Have a food intolerance our app can help!
Anyone who has ever suffered from a food intolerance knows just how hard it can be to diagnose, identify and manage their intolerance(s).
Combining sophisticated mathematics, machine learning (A.I.) and an easy to use user interface our Food Intolerance Tracker app (F.I.T.) can help you do just that!
What is the Food Intolerance Tracker (F.I.T.) app?
The Food Intolerance Tracker (F.I.T.) app is a mobile app developed by Today’s New Idea to assist sufferers of food intolerances diagnose and track their intolerances.
This app combines the features of a food and weight diary with a powerful machine learning engine to help you identify and manage any food intolerances you may have. The F.I.T. app addresses all the challenges faced by intolerance sufferers.
Developed by food intolerance sufferers for food intolerance sufferers we wanted a solution where we did not have to spend a long time entering data just to get a vague indication of what the problem might be. Instead we wanted to enter just enough information to allow an advanced machine learning (A.I.) engine to diagnose our intolerances for us.
Today’s New Idea is a technical consultancy/software development company and as such is not qualified to discuss the clinical diagnosis and treatment of digestive disorders - for that we refer you to your nutritionist or physician.
What are food intolerances?
Firstly, food intolerances are not the same as food allergies and we would urge anyone reading this that thinks they may have a food allergy to consult a food allergy specialist as soon as possible to confirm whether this is the case as some food allergies can have fatal consequences!!!
Food intolerances, sometimes called food sensitivities, are surprisingly common, notoriously hard to diagnose and poorly understood.
While researching this app we found that much has been published on reputable health care sites regarding the identification and management of food allergies but relatively little has been published on food intolerances and a on number of 'reputable' sites we visited we found articles that seemed to contradict each other.
This is perhaps due to the fact that the term 'food intolerance' seems to be used by some to encompass any digestive disorders. It is true that different food intolerances can have different underlying causes for example lactose intolerance is widely accepted to be caused, in many cases, by low levels of the enzyme lactase whereas some seafood intolerances are trigged by a histamine build up that naturally occurs when they are stored.
Matters are further confused by the number of privately owned laboratories that offer 'food intolerance' testing each claiming theirs is the best.
We actually tried one of the 'leading test laboratories' and found that the results we received back in the post suggested that we had an intolerance to most of what we had consumed the week before the test and suggested we avoid these foods in future.
If you regularly suffer from any of the following symptoms a couple of hours after having had something to eat or drink and have ruled out any of the more severe conditions such as food allergies and coeliac disease you may well have a food intolerance.
The most common symptoms our research uncovered are:
- Migraine (Debilitating headache, throbbing headache, light sensitivity, nausea)
- Headache (Tension headache, dull pain, sinus headache)
- Cough (Asthma, chronic, bronchitis)
- Bloating (Swollen tummy, stretched tummy, uncomfortable tummy)
- Wind (Flatulence, gas, burping, breaking wind)
- Nausea (Queasiness. vomiting)
- Stomach pain (Cramps, dull ache, acute pain)
- Diarrhoea (Frequent bowel movements, Loose stool)
- Constipation (Infrequent bowel movements, hard stool)
- Hives (Raised itchy skin rash, anywhere on body)
- Eczema (Red, dry, itchy skin rash, usually face, hands, elbows)
- Fatigue (Chronic fatigue, shortly after meals)
You may only have one of these symptoms or you may have several. Similarly you may have more than one intolerance.
In our case, we never even realised that we felt bloated until the first time we didn't which was a revelation!
Using the F.I.T. app to track down your food intolerances
As any nutritionist or dietitian will tell you the key to identifying food intolerances lies in diligently keeping an accurate food diary along with a diary of your symptoms. When we use the word 'food' here we mean anything you consume.
The F.I.T. app has several features that make recording foods and symptoms quick and easy but before we talk you through them you should take a couple of minutes to configure the app using the 'Preferences' view.
The preferences view lets your configure the F.I.T. app.
The Preferences section allows you to turn on or off the following features:
- Sounds - turn this on to have provide audible feedback
- Notifications - turn this on for the app to send you reminders to enter your meals
- Metric - turn this on to use metric units for height, waist and weight
The 'About you' section allows you to set your height and gender. These are needed to compute your body mass index (BMI) and waist to height ratio (WHtR).
The 'Privacy' section allows you to set your privacy preferences. Please read these sections carefully.
The 'Data' section allows you to erase the data you have entered. Only use these options if you are sure you want to remove all your data. There is no recovery option should you delete your data by mistake.
You can change your preferences at any time.
The meal entry page is probably the one you will use most in the app.
Entering meals is easy. Simply enter a title for what you consumed, when your consumed the item and then enter the ingredients.
Entering ingredients can be done by either choosing them from a list of the most common intolerance ingredients or by scanning an ingredient label.
Optionally for those following a calorie controlled diet you can enter the number calories consumed.
