The smart pill (Image: RMIT)

Ingestible IoT sensors could soon help improve your diet

Researchers from Australia have conducted trials using ingestible smart pills to explore the gasses in the stomach and the impact fibre diets have on digestion for the first time.

The team from RMIT University in Melbourne developed a pill kitted out with IoT sensors and gave it to pigs to see what effect fibre intake has on the production of stomach gasses.

Pigs were used in this experiment because they have similar digestive systems and stomachs to humans. They were fed low and high fibre diets.

The aim of the study was to reveal how stomach gasses are produced as a result of different types of fibre diet and where exactly in the gut – so in the small or large intestine.

As a result of the experiment, the researchers found that low fibre intake produces more hydrogen in the small intestine than high intake.

The research team believes that knowing what happens in the stomach could help doctors treat patients who suffer from harmful gases and help diagnose diseases such as colon cancer or inflammatory bowel.

The pill collects data in the gut via a number of sensors, some off-the-shelf and some developed in the lab, and these can measure the gas type and concentration. The pill’s microprocessor sends the data to a transmitter, which then relays it to a receiver in your mobile phone.

Leading the study, Professor Kourosh Kalantar-Zadeh said: “We found a low-fibre diet produced four times more hydrogen in the small intestine than a high-fibre diet,”

“This was a complete surprise because hydrogen is produced through fermentation, so we naturally expected more fibre would equal more of this fermentation gas.

“The smart pills allow us to identify precisely where the gases are produced and help us understand the microbial activity in these areas – it’s the first step in demolishing the myths of food effects on our body and replacing those myths with hard facts.”

“We hope this technology will in future enable researchers to design personalised diets or drugs that can efficiently target problem areas in the gut, to help the millions of people worldwide that are affected by digestive disorders and diseases.”

Armin Talic, commercial director of Komodo Digital, spoke to Internet of Business about the rise of IoT-oriented health technologies.

He said: “Although the ‘Internet of Things’ is a term being thrown around to describe any small standalone device that can connect to the internet, the industry hasn’t just appeared in the last few years. However, arguably the biggest driver in progress for the industry has been the private and public health care sector.

“From small wireless ‘pills’ for a patient to swallow which transmit images back to the doctor as it travels through the body to sub-dermal NFC implants to store your personal health data or trigger actions based on proximity, there’s a lot of potential here.

“One day in the near future, you’ll be able to influence your health without knowingly doing so. If you choose to share your data with third-parties, there’s nothing to stop Waitrose delivering your semi-skimmed milk and whole grain bread because your data suggest this would have a positive impact on your health, or a parcel arriving through your letterbox with tablets that you haven’t even asked for, because your toilet detected an imbalance in your urine and send the data to your doctor.”