Jul 03, 2023

FoodMarble Review: Can this $250 Breath Tester Improve Your Gut Health?

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I tried the tiny device that's meant to determine the causes of digestive issues and GI distress. Here's what I learned.

If there is one thing I could change about myself, it'd be my sensitive stomach. I'm a food writer, so you can only imagine the, er, issues I run into after an extensive tasting menu or diving headfirst into a dairy-rich or veggie-heavy dinner.

As a longtime sufferer of IBS, I always have digestion top of mind, so I was intrigued by the prospect of FoodMarble's breath-testing devices. The idea is to log every meal, bowel movement and general health symptom while also measuring hydrogen and methane levels to identify and curb the triggers for cramping, diarrhea and other unpleasant gastrointestinal events.

FoodMarble is a helpful tool for determining the causes of stomach distress.

The process sounds intense and time-consuming (and at times, it is), but IBS sufferers will agree that they'll do practically anything to regain control and feel more normal on a daily basis.

FoodMarble is a device that analyzes your breath to help you understand how you're digesting and determine what foods set off symptoms and digestive issues as well as what foods are fine to eat.

When paired with the FoodMarble app and library, the device will give you information on what foods are causing higher levels of fermentation, which presumably result in GI symptoms such as gas and bloating. The goal is to help you narrow down foods that cause less fermentation or gas, and are therefore easier on your gut.

For $249, you get the tool, access to the company's tracking app, a carry case and a USB-C charging cable. An additional $49 will get you the Food Intolerance Kit, which delves deeper into causes of indigestion and is, in my opinion, what actually makes the investment worthwhile (more on that below).

The first-generation FoodMarble Aire can be purchased on Amazon for $179. The big difference is that the Aire 2 measures both methane and hydrogen, while the first-gen device tracks only hydrogen levels.

The FoodMarble Aire 2 measures both hydrogen and methane.

At base level (or Baseline, as the app calls it), the device will have you log every meal, bowel movement, health symptom, sleep time and stress level you normally experience on a daily basis. This is to flag immediate patterns in behavior and highlight days when you feel great versus days when you don't want to leave bed. FoodMarble recommends that you take an entire week to complete this process.

It takes about six weeks to retrieve a personalized digestive profile.

The supplemental Food Intolerance Kit tests for four common FODMAPs (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols, which are short-chain carbohydrates, or sugars, that the small intestine absorbs poorly). These include fructose (fruit sugar), lactose (dairy sugar), sorbitol (a common sweetener, but also found in fruits) and inulin (mainly found in wheat, onions and garlic).

Users pivot from Baseline to Reset, a one-week period that encourages a low-FODMAP diet to prepare for the Discovery phase. Discovery tests the four aforementioned FODMAPs (one per week) -- you dissolve packets into a glass of water, consume them on an empty stomach, typically first thing in the morning, and log multiple breath levels for a few hours to measure the fermentation of hydrogen and methane. The higher the gas content, the less likely you're able to digest that specific FODMAP.

In total, it will take six weeks to retrieve a personalized digestive profile.

Along the way, FoodMarble also offers a robust selection of low-FODMAP recipes to assist with cooking and grocery shopping. This is important to keep in mind during the Reset phase when you want to prepare your body for a month of FODMAP testing.

The FoodMarble Aire 2 comes with a protective case.

For anyone who wants to dive into the nitty-gritty of their gut health, the Food Intolerance Kit makes the product worthwhile. The level of specificity in identifying gut triggers is unlike anything else on the market, and I was surprised to see just how much inulin, specifically, wreaked havoc on my belly (not great for this garlic-loving Italian boy).

Aside from these individualized reports, the weekly snapshots that highlight days where things were bad versus good were really helpful in identifying what to steer clear from down the road, especially before social situations or big events. I also appreciated the variety of recipes FoodMarble offered as substitutions for everyday meals, but I do think it can expand upon this by incorporating different chef contributions (perhaps from those who also suffer).

Read more: 12 Best Probiotic Foods for Your Gut Health

I found the process of logging food to be monotonous, especially as someone who eats every couple of hours. Modifying precise serving sizes was time-consuming and mathematically challenging, and I found that a lot of my favorite meals required me to manually insert nutritional information. The user experience would be greatly improved if FoodMarble bolstered its food library so you don't have to think twice about the meals that you're inserting into the app.

As someone with a long history of investigating my own gastrointestinal ailments, I didn't really learn anything new from Baseline. High anxiety, poor sleep quality and hard-to-digest foods were obviously going to cause problems. Anyone who has lived with digestive issues for years may also find the information provided by FoodMarble to be redundant. But if you're new here (sorry and hi!), you may find this snapshot into your health and eating habits useful. Logging also makes you far more aware of the stuff you're putting into your body, which can help curb bad habits.

As a sufferer of IBS on the hunt for answers, I found the Food Intolerance Kit to be a helpful asset when using the FoodMarble Aire.

Many gas, bloating, constipation and diarrhea sufferers are willing to do (and pay!) whatever it takes to alleviate symptoms and, frankly, there is nothing else like this you can buy. However, I really only found value in the tool after tacking on the Food Intolerance Kit.

Sometimes our diets are so varied and complex that focusing on four primary FODMAPs isn't a luxury, but a necessity in determining the precise causes of intestinal distress. And while I was disappointed to find that my biggest villain is inulin, I am now more mindful of the amount of garlic and onions I put into my food while cooking. Key word: mindful. Sometimes the stomach problems are worth it on a day when I have absolutely nowhere to be except home, on the couch, with garlic-coated everything.

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