A quick example - more below:
Say you like Joe Mo's pepperoni pizza and want to record that you ate this a couple of hours ago. Simply enter Joe Mo's pepperoni pizza as the title, set the time and date you ate this and then select all the ingredients you think are contained in the pizza from a list. For a pepperoni pizza we might select lactose, casein & whey for the cheese, gluten, wheat, yeast for the base, additives for the topping.
You only have to do this once as the system will remember the title and all the ingredients associated with it.
The app will analyse all these ingredients individually and can even detect multiple intolerances. For our pizza example it may detect both a lactose and gluten intolerance.
Entering episodes is also easy
First set the time of when you first noticed your symptoms. This is an important step as the timing of the onset of first symptoms is correlated with when you consumed.
Once the time is set tap the 'Change' button and select the symptoms you are experiencing from the list of common intolerance symptoms that appears.
Finally, use the slider to set your overall wellness level. This gives a easily understood record of the severity of the episode and will hopefully let you see improvements over time.
In addition to tracking your intolerances the app also lets you track your weight and waist measurements.
It is generally recognised that tracking your weight should form an important part of your overall health monitoring regime as large fluctuations in weight can be an indication of an underlying health condition.
From your weight and height measurements we can interpret your Body Mass Index (BMI). BMI has long been used as an indicator of risk for various heart conditions.
However, by allowing you to also enter your waist measurements we can also compute and interpret your waist to height ratio (WtHR). WtHR is increasingly considered by leading clinicians to be a better indicator of body fat than the older, yet more popular, BMI measurement.
Your weight and waist measurements can also be shared with Apple's Health app which allows this information to be combined with other health related apps you might have.
The calendar is a really useful page as it lets you see at a glance if you have entered data for a specific day and to retrospectively add any entries you may have missed
Each day of the calendar will show icons that indicate whether a meal, episode or weight has been added that day. This makes it easy to see if you have missed something or not. Tapping a day button will show a detailed list of items added that day.
Tapping a day button also makes it easy to add something you missed.
For example say you were out for a meal with friends and forgot to add what you consumed to the app that night. You could simply look at the calendar and see that which meal items were added yesterday and then use one of the 'Add new' buttons to add what you missed be that meals, episode or weights.
Analysing your symptoms is easy. Simply access the Analysis page and tap the 'Analyse data' button. The analysis engine will then work its way through your meals and symptoms learning as it goes.
Once your analysis is complete the tree diagram toward the top of the page will be updated and a summary of your intolerances will be shown.
If you have recently made some significant changes to your diet you may find you get more accurate results when you use the 'Limit to 90 days' option, assuming you have entered sufficient data over the last 90 days.
Also on the Analysis page are the 'Export meals' and 'Export episode' buttons. You may want to use these export options to send the meal or episode data you have entered to your nutritionist or physician.
The application includes a very comprehensive user guide that not only tells you how to use the app but also includes details on all the intolerances tracked by the app which includes:
- Lactose (Dairy, milk, cream, soft cheeses)
- Casein & whey (Dairy, milk, cream, all cheeses)
- Gluten (Grains, wheat, rye, barley, bulgar, spelt, couscous)
- Caffeine (Coffee, tea, chocolate)
- Egg (Any eggs, mayonnaise, custard, hollandaise sauce, lecithin)
- Wheat (Baked goods, bread, cakes, pastries, pasta)
- Legumes (Soy, peanuts, lentils, beans, chickpeas)
- Additives (Artificial sweeteners, antioxidants, emulsifiers, flavour enhancers, preservatives, colouring)
- Corn (Corn, maize, sweet corn, maltodextrin, dextrose, corn syrup, corn oil)
- Alcohol (All forms)
- Chocolate (All forms)
- Yeast (Baked goods, beer, lager)
- Seafood (Fish, shellfish)
- Tree nuts (Walnut, almond, pistachios, cashew, brazil, hazelnut)
The Measurements page lets you see charts of all your weight and waist measurements as well as BMI, WHtR, wellness and calories over time.
If you need to share these with your nutritionist or doctor simply take a scree shot of the charts and send the images to them.
Apple provides full instructions of how to take a screen shot on their website
Data entry tips:
When entering meal items it is important that you give the item a specific title as not all produce with a similar name have the same ingredients. For example we recently purchase mushroom rice from two different stores. One brand had rice, mushrooms and stabilisers as the main ingredients but the other also listed lactose as an ingredient. By including the brand in the title we can easily distinguish between them
When scanning ingredients from an ingredient label some trial and error may be required as the size and quality of the printing can make it difficult for the camera to pick up the text especially in bad lighting.
If you have been feeling okay for a few days you don't have to enter any episode information as the system will assume that you were okay when analysing your meals. It is important however that you enter your meal information regularly even when you are feeling fine as otherwise the app will not be able to learn which ingredients does not affect you.
The F.I.T. app will be available in the Apple's App Store soon!