Gaseous? Inflated? Pain painful indigestion? Treating gastrointestinal issues with pills and Pepto is easy. Understanding why you have stomach problems is a harder math.
FoodMarble is a new tech-app combo designed to help you understand ailments in your intestinal tract – but even with this gadget, it’s still a long and slippery road to get there.
The centerpiece of the product is the FoodMarble Aire, a rechargeable, Bluetooth-enabled “digestive breath tester” that functions much like a breathalyzer, measuring fermentation levels in your gastrointestinal system. (The device has been the subject of clinical research reports in two medical journals.) As FoodMarble explains, foods that are not fully digested pass into the large intestine, where they ferment, producing hydrogen which eventually reaches the lungs. When you breathe out, this hydrogen can be measured, which the Aire device does. Of course, this fermentation results in the generation of a lot of other gases as well, which is why you feel so sick a few hours after eating this cheeseburger chili habanero.
The other side of FoodMarble is a mobile app, which you use to log in and track just about anything that goes in and out of your body. The app has a section that logs your breath samples (which you are supposed to take up to 10 times a day), a place where you list everything you eat, measures of your sleep quality and your stress level, a diary for all the gastrointestinal symptoms you are experiencing, and – my favorite feature – a “form of shit”. It’s an intimidating level of personal information to ask anyone to enter an app, so if you’re the type of person who thinks Alexa is a privacy risk, well, it probably isn’t. not for you. (The app is free, but the Aire hardware costs $ 179.)
If you really want to get to the bottom of any stomach issues you’re having, plan to spend a lot of time with the FoodMarble System. The app prompts you with reminders to perform periodic breath sample testing, but it’s largely up to you to record your meals, symptoms, and other information. If you’ve ever had food tracking, you know it can be a bit of a bear, especially if you tend to snack during the day.
Unfortunately, FoodMarble’s food logging is by far the weakest link in its arsenal. For starters, the interface is complicated and busy, and although FoodMarble claims to have over 600 foods cataloged in its database, it quickly turns out that this is not enough. Only a few of the foods missing from its database include cashews, pecans, caramels, hot dogs, hummus, pupusas, chicken parmigiana, egg noodles, salami, farro, acorn squash and any type of salad other than “Greek”, to name just a few of the pleasures of my quarantine diet. FoodMarble is based in Dublin, Ireland, but the items on the list seem largely suited to the British diet (with Wensleydale, White Cheshire and two types of Stilton appearing under the cheese category), you might be luckier if you’re on the other side of the pond.
With these limitations in mind, FoodMarble doesn’t just track what you eat, it tracks what in what you are eating. He looks for what are known as FODMAPs, which are fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols – all substances that tend to be poorly absorbed by the body, although, of course, absorption varies. considerably from person to person. All of the foods in the FoodMarble database are broken down by FODMAP content, so over time you are supposed to be able to correlate indigestion with certain FODMAPs you have consumed to determine where your intolerances are.