12 January 2018

Gas-tracking pill shows how farts form

Ever wondered what's the deal with your farts? This tiny device could help clear up all the hot air.

A group of researchers has developed an ingestible capsule which allows tracking and analysis of gut gases through a smartphone application.

The electronic pill is swallowed and travels through the gastrointestinal tract as food would, but picks up information about the various gases in the gut as it goes along.

Data can be collated in real time with a pocket monitor and the smartphone app.

Why would you want to track your farts?

In their paper, published on, research leaders Kourosh Kalantar-Zadeh from ZMIT University and Peter Gibson from Monash University said that this technology could provide valuable information about the gut's condition.

Information about the gut microbiome was not easily accessible in the past, because cumbersome equipment and tubes had to be used to collect information.

The capsule has a gas sensor built into it and senses gases like oxygen, hydrogen and carbon. The selectivity and sensitivity to different gases is controlled by adjusting the heating elements of the sensors.

Monitoring test subjects

When considering gut activity, researchers are aware of gases which are common in the human gastrointestinal tracts. Monitoring the different gases gives doctors, researchers and scientists insight into understanding disorders of the gut, which then allows them to research ways to rectify matters.

Reasons behind irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are not entirely known. It is believed to be an over-reaction of the digestive system to emotional triggers, but studying the data collected from the device may help in making new discoveries about gut behaviours.

When test subjects ingested the device, which is roughly the size of a large vitamin tablet, they had eaten specific foods so researchers could monitor the gases, the temperature and time the device had spent in their systems.

One of the test subjects ingested the device twice. He had been eating food high in fibre before taking the first tablet, which resulted in the passing of the tablet a little too soon for his liking. He then had food lower in fibre and two weeks after taking his first tablet, he took another, which they hoped would be more effective.

A lot more insight

Researchers however ended up giving him a high dose of fibre to move the device along, because it was actually taking a little too long to exit his system.

Human bodies make use of two types of fibre – soluble and insoluble fibre. Soluble fibre is believed to help with lowering cholesterol and regulating blood sugar, whereas insoluble fibre creates bulk in our intestines and helps prevent constipation.

The data collected through the attempts are giving researchers a lot more insight into how the gut reacts to high- and low-fibre diets.

The team is now considering creating a company, so they can expand on their research and testing the device even further.

Image credit: iStock




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