The presence of hydrogen in breath is an indicator of poor digestive health
A portable device is now available that is able to help detect if and why an individual is experiencing digestive tract issues.
The 5 centimeters squared device — called AIRE — was created by Irish startup FoodMarble and is able to test if hydrogen is present in a person’s breath, an indication of poor gut health.
“Humans shouldn’t be producing hydrogen on the breath,” Peter Harte, an engineer who co-founded FoodMarble with Aonghus Shortt, told CNN Business.
People with hydrogen in their breath could have a number of gut issues, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which can produce symptoms of stomach cramps, constipation, and indigestion.
Hydrogen buildup can occur when food that fails to be digested moves into the large intestine, where it becomes fermented and releases gasses including hydrogen and methane.
AIRE, meanwhile, allows individuals to test for levels of hydrogen in their breath after they finish eating, allowing them to discover in real time what foods give them negative reactions.
The hydrogen readings are sent over Bluetooth to the FoodMarble app, where its users’ meals can be logged and tracked in order to evaluate which ingredients seem to produce hydrogen readings.
Hydrogen breath tests are not a new phenomenon, as they are used by hospitals to help diagnose conditions such as lactose intolerance and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, however the technology to test yourself has not been available.
“By miniaturizing this, our aim is to democratize the technology,” Harte told CNN Business. “We’ve got this huge cohort of patients who just haven’t had a way to overcome these difficult conditions. Our device is easy to use and understand, it gives them hope.”
AIRE also appears to be coming at the right time, with the global market for treatment for the condition expected to increase from $2 billion in 2020 to more than $4 billion by 2028, according to a Research and Markets report.
Gastroenterologist Dr. Tara Troy, who runs a clinic in Illinois, told CNN Business she believes the devices could be beneficial to people dealing with digestive issues who would otherwise have to spend a lot more time and effort to get checked out in a clinical space.
“The attraction of the FoodMarble device is that it’s not just a one-time analysis of the breath,” Troy told CNN Business. “A person could use it multiple times to gather multiple data points on which to make better judgment calls and assessments about food sensitivities.”
While helpful, hydrogen breath tests are not infallible and can produce false results, Troy warns, recommending they be used in conjunction with other tests before ultimately making any diagnoses.