What is inositol? 

DISCLAIMER: CONSULT WITH A DOCTOR BEFORE DECIDING ON A TREATMENT PLAN FOR ANY DISEASE OR INJURY.

Inositol (previously known as vitamin B8) is a water-soluble, vitamin-like substance that, like choline, is an essential part of all of the cell membranes in the body. It is present in a variety of different foods and is also produced by intestinal bacteria from glucose. It is also produced in the liver and kidneys. Technically, inositol is a sugar alcohol (note the ending “-ol”, like in sorbitOL, maltitOL, etc.), but unlike other sugar alcohols, inositol is actually a vital nutrient that the body needs in order to function properly. 

 

There are actually 6 different forms of inositol. These are referred to inositol stereoisomers and are more or less the same except for the exact positioning of the hydroxyl groups in each isomer. The 6 natural forms of inositol are as follows: 

 

  1. Myoinositol – This is the most common form of inositol and the most likely form that you’ll find in a supplement. It is found in both animal and plant cells, and therefore is present in most human cells as well as in variable quantities in many food sources. This is the main type that you’ll use to treat gallbladder and liver complaints. 
  2. L-chiro-inositol
  3. D-chiro-inositol – Sometimes abbreviated as DCI, D-chiro-inositol is the second most common form of inositol. Ultimately, it is derived from myoinositol. These two main forms are used in different contexts since they have a slightly different therapeutic action.
  4. Scyllo-inositol
  5. Muco-inositol
  6. Neo-inositol

 

Note that there are also 3 synthetic forms of inositol known as cis-inositol, epi-inositol, and allo-inositol. I only mention these so that readers can avoid them, since natural forms of nutrients are always better (they produce more therapeutic results, carry fewer side effects, and are generally more bioavailable). 

 

Inositol, whether it be in supplement form or food form, is absorbed in the small intestine. Though this nutrient is water soluble, its absorption is dependent on fats, and so the presence and absorption of surrounding fats is essential in order for inositol to be absorbed effectively. Many inositol supplements are packaged in soft gel form for this reason: to deliver the inositol with a small package of fats (in the form of oils or fatty acids, for example). 

Inositol Deficiency Symptoms

True inositol deficiency is relatively rare, but there still are certain situations where a person may be more likely to become deficient in this nutrient. A diet low in vegetables and grain products, long-term antibiotic use, and long-term lithium treatment can all contribute to lower-than-normal inositol levels. Excessive coffee consumption, reduced intestinal absorption of nutrients, and problems with the breakdown of complex molecules (such as carbohydrates) are also contributing risk factors for inositol deficiency. 

 

The symptoms of inositol deficiency include: 

 

 

Other health problems that have been linked to inositol deficiency include: 

 

Inositol and the Gallbladder

Inositol, especially when taken in combination with folic acid (vitamin B9), may be able to reduce triglyceride levels in the blood. When triglyceride levels are elevated (and when they stay elevated chronically), this can eventually lead to the development of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Because inositol reduces triglyceride levels, this nutrient can also reduce the risk of the development of fatty liver disease. In regard to the gallbladder, fatty liver disease can result in the production of poor-quality bile, and thus a higher risk of subsequent gallbladder problems, so inositol can benefit the gallbladder in this way via the liver. 

 

Inositol has also been shown to reduce cholesterol levels by up to 22%, thus preventing the risk of developing cholesterol gallstones. In a different study, when inositol was administered at a dose of 2 grams per day over the course of 6-10 weeks, it was proven to reduce plasma cholesterol levels in patients with hypercholesterolemia. 

 

As an emulsifier, one of inositol’s primary roles is to break down fats and cholesterol, thereby allowing fats, fat soluble nutrients, and cholesterol to be taken where they need to go or to be excreted as needed. In this way, inositol can not only reduce fat and cholesterol buildup in the liver and gallbladder, but also in other parts of the body, such as in the veins and arteries. It is also an important part of cellular communication, so without adequate amounts of inositol, cells throughout the body won’t be able to relay the correct signals. 

