Keeping your gut and its resident bacteria in tip-top shape is important business, but how can you keep on top of this very internal issue? Fart-detecting pills, obviously.
Scientists at Monash University and RMIT University in Australia have recently developed an ingestible capsule that’s able to measure the different concentrations of gas in your gut. This information can then be wirelessly transmitted via a receiver device to a smartphone, allowing individuals to monitor the effect of their diet in real time.
The 26-millimeter-long capsules, about the size of a multivitamin pill, contains a bunch of electronic sensors that can detect levels of oxygen, hydrogen, and carbon dioxide. Levels of these gases, along with nitrogen and methane, in the gut have been shown to be useful in understanding if anything is wrong with your digestive system. They also give a fair indication of the state of the gut’s bacteria biome.
“Just as body temperature is an indicator of general health, the concentration of gases produced by the microbiome is an indicator of gut health. More valuable still is an understanding of the gas concentration profile along the entire length of the gut,” Dr Benjamin Terry, an engineer who specializes in medical equipment, said in an accompanying editorial.
“For example, a healthy individual will have different gas concentrations in the stomach, small intestine and colon, and it is currently very difficult to accurately and noninvasively measure gut gas at specific locations.”
The pills were recently tested as part of a human clinical trial published in the journal Nature Electronics in which scientists compared the gut gas profile of people with a high-fiber diet to those on a low-fiber diet.
“Trials showed the presence of high concentrations of oxygen in the colon under an extremely high-fiber diet,” study leader Professor Kourosh Kalantar-Zadeh said in a statement. “This contradicts the old belief that the colon is always oxygen free. This new information could help us better understand how debilitating diseases like colon cancer occur.”
With the human trials showing some real potential, they are now hoping to commercialize the technology and receive approval from regulatory bodies. As co-inventor Dr Kyle Berean explained: “Our ingestible sensors offer a potential diagnostic tool for many disorders of the gut from food nutrient malabsorption to colon cancer. It is good news that a less invasive procedure will now be an option for so many people in the future.”