We tried a fermentation-tracking device and highly recommend it to find out which foods are making you bloated

Following is a transcript of the video.

Michelle Yan: Burping, farting, bloating, diarrhea: We all experience these things. Some may know exactly what foods are causing them these problems, but others may not. Sure, generic lists on Google may help, but they’re not personal or quantifiable enough. This device, called FoodMarble AIRE, may give you a clearer idea of exactly what foods are causing your discomfort.

Kara Chin: My digestive problems include…

Gene Kim: Feeling gassy all the time.

Abby Narishkin: Constipation.

Manny Ocbazghi: Sharp pains in my stomach.

Abby: IBS.

Gene: And also violent diarrhea.

Michelle: So what exactly is this device?

James Brief: FoodMarble AIRE is a breath-analysis device that tracks a specific kind of digestion called fermentation. And fermentation’s a healthy part of digestion, but sometimes too much fermentation from certain foods can cause symptoms in a lot of people. Bloating, pain, gas, and even diarrhea.

Abby: My stomach does not respond well to things like onions and garlic.

Gene: Meat or oily foods.

Abby: Brussels sprouts.

Kara: If it says “sugar-free,” I know I shouldn’t have it.

Abby: If I eat an apple, game over. And avocados, sadly.

What could be causing these symptoms?

James: Fermentable oligosaccharide, disaccharide, monosaccharide, and polyols. It’s a fancy word that means some complex carbohydrates and not carbs like we think of like bread. FODMAPs are found in all kinds of fruits, dairy, vegetables, grains, and these nutrients, while very healthy, if they’re not absorbed properly in certain people, this fermentation causes a lot of the symptoms that people experience.

Manny: I don’t know exactly what I’m reacting to. It could be gluten. It could be dairy. So hopefully this test will help me figure that out.

James: So there’s two general ways that people can use this device. One, you can use it in your regular, everyday use. You can track your foods, track your symptoms, and then you take several breaths throughout the day, and then with our app’s food database, we can tell you which foods contain higher and lower amounts of FODMAPs.

The second way that people could use the app is that we optionally provide pure samples of FODMAPs. You mix it into a little bit of water, and then for three hours while you have an empty digestive system, except for this one FODMAP, we can test you and see if you’re fermenting a lot from this. It’s day one of this experiment.

Gene: I got some teriyaki chicken.

Kara: I got noodle soup.

Gene: Are you excited?

Kara: Uh, yeah, we’re gonna learn things.

Gene: Yeah, let’s do this. Let’s figure out what’s causing our digestive problems.

Manny: So my first week using AIRE has been pretty interesting.

Gene: So it felt like the device was accurately measuring my activity in the stomach.

Kara: My fermentation levels are really high after I’ve had pizza and pita chips and hummus.

Manny: One of the surprising results I got was when I went to Chipotle last week. I purposely stacked my bowl with like dairy products, and then I did my breath test probably about a half an hour later, and my fermentation score actually decreased from the morning.

Abby: I would eat the almonds, and this past week I’ve been recording it, and my fermentation score has been really high. So we asked why that might be happening, and it turns out that almonds are low FODMAP only in smaller quantities, which I have a problem with portion control.

Gene: When I eat meat with vegetables, it was actually fine. The levels would show a low indicator. But when I would eat meat with bread, like a sandwich or a hamburger, the levels were high.

Manny: So when you first download the app, it does tell you not to use the breath tests while you’re drinking. But I was still curious to see what it says, and my readings were like 10 out of 10, like off-the-charts red. But that does let me know that the app is working.

Gene: I tried the inulin elimination diet. I didn’t even know such thing existed before this. I came in thinking that meat is the main problem in my diet, but it turned out that it wasn’t necessarily meat. It was the things that I ate with meat, like bread, garlic, and onion.

Abby: So going forward, I’m gonna eat less almonds and definitely work on portion control.

Kara: I think I just will prepare for suffering whenever I have these foods that I love but know that my body doesn’t react well to.

Abby: I think I would recommend this device. Although it didn’t necessarily give me the answers that I wanted, I think it would be really helpful for someone who definitely has an intolerance to lactose or one of those four pillars and so that they can get a pretty solid answer on what they should avoid to eat.

James: Unfortunately, breath analysis is limited to fermentation-related issues. So if breath analysis and fermentation are not their cause of their problems, they should see a dietician, a healthcare professional, a gastroenterologist for further analysis that can help their issues.

Michelle: So be like, “This is Gene the farting machine.”

Gene: All right, you give me the cue.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in May 2019.

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What staring at a screen all day does to your brain and body

Following is a transcript of the video.