 

Inositol has been shown to have the potential to prevent kidney stone formation by forming insoluble complexes with calcium ions, which can then be excreted without issue. Studies have previously demonstrated that inositol can also bind with certain other minerals, including nickel, zinc, magnesium, copper, iron, and potassium, though this binding action doesn’t necessarily indicate that inositol supplementation has a negative effect on the levels of any of the essential minerals on this list. In regard to the gallbladder, the binding action that inositol has with calcium may help prevent the development of calcium gallstones and conditions like porcelain gallbladder/calcified gallbladder. 

 

How to Take Inositol for Gallbladder Health

Start with a dose of 1000mg (1g) of inositol per day. This dose can be increased gradually to an appropriate therapeutic dose as quickly or as slowly as you feel comfortable with. Some people are more sensitive to inositol and may not need to take as much, while other people may tolerate higher doses before experiencing any side effects. 

 

For the treatment of gallbladder problems specifically, consider taking 2g (2000mg) of myoinositol twice daily (once in the morning, once at night) for at least 1 year. Some studies have also shown that taking folic acid with inositol may be beneficial; take a B-100 complex vitamin or a folic acid supplement of 400mcg per day for the time when you’re taking inositol. Even if you choose to get a dedicated folic acid supplement, it’s still smart to take a B-100 supplement to ensure that you’re also getting sufficient amounts of all of the other B-complex vitamins since these vitamins all depend heavily on each other to function in the body. 

 

At a dose of up to 12g (12,000mg) daily, inositol supplementation generally doesn’t produce any side effects. Relatively mild side effects like nausea, gas, insomnia, fatigue, dizziness, or headaches may develop if a person takes this dose or more in a given 24 hour period. Doses of up to 18g per day have been administered therapeutically, though, and doses less than this usually don’t produce any sort of negative effect. Women who are pregnant are also able to take this supplement and studies have shown no adverse effects in pregnant women supplementing with up to 4g of inositol daily. Inositol is also likely safe during breastfeeding. 

 

Like with some other nutrients, inhibition of bile flow or poor quality bile can inhibit the absorption of these nutrients. Because of this, people with gallbladder problems should plan to take inositol with an ox bile supplement. If the inositol supplement you choose doesn’t contain any fats, consider combining it with an extra virgin coconut oil supplement or an omega-fatty-acid supplement as well as the ox bile supplement. 

 

Dietary Sources of Inositol

Inositol is naturally produced by intestinal bacteria in most people with healthy gut flora, but since there are situations where a person may not be producing adequate amounts of inositol on their own, it’s important to know which dietary sources are richest in this nutrient. Below are some inositol-rich foods: 

 

  • Legumes
  • Brewer’s yeast
  • Leafy green vegetables
  • Bananas
  • Oranges, grapefruits, and other citrus fruits
  • Raw molasses
  • Wheat germ
  • Wild rice and other whole grains
  • Liver meat
  • Raisins
  • Cabbage

 

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Resources: 

 

[1] Meixner, Makayla (2018). Inositol: Benefits, Side Effects, and Dosage. Retrieved June 30, 2022 from: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/inositol 

[2] Nootriment (2018). Inositol Deficiency Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments. Retrieved June 30, 2022 from: https://nootriment.com/inositol-deficiency/ 

 

[3] N.A. (2007). Cures with Vitamin Inositol: Sources and Deficiency Symptoms. Retrieved June 30, 2022 from: https://www.tandurust.com/vitamins/vitamin-inositol-premature-greying-baldness-cures.html 

 

[4] Pani, Arianna, et. al. (2020). Inositol and Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease: A Systematic Review on Deficiencies and Supplementation. Retrieved June 30, 2022 from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7694137/ 

[5] Dinicola, Simona, et. al. (2017). Nutritional and Acquired Deficiencies in Inositol Bioavailability. Correlations with Metabolic Disorders. Retrieved June 30, 2022 from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5666868/