Breathalyzers that assess your gut health? Yes, they exist

The wellness world is abuzz with gut news, and rightfully so: Researchers are learning more every day about how the microbes living in our gut give us important clues about how our body uses energy and our overall health.

But it can actually be difficult to determine what’s going on in your digestive system and how your metabolism relates to weight and health. This makes it difficult to find the root cause of an upset stomach or irritable bowel syndrome symptoms. That’s why handheld devices like FoodMarble’s Aire Breath Tester and Lumen Metabolism Tracker were born: to help people understand what our guts are doing and how our bodies use food for fuel.

Home metabolism tests are not new – there are a number of home tests that measure the levels of hormones that can affect metabolism through blood or saliva samples. Also there is home food sensitivity tests available, although the cost-effectiveness of these may be up in the air as it is difficult to determine what is a food sensitivity, intolerance or allergy without a lot of trial and error (and possibly a pile of medical bills).

But a vape-like device you can fit in your pocket that promises to give you metabolic and digestive clues is especially promising. These gut breathers work by reading your breath for the various gases it emits and beaming that information to your phone to give you real-time information.

Here’s what we know about how they work and whether they’re worth it.

Digestive breath tester for people with stomach problems

FoodMarble’s founder, Aonghus Shortt, had an engineering background when he started looking for a better solution for his wife after her diagnosis irritable bowel syndrome, so he created FoodMarble’s AIRE sensor. Specifically, he wanted to help her and others with food-related symptoms understand how they digest food so they know what triggers their symptoms and what foods are likely to be good to eat.

To use the FoodMarble, you exhale into the device for 5 seconds, and the molecules in your breath will pass through special sensors that signal different levels of gases present in the breath, Short says. In this case, the high levels of hydrogen and methane indicate a lot of what FoodMarble calls fermentation—what’s released when your digestive system and gut microbes digest.

“Instead of digesting food, you have gut microbes and they break it down,” Short said. “In a way, they absorb it instead.”

When paired with the FoodMarble app, the device will give you information on which foods cause higher levels of fermentation, which likely also leads to more digestive symptoms like bloating. The goal is to help you narrow down the foods that cause them less fermentation or less gas and which are therefore easier on your gut.

FoodMarble also has a food library where you can search for easier-to-digest foods based on the information collected by the breath tester. This can make grocery shopping or deciding where to eat out easier when you look over restaurant menus in advance.

The FoodMarble Digestive Breath Test System.


A device that claims to crack the code of your metabolism

Lumen’s portable metabolic test, which touts insight that can help you lose weight or have more energy, also starts with exhaling into the device. A carbon dioxide sensor measures the level in your breath, which is supposed to indicate the type of fuel your body is using to produce energy. The goal is better metabolic flexibility, or your body’s ability to switch between different types of fuel.

Lumen says its device is based on a type of test that has historically been reserved for testing athletes in a clinical setting. The device tells you whether you’re burning mostly fat or carbs, and the paired app suggests a daily or meal plan for you, as reported in a Wired review. Understanding how your body uses energy can help promote a healthier or more sustainable weight loss plan or increase your energy.

Grading of Gut Health Scoreboards

Dr. Niket Sonpal, a New York-based gastroenterologist, says hydrogen breath tests are nothing new. They are commonly used to diagnose digestive health conditions, including IBS, lactose intolerance, and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. And a tool that helps people narrow down the foods that trigger their symptoms could be a useful thing. Sonpal says that for patients who might be expected to be lactose intolerant, he suggests a “lactose and chill” method, which is basically watching a movie while eating ice cream and cheese, then waiting to see if you develop bloating , diarrhea or cramps.

However, knowing how much hydrogen or fermentation you produce after a meal is not equally valuable information for everyone. Some foods naturally produce more hydrogen. And if you have a higher hydrogen level without symptoms, according to Sonpal, there should be no cause for concern. Indeed, FoodMarble says on its website that breath testing devices are for people with SIBO, IBS, or digestive issues—so not for people who are curious but have no symptoms.

But Sonpal adds that people with digestive problems may have another existing or potentially more serious health condition. About a third of people with IBS also have another condition, such as celiac disease, malabsorption syndrome, or Crohn’s disease, he says.

“How many people will buy this, adjust their diets, but possibly delay the diagnosis of something more serious?”

Like other health tracking devices, breath testers and sensors that offer digestive or metabolic cues will be useful for many people, but not for everyone. Perhaps they are best suited for people who already have an accurate medical diagnosis and are looking for tools to help manage their symptoms, or people who are simply passionate about health technology and like to track their metrics, including their digestive or metabolic health.

Plus, you’re breathing into a device, not adding a drug or supplement to your body and introducing the potential for side effects. So using one as a first step can be worthwhile if you’re willing to spend the money. But losing weight can be more complicated than just making food choices.

“Food trackers are one component of the multifaceted diamond that is weight loss,” Sonpal said.

In general, digestive and food-related issues can be difficult to diagnose for the same reason that devices are important targets for new data-gathering devices: It’s a complex system, and the associated symptoms often overlap. another. But more information is better than less, and technology is keeping pace with our growing interest in gut health.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have about a medical condition or health goals.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *