Jerusalem artichoke, also known as sunroots or sunchokes, is not a type of artichoke, but a species related to daisies and sunflowers. Its tubers, which resemble potatoes, are used in herbal medicine, as they are an excellent source of inulin . Inulin is a complex of sugar found in certain plants, which plants naturally produce as an energy source . It offers many benefits for digestion and digestive tract health, including intestinal immunity, cancer prevention and better nutrient absorption. It’s also shown to be a mood booster that can help with weight loss. While Jerusalem artichoke is something you can take in supplement form or eat it as a root vegetable, you can also find inulin supplements that are derived from the herb so that you’re getting a higher concentration of its most beneficial property.
1. Boosts Probiotic Levels in the Gut to Improve Intestinal Immunity
Inulin is a prebiotic, which means it stimulates the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut, known as probiotics. Probiotics provide a host of health benefits, as they defend the digestive tract against harmful pathogens. Friendly bacteria are a major aspect of your immune system, and increasing their numbers is shown to prevent infection and stimulate your entire immune system . Probiotics also help break down food and eliminate toxins in the body.
By consuming Jerusalem artichokes, you’re boosting the number of good bacteria in your body. This was confirmed in a 2010 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition. In this study, 66 middle-aged adults drank juice that contained either Jerusalem artichoke inulin or a placebo. Researchers monitored levels of good bacteria in the participants and found that those taking Jerusalem artichoke inulin had higher levels of Lactobacillus and Enterococcus strains, which are known probiotic strains . These results suggest that taking Jerusalem artichoke inulin combined with a probiotic supplement containing Lactobacillus and/or Enterococcus could lead to improved intestinal immunity and digestive health.
2. Helps Counter the Negative Effects of Antibiotics
Antibiotics are critical in the event of a bad bug. However, they can’t distinguish between beneficial and harmful gut flora, and end up wiping out a lot of the probiotics in your intestinal tract. This causes a lot of collateral damage by disrupting the balance of your gut. One of the main side effects of taking antibiotics is diarrhea, which is caused by this disturbance, and it affects up to 20 percent of people who use antibiotics . By encouraging the growth of probiotics, a prebiotic supplement like inulin from Jerusalem artichoke could help the good bacteria in your gut weather the storm of an antibiotic. While it won’t stop good bacteria from being wiped out, it acts as fuel for growing the bacteria that’s still there, so that bacteria numbers can repopulate more quickly in the wake of an antibiotics course.
3. Improves Digestion
Jerusalem artichoke helps improve digestion and reduce common digestive ailments in a number of ways. Firstly, by increasing probiotic populations it helps the intestines break down food, in turn preventing or reducing gas, indigestion and bloating. Secondly, it’s a rich source of thiamine, or vitamin B1. This vitamin plays a role in maintaining healthy levels of hydrochloric acid in the stomach, which is necessary for the initial breakdown food in the digestive system. A lack of sufficient hydrochloric acid in the stomach can cause insufficient digestion and inhibit the activation of critical enzymes that play a role in digestion .
4. Provides a Great Source of Fiber and Alleviates Constipation
Jerusalem artichokes are an amazing source of dietary fiber. Adding more fiber to your diet fights diarrhea and constipation by helping to normalize bowel movements . The inulin in Jerusalem artichokes add bulk to your stool and works as a stool softener, combating constipation. Fiber also makes you feel fuller longer and allows your body to assimilate more nutrients from the food you eat, by slowing overall digestion .
5. Improves the Absorption of Calcium
In addition to the benefits of fiber for improving nutrient absorption, research shows Jerusalem artichoke inulin also helps the body better assimilate dietary calcium. By boosting calcium absorption, inulin promotes better bone and dental health, as calcium is a major constituent of your bones and teeth . In a small study on 13 teenagers taking 900 mg of calcium daily, taking inulin supplementation was shown to enhance calcium absorption by 3 percent .
6. Aids Weight Loss Efforts and Helps Prevent Emotional Eating
Fiber makes you feel fuller longer by absorbing water in the digestive tract. This can help you consume fewer calories if you’re trying to lose weight. In a study, participants who supplemented with a powder form of inulin experienced less hunger, better moods and an overall feeling of greater well-being compared to those taking a placebo . This research suggests that in addition to reducing appetite, the inulin in Jerusalem artichokes may also help prevent emotional eating that leads to weight gain.
7. Protects Against Cancers of the Digestive System
Research suggests that inulin may play a role in helping to prevent different types of cancer that occur in the digestive tract, including stomach cancer and colon cancer. It works by boosting the immune system and promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria. One study showed that inulin combined with probiotics helped lower the risk of colon cancer .
You can supplement with concentrated inulin derived from Jerusalem artichoke, or you can use Jerusalem artichoke directly. Both are available in capsule and powder forms. A common dose of inulin is 3 grams a day, or you can follow the recommendations on the product label. Inulin supplements allow you to get the digestive health benefits of this compound in a high dose without consuming too much of one food, such as Jerusalem artichoke or other foods or herbs that contain inulin. As a prebiotic, inulin is best combined with probiotic supplements to see better digestive health benefits.
Jerusalem artichoke inulin is a natural plant-derived supplement packed with fiber that acts as a prebiotic. In other words, it’s like food for beneficial bacteria known as probiotics. Inulin from Jerusalem artichoke is shown to increase good bacteria in the gut, which has a cascading effect on overall health. You can use it to improve digestion, counter the negative effects of antibiotics, boost your immune system, prevent constipation and may even help protect against cancer.