We all hate feeling ill, so wouldn’t it be useful if there was some way your body could tell you what is making you sick? Well its seems that this could now be possible for your gut, at least. Australian researchers at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT University) have tried a new pill on pigs that can measure internal gases and tell you how the food you just consumed will affect your digestive system. This smart pill can detect the gases that are produced in your internal abdomen. And if that’s not tech-savvy enough, the pill can also send consumed low and high-fibre food data to your mobile phone.
This is clearly good news for those suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s Disease or Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). Since there are no exact explanations as to what really causes these conditions, the discovery of this smart pill can help medical practitioners come up with a more personalized treatment and move on from the usual trial-and-error or one-size-fits-all method.
According to Professor Kourosh Kalantar-zadeh, from the Centre for Advanced Electronics and Sensors at RMIT, having a healthy gut and healthy profile of gases in there is key to having a healthy body. “These gases are the best biomarkers that tell us if our gut is in a good or bad shape. And this pill measures those biomarkers,” says Professor Kalantar-zadeh.
The pill may also help with diets and weight loss too. We all know that diet trends move at a fast pace, and it’s exhausting if you try to keep up with each one of them. And most of time, a specific diet that works for one person may have a different effect, or may not work at all, with another person. The discovery of the smart pill will allow dieticians and nutritionists to come up with the most efficient diet plan that will work based on a person’s gut profile. What’s more, this data can be obtained through a mobile phone report.
The research was performed on pigs since they have similar digestive systems to humans. There were two controlled variables – high and low-fibre food. According to the research results published in Gastrojournal.org, it was found that more methane gas is produced in the large intestine by high-fibre foods. And since painful gut gas retention is mainly caused by methane gas, those that suffer from this should reduce their intake of high-fibre food.
Meanwhile, four times more hydrogen gas is produced in the small intestine by low-fibre food. Therefore, those that suffer from IBS due to small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) can benefit from a diet that emphasises high-fibre food. According to Professor Kalantar-zadeh, “This was a complete surprise because hydrogen is produced through fermentation, so we naturally expected more fibre would equal more of this fermentation gas.”
However, for both types of food, ratio of carbon dioxide to methane in the large intestines remains the same. Therefore, those that suffer from IBS caused by excess methane concentration won’t find both diet types beneficial for them. Not only is the study valuable to those that suffer from IBS, but may also apply to the development of new treatments for other gut disorders that are associated to abdominal gases such as colon cancer and IBD.
Professor Kalantar-zadeh and his team are starting the tests on humans and the initial phase is scheduled to be finished in April 2016. If the tests are successful, a company will be launched to manufacture the pill commercially. It will initially be sold in Australia first and rolled out to the US market and other parts of the world in the future, though no dates have been set.
As for the safety of the pill, here’s what Professor Kalantar-zadeh had to say, “It’s safe and user-friendly. I’ve tried it myself and had no problem. I really think this pill will be a disruptive game changer and impact the world over the next five years.”