Quantified Diet: Tracking Food Sensitivity
As I mentioned in my previous post, starting this month my diet tracking efforts are focusing more on nutrient qualities of food, eating habits, and effects of diet on body and mind. One of such effects is food sensitivity, a non-allergic instances when your body negatively reacts to specific foods or ingredients (don’t confuse with food intolerance). Such negative reactions may manifest themselves in physiological or psychological symptoms, including fatigue, bloating and gas, nervousness, changes in mood, acid reflux, and migraines. Often, we attribute these symptoms to our busy lifestyles, stress, and health conditions, not knowing that they could be easily eliminated by simply changing our diet. In this post, I will share my experiences with SweetBeat app and its awesome food sensitivity detection feature. To my knowledge, it is the first app that lets you test your body’s reaction to meals and isolate potentially harmful foods.
The main focus of SweetBeat app is on measuring stress and fitness (supposedly, it also measures your willpower, resilience and stamina), and it does so by analyzing the heart rate variability (HRV). The HRV functionality requires heart rate monitoring chest straps, which I am not a big fan of. The food sensitivity detection feature, however, is based on your heart rate readings, and can be used with or without the strap (via the iphone’s camera sensor). To test your meal for sensitivity, you need to take 3 pulse measurements (in addition to your baseline test in the morning): right before you eat, and then in three 30 minute intervals after you have eaten. In order to test for your body’s potential negative reaction to the meal, app analyzes the pattern of changes in your heart rate during these 90 minutes, using the Coca Pulse Test. If your heart rate goes 16 or higher beats above your morning pulse, the food will be flagged as potentially sensitive.
Last week (Monday through Friday), my diet included four major meals: fruit salad for breakfast, and turkey chili, turkey+avocado panini with watercress/pear salad, or baked salmon with steamed carrots and peas for lunch and dinner (I do not include in-between snacks like apple, string cheese and greek yogurt). I used SweetBeat app to test all four meals, and one of them ended up flagged twice with a big red X mark. Can you guess which one?
As you can see, the fruit salad, chili and salmon with steamed veggies all passed the test:
On Tuesday, my dinner included panini (whole wheat roll, avocado and smoked turkey), salad (watercress, pear, and raspberry fat free dressing), and glass of red wine. During 90 minutes of testing, SweetBeat flagged this meal as potentially unsafe. Next day, I tested the same meal during lunch, this time without the salad and wine. The meal was flagged again:
I now suspect it was the smoked turkey from my local supermarket. Could it be because of the high sodium? I will be testing again in a week, using the low-sodium turkey and a couple of frozen prepared meals (they are usually high in sodium). Of course, it could also be avocado. Or I am sensitive to wheat. From now on, I will try to test every new meal or ingredient.
In summary, SweetBeat app’s food sensitivity detection feature is definitely unique and useful. The app’s alarm reminds you to take pulse on time, displays changes in your heart rate in a nice chart, and lets you store the results so you always remember which meals to avoid. Of course, It is somewhat pricey (4.99 plus tax) if you are not using other features, so I don’t see any reason why you can’t conduct the same test using any other tools (e.g., Azumio’s Instant Heart Rate app). But I personally like the graphing and storing feature, and will most likely continue using SweetBeat to test my meals. Finally, I am also thinking about using data from the tests to “rate” sensitivity of the meals (e.g., the higher is the heart rate after eating, the more offensive is the ingredient).