This tiny digestive tracker can tell what food gives you gas

Which means a lot less time wasted at the gastroenterologist.

Sponsored Links

This tiny digestive tracker can tell what food gives you gas
One of my favorite things to eat is cheese and egg on a bagel. But while it's delicious, let's just say that afterward we don't get along so well. Is it the egg? The cheese? I could go to the doctor and find out which and why, but the testing process is long and expensive and still might not turn up an answer. So I just end up avoiding something I love. I'm not alone: Many people end up feeling sick after eating common foods without knowing why, and often restrict their diet out of fear. FoodMarble's AIRE digestive tracker, available for pre-order starting today, gives users the power to face those fears: It's a portable diagnostic device with an app that is easy to use, affordable and doesn't require you to give up entire days to doctor's visits.

Gallery: AIRE digestive tracker hands-on | 8 Photos


When you visit a gastroenterologist, they'll try to figure out your issues using hydrogen breath testing. If your body can't digest a particular compound, like lactose or fructose, the food sits in your gut allowing bacteria to gnaw away at it, producing excess hydrogen. In a breath test, you're asked to exhale into a bag, from which the doctor takes a sample and injects it into a machine about the size of a toaster oven. Then you'll have to do it again 15 minutes later. And again. And again, until the hydrogen levels spike, or the doctor is satisfied that there isn't going to be a reaction. It's highly accurate but also time consuming.

Turn on browser notifications to receive breaking news alerts from Engadget
You can disable notifications at any time in your settings menu.
Not now

The AIRE shrinks down that analysis tech into a wafer smaller than a credit card. It has a small mouthpiece on one end. Simply put it to your lips, take a deep breath and blow. The connected app then reports your readings.

To get the most useful information from the device, you need to replicate the basic test you'd be given in a doctor's office. That involves taking a baseline reading after fasting for a period of time (first thing in the morning before you eat anything usually works). Then, you take one of the chemical packets included with the AIRE and mix the powdery contents with water. Each contains a substance like fructose or lactose -- use only the one you want to test for. After drinking the mixture, wait 15 minutes and do the test again. Repeat the breath test every 15 minutes or so, until the app reports a hydrogen spike, or you're done digesting. This can take up to three hours, though for most it's only about 90 minutes.

After using up all the packets -- which should be done on different days, in order to test the effects of each in isolation -- you'll have a pretty good idea of which substances you can't digest. And thus, a better idea of what foods you can and can't eat.

Gallery: AIRE app screenshots | 6 Photos


"Better" is not necessarily good or exact, though, which is where the app comes back into play. It not only keeps track of your data, but it can also give you information on how much of a problematic substance is in a given food, even identifying the suspect from a photo. It's a common belief that dairy contains lactose, meaning intolerant people tend to avoid all such products. But in reality, some foods have more lactose than others. Many cheeses, for instance, have less than one percent while ice cream may be as much as eight-percent lactose. So, while a pizza could make you sick, sprinkling a bit of Parmesan on your linguine may leave you feeling fine. The app will take the guesswork out of that, as you can consult its database before taking from that cheese platter that mysteriously appeared in the office kitchen.

Although it's tempting to think you'd never need to see a gastroenterologist again, the app can't diagnose you if you have something more serious like a bacterial infection. But it can point you and your doctor in the right direction by collating a lot of the relevant data -- traditional diagnosis usually involves tedious tasks like keeping a food log. The AIRE provides long-term information for the doctor to analyze -- and the company has plans to make the data exportable to other health and fitness apps, and maybe even a website where a physician can look up your records.

In addition to making certain conditions easier to diagnose, having patients do such a basic test at home just frees up the doctor's time for more difficult procedures and more quality time with patients. FoodMarble's chief medical officer James Brief, a licensed gastroenterologist, likens it to what the home pregnancy test did for obstetricians: The first thing many women do after testing positive is head to the doctor. The test acts like a referral, not a replacement for professional medical care.

As someone who's waited almost two hours to see my doctor, I certainly appreciate anything that can make office visits more efficient. And anyone who's ever had digestive problems will love an exam that works on their schedule. The AIRE is expected to sell for $149 when it hits retail, but you can pre-order it now on FoodMarble's website for a special price of $99, with orders expected to ship in August 2017.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission. All prices are correct at the time of publishing.
View All Comments
This tiny digestive tracker can tell what food gives you gas