When I was given the opportunity to review the FoodMarble AIRE Digestive Tracker with FODMAP Test Kit, I was pretty excited. For the past few years, I have suspected that I have issues digesting lactose, but I haven’t really been formally tested. With this device, I could finally find out if there is indeed something wrong.
What is the FoodMarble AIRE digestive tracker
So what is FoodMarble? It’s a tiny square device that fits in your purse or pocket and measures the hydrogen in your breath so you can see how well your food is being digested; certain foods can create a build-up of gases if they’re not well-tolerated. Knowing this can help you determine which foods are most compatible with your body in order to improve your gut health and make better food choices.
It connects with a mobile app to initiate and record a breath test as well as let you keep track of what you eat, any symptoms you might have and when, stress, sleep, and challenges relating to the FODMAP Test Kit or custom ones you set out to do.
The kit comes with four FODMAP tests you can use to analyze how well you digest lactose, fructose, sorbitol, and inulin. Each packet has a powdered substance to mix with water and drink during the test period, then take continuous breath tests to see how your body digests the substance.
Set up of the FoodMarble AIRE
Naturally, I had my eye on the lactose test. But first, it was time to set up.
It’s super easy: just plug the device into its USB charger and charge it up, then download the app, create an account, and pair. It was ready to go pretty quickly and the battery of the unit lasts quite long—after about three weeks, it was at about 50%.
To take a breath test, select the option in the app, turn the unit on using the side power button, and wait until they pair and the unit warms up. After about 15-20 seconds, you will be advised to breathe in for three seconds, then place your mouth fully over the mouthpiece and breathe out for five seconds; a progress ring counts up as you do this and advises when complete.
I love the little carrying case for the device so you can throw it into your purse or briefcase when going out to eat. I did get a message a few times that condensation was detected on the sensor so it is pretty sensitive and you’ll want to keep it protected at all times.
The app is pretty easy to navigate, similar to your typical fitness tracker app, with sections to record your meals, stress, and sleep, though you have to do all of this manually (it would be amazing if this tracker could integrate data with another app, like Fitbit!).
I took a quick breath test to check how my levels were and they were “OK” and rated “6.0” which meant that what I had eaten hadn’t yet been fully absorbed in my gut and was fermenting. It noted to add my meal log to help provide some insight on what might be causing the fermentation. A second time, I got a 1.5 “low” score, which said the food I’ve eaten has been already fully absorbed before my colon, where fermentation takes place, has not yet reached my colon, or has reached my colon but the bacteria I have hasn’t yet fermented it. It’s tough to tell what this means by just the reading so to get the most out of the device, it’s advisable to log everything you eat as well as any time you have a symptom. The three main symptoms listed in the app are bloating, abdominal pain, and flatulence, but you can also add your own custom symptoms, like diarrhea, dizziness, or even constipation. For each symptom, rank its severity on a 10-point scale and log roughly the exact time you experienced it.
I continued to do random tests to get the hang of how it works as well as log my meals which is done by ingredient, not necessarily food. When I had homemade pizza for lunch, for example, I added bread, bacon, mozzarella cheese, tomato puree (sauce wasn’t an option), red bell peppers, red onions, and tomatoes. Pepperoni wasn’t on the list. There were a few other times when I couldn’t find the right food match and had to sub in something else or leave it out of my log altogether, like chicken wings, pecans, and chia seeds. In these cases, you can add the food and portion manually, but it doesn’t seem to count for much since the app does not recognize the food’s FODMAP content anyway. It might help the company, however, with further additions and updates.
What’s really neat about the food log is that it also reports the FODMAP content in each meal, so for the pizza noted above, the app showed that it was high in inulin and FOS and low in lactose and fructose. It also provides the basic nutrition information of what you eat, though this can vary dramatically depending on how accurately you log every single ingredient in what you eat.
For the most part, my levels were low or OK. But now it was time to put things to the test.
The FoodMarble AIRE test
Note that you need to really invest some time to do a test right, so don’t think you can grab this device off the shelf, down a drink and get a magical answer in an hour. There are a number of pretty strict rules to follow for completing a test if you want accurate results, and you should wait 3-4 days in between tests. Naturally, as mentioned, I was anxious to learn about how my body responds to lactose so opted to do that test first (I later tried the Inulin test as well).
Fast for 12 hours before doing a test so your stomach is as empty as possible. Overnight is the best option—I fasted from 10:30 p.m. and started my test at 10:30 a.m. the next morning. First, take a baseline breath test. Then mix the powder, which, in the case of the lactose one is equivalent to one large glass of milk, into a cup of boiling water then down it as quickly as you can. The instructions say to try and do it in two minutes but it took me at least five.
Keep the FoodMarble AIRE close by and do a breath test every 15 minutes for the next three hours. Yes, you read that correctly. (So effectively, you’ll be fasting for 15 hours total). I kept it with me in my home office as I worked away, and the app conveniently shows a countdown timer. If you leave notifications on, one will pop up to tell you when it’s time to take another breath test.
It didn’t take long—under an hour—for my figures to shoot up to High levels. Not to mention the intense symptoms started. It was an uncomfortable morning, to say the least. But after the three-hour period, I got my result: an 8.7! It noted that there was a “significant rise in hydrogen levels during the food challenge,” which confirms that lactose did not absorb well into my gut. A few weeks later, I tried the Inulin test and the results were markedly different: no digestive issues detected.
Throughout the testing, the app provides useful tidbits of information after each breath test, like what foods typically contain a lot of lactose and how you digest lactose relates to how much of the enzyme lactase you have. The result also showed a summary of the readings along with the start and completion time. And it provides more details to help me make better food choices, including advising which foods are high in lactose, like whole milk, ice cream, and cream cheese and alternatives that would be easier on my stomach, like almond milk, sorbet, and hard cheeses.
While the kit comes with the four tests, you can also buy FODMAP tests separately if another family member wants to try the process. It’s advisable that only one person uses the device, or at least only one person at a time.
You can also do custom tests without the packets by following the same set of rules: fast for 12 hours, consume the one questionable type of food, like a piece of wheat bread or an apple, then take breath tests every 15 minutes for three hours.
If you simply want to check in every day to see if you notice anything amiss or can determine patterns based on symptoms, high levels of fermentation, and what you eat, set the app to send reminders every few hours for you to take a breath test—it’s recommended to aim for about 10 tests per day, so one every hour or two.
A few additional things to keep in mind: you need to keep the device away from products that contain silicone, like hair conditioner or some cosmetics as they can damage the device’s sensors. Try to steer clear of alcohol during testing periods, or at least take it into account when doing breath tests as alcohol will result in exaggerated fermentation scores. If you smoke, make sure not to do so shortly before using the device as this can impact the reading as well. Finally, while you can wash the mouthpiece, make sure to remove it from the main housing before doing so. And always keep it stored in the protective pouch.
While the FoodMarble AIRE is ideal for those who think they have issues digesting certain foods and want to learn more, it’s a handy device for anyone who wants to monitor the foods they eat and discover if there’s an issue they might not have realized. Maybe, for example, you notice you get bloated every so often but never made the connection that it could be inulin or fructose causing the problem. This can prompt you to eat foods with less of that substance and potentially make a huge improvement in your digestion.
For me, the FODMAP test proved something I had already suspected—that I don’t digest lactose well. I will now be making changes to my diet and testing specific dairy foods to see if some are worse then others.
Check out the FoodMarble AIRE at Best Buy.