Scientists develop breath test that can help people with IBS detect foods that cause uncomfortable bloating
Scientists have developed a breath test that could help people identify foods that cause uncomfortable bloating.
The device, called the FoodMarble, measures levels of gases in the breath – which experts claim can predict when a particular meal will lead to symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The chronic condition also causes constipation, diarrhea and stomach cramps.
Studies have shown that FoodMarble reduces bloating and flatulence in those who regularly use the device – which measures hydrogen and methane levels as patients exhale.
Experts claim that certain foods that are difficult to break down are most likely to cause these gases to build up.
‘Most people can’t identify which foods cause these symptoms because we eat so many different things throughout the day,’ says Dr Claire Shortt, chief scientist at FoodMarble. ‘Within weeks of using this device, people can identify which foods they should avoid.
The pocket-sized Foodmarble (pictured) – dubbed ‘the world’s first personal digestive tracker’ – is a portable version of a breath testing machine used in hospitals
‘As a result, they had fewer complaints and felt more comfortable.’
Dairy products, fruits and legumes are often the most common culprits. These foods cannot be fully absorbed by the body and instead ferment when they come into contact with intestinal bacteria.
This process produces gases – namely hydrogen or methane – that enter the bloodstream and then the lungs.
Although uncomfortable bowel symptoms can affect anyone, experts say they are most common in people with IBS, which affects around 13 million Brits. This is due to the sensitive nerve fibers in their intestines that are easily irritated by excess gas.
‘Most people start the day with very little petrol,’ adds Dr Shortt, ‘but as the day progresses these levels increase. This means that at the end of the day it is difficult to figure out exactly what you ate that led to the bloating you experience.’
The FoodMarble device, which measures both hydrogen and methane levels, costs £199.
It is designed to be used after every meal, alongside an app, in which users record what they have eaten.
Over time, the app can identify which foods correspond to higher gas levels.
‘It’s not about completely cutting out food groups,’ explains Dr Shortt. ‘There are many foods – such as fruit and legumes – that cause gas, but are good for your health.
“Instead, keeping track of your gas levels means you can learn to eat the foods that are causing you problems in smaller amounts or less often.”