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A Gut Reaction: Smart Pills Give New Insights into Intestinal Gases

Smart pills give a detailed glimpse into gut health.

“Chocolate gives you acne.” “You can’t have eggs if you have heart problems.” We’ve all read or heard countless unsubstantiated claims about how foods affect the body. People with symptoms or illnesses are often left confused and eating perhaps unnecessarily restrictive diets because of all of the conflicting information.

Though scientists know that intestinal gases are associated with many disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and colon cancer, it’s difficult to study how food affects the body because the medical community lacks a good tool to measure these gases.

But smart pills may change that.

Researchers at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, have developed smart gas-sensing pills that can measure the intestinal gases inside the gut and send the data to a mobile phone. "The smart pills allow us to identify precisely where the gases are produced and help us understand the microbial activity in these areas - it's the first step in demolishing the myths of food effects on our body and replacing those myths with hard facts,” said Professor Kourosh Kalantar-zadeh, from the Centre for Advanced Electronics and Sensors at RMIT.

The pills have been used in an animal trial and already offered some unexpected results, namely that a low-fiber diet actually produced more hydrogen in the small intestine than a high-fiber diet. Intestinal gases have been linked to colon cancer, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). This goes against the current assumptions regarding the effects of fiber in the gut.

The researchers hope that the ability to accurately measure intestinal gases will lead to more targeted treatments and even personalized diets for gut health.


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