Scientists have developed a breath test that can help people identify foods that trigger uncomfortable bloating.
The device, called the FoodMarble, measures the levels of gases in the breath – which experts claim can predict when a certain meal will lead to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms. The chronic condition also prompts constipation, diarrhoea and stomach cramps.
Studies have shown that FoodMarble reduces the bloating and flatulence in those regularly using the device – which measures hydrogen and methane levels as patients exhale.
Experts claim certain food types that are difficult to break down are most likely to trigger these gases to build up.
‘Most people aren’t able to pinpoint what foods are causing them these symptoms because we eat such a variety of things throughout the day,’ says Dr Claire Shortt, chief scientist at FoodMarble. ‘Within weeks of using this device, people are able to identify the foods they should avoid eating.
The pocket-sized Foodmarble (pictured) – dubbed ‘the world’s first personal digestive tracker’ – is a portable version of a breath test machine used in hospitals
‘As a result, they had fewer symptoms and were more comfortable.’
Dairy products, fruit and pulses tend to be the most frequent culprits. These foods cannot be fully absorbed by the body and instead ferment when they come into contact with gut bacteria.
This process creates gases – namely hydrogen or methane – which enters the bloodstream and then the lungs.
While uncomfortable bowel symptoms can affect anyone, experts say they are most common in people with IBS, which affects some 13 million Britons. This is due to the sensitive nerve fibres in their bowels which are easily irritated by excess gas.
‘Most people start the day with very little gas,’ adds Dr Shortt, ‘but as the day goes on these levels increase. This means that, by the end of the day, it’s hard to work out what exactly you ate which led to the bloating that you’re experiencing.’
The FoodMarble device, which measures both hydrogen and methane levels, costs £199.
It is designed to be used after every meal alongside an app, where users note down what they have eaten.
Over time, the app is able to identify which foods are corresponding with higher levels of gas.
‘It’s not about cutting out food groups completely,’ explains Dr Shortt. ‘There are many items of food – such as fruit and pulses – which cause gas but are good for your health.
‘Instead, tracking your gas levels means you can learn to eat the foods that cause you problems either in smaller amounts or less frequently.’