as inulin, which can be commercially extracted using a hot water diffusion process, similar to the process used to extract sugar from sugar beets.
As an added ingredient to grocery store food, inulin provides a number of health benefits.
Chicory Root Fiber and Your Colon
You likely already know that fiber has physical properties that allow it to pass through your digestive system virtually intact, cleansing your system as it goes. But chicory root fiber has additional unique properties:
A clean, obstruction-free intestinal tract keeps the body regular.
Like most dietary fibers, chicory root fiber has a “scrubbing” effect. The fibers cannot naturally digest in the human body. Rather, they are gently forced through your upper and lower intestines, cleansing your digestive system. In essence, inulin helps to support an environment in which water can bind with stool particles. The result is heavier, yet softer, stools. Additionally, this process causes peristaltic muscle contractions that help move the stool along.
While fiber on its own does an impressive job of keeping your digestive system clear, chicory root fiber is unique in that its chemical makeup goes one step further. The inulin in chicory root fiber acts as a catalyst for positive colon activity, supporting the increase of “good” bacteria in the colon and promoting a healthy gut flora.
The ability to produce these mechanical and chemical changes in the digestive tract makes packaged foods containing chicory root fiber a good addition to the grocery list. These foods can to help meet the recommended daily intake of fiber as well as provide a natural way to relieve mild constipation.