Breath Hydrogen is an assay that indicates in “real-time” whether or not a particular nutrient is being digested. Upon consumption of a standard carbohydrate (e.g., rice), you can see that it is broken down in the small intestine, and, subsequently, blood glucose rises. If the carbohydrate is not digested in the small intestine, it moves into the large intestine. This indicates that it is a “true fiber.” In the large intestine, bacteria digest the fiber through a process called “fermentation.” In doing so, the bacteria produce hydrogen ions (H+) that circulate into the bloodstream, through our lungs, and is then exhaled outward. We monitored a subject consuming either IMOs or SCF respectively and then tracked the variables listed above for 150 minutes following consumption.
IMOs can be made in several ways, but they are primarily derived from a sugar called maltose. IMO is promoted as a prebiotic fiber with a light sweetness profile. Its functional properties (i.e., moisture retention, low viscosity) make it well-suited for nutrition bars, cookies, candies, and the like. In order to fully understand IMOs and how the body processes them, we first need to understand how starches are digested in the body. Starches, also known as polysaccharides, are long and sometimes branched chains of glucose molecules. Initially, starch digestion begins in the small intestine with an enzyme called α-amylase. A-amylase breaks these long glucose chains into much shorter chains, called oligosaccharides, which are composed of anywhere from two to approximately 10 glucose units. Following this, specific enzymes on the brush border of the small intestine break down these oligosaccharides even further, into individual glucose units (monosaccharides) which are then absorbed.
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Skimping on fiber isn’t good for your digestive health, as it feeds the good bacteria in your GI tract, something that benefits you beyond adequate bowel movements. “The digestive tract is where your body’s second brain is, and it’s home to the majority of your immune system,” says Elia. “If you’re following keto, it should be one of your biggest priorities to make sure you get adequate fiber to keep your gut healthy and happy,” she adds. And, she notes, high-fat diets slow digestion and decrease GI motility, so it’s especially important to get enough.