It’s 11:00 pm. You should be asleep. But you’re watching a video on your phone. Tomorrow, you’ll wake up and go to work, where you’ll stare at your computer for 8 hours. When you get home, you’ll watch a movie on TV. And if you’re anything like the average American adult, you spend more than 7 hours a day staring at digital screens.

So, what’s all this screen time actually doing to your body and brain? Humans didn’t evolve to stare at bright screens all day. And our eyes are suffering the consequences. An estimated 58% of people who work on computers experience what’s called Computer Vision Syndrome.

It’s a series of symptoms that include:

  • eyestrain
  • blurred vision
  • headaches
  • and neck and back pain

And long-term, this amount of screen time could be damaging our vision permanently. Since 1971, cases of nearsightedness in the US have nearly doubled, which some scientists partly link to increased screen time. And in Asia today, nearly 90 percent of teens and adults are nearsighted. But it’s not just the brightness of our screens that affects us.

It’s also the color. Screens emit a mix of red, green, and blue light – similar colors in sunlight. And over millennia, it was blue wavelengths in sunlight that helped us keep our circadian rhythms in sync with our environment. But since our circadian rhythms are more sensitive to blue light than any others,

A problem occurs when we use our screens at night. Typically, when the sun sets, we produce the hormone melatonin. This hormone regulates our circadian rhythms, helping us feel tired and fall asleep. But many studies have found that blue light from screens can disrupt this process.

For example, in one small study, participants who spent 4 hours reading e-books before bed for 5 nights produced 55% less melatonin than participants who read print books.

What’s more, the e-book readers reported that they:

  • Were more alert before bed
  • Took longer to fall asleep and reach a restorative REM state
  • And were more tired the next morning

But perhaps the most concerning changes we’re starting to see from all this screen time is in kids’ brains. An ongoing study supported by the NIH has found that some pre-teens who clocked over 7 hours a day on screens had differences in a part of their brains called the cortex. That’s the region responsible for processing information from our five senses.

Usually, our cortex gets thinner as we mature. But these kids had thinner cortices earlier than other kids who spent less time on screens. Scientists aren’t sure what this could mean for how the kids learn and behave later in life. But the same data also showed that kids who spent more than 2 hours a day on screens scored lower on thinking and language skill tests.

To be clear, the NIH data can’t confirm if more time spent staring at screens causes these effects. But they’ll have a better idea of any links as they continue to follow and study these kids over the next decade. It’s no doubt that screens have changed the way we communicate. But only time will tell what other changes are on the horizon for humankind.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in January 2019.

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The real reason you should never eat raw cookie dough

Following is a transcript of the video.

Licking the spoon is the best part of baking cookies. But it’s a bad idea. Because eating raw cookie dough really can make you sick, and not just because it contains raw eggs.

In 2009, over 77 people across 30 states got food poisoning after eating prepackaged raw cookie dough. Many experienced vomiting and bloody diarrhea, and some had severe kidney damage. In the end, Nestlé had to recall 3.6 million packages of its refrigerated cookie dough. And in 2016, another group got sick after eating raw homemade cookie dough made from General Mills products.

But despite what you’d expect, the culprit wasn’t salmonella in the eggs. It was a shiga toxin-producing E. coli in the flour, the same type that sometimes finds its way into romaine lettuce and hamburger meat. In fact, the CDC estimates it’s responsible for 265,000 illnesses, 3,600 hospitalizations, and 30 deaths in the United States every year.

Now, normally E. coli likes to bunker down in moist places. That’s why scientists were surprised when it turned up in flour. And even today, it’s a mystery as to how the E. coli got there in the first place, or how it survived in the flour’s dry environment. The problem is that the bacteria could have infiltrated the flour during any step of the manufacturing process. It might have snuck onto the wheat from animal poop, or jumped to the flour from a contaminated processing equipment. There’s really no way to know for sure. Now, just to be clear, although flour was the culprit in this case, raw eggs can still be just as dangerous. In fact, the FDA estimates that every year contaminated eggs cause 79,000 food-borne illnesses and 30 deaths in the United States. With that in mind, the CDC warns against eating any raw cookie dough.

But, there’s good news. Although, yes, there’s a risk your cookie dough is contaminated, it’s a pretty minimal one. Many bakers, for example, taste test all the time, no worse for wear. Plus, a study found that over half of college students ate unbaked cookie dough, and they lived to tell the tale.

Even better, the risk is lower today than ever before, at least when it comes to store-bought varieties. Because, after the 2009 outbreak, companies like Nestlé and Pillsbury have started including heat-treated flour and pasteurized eggs in their dough. By heating flour to 71 degrees Celsius, you kill off any E. coli. And the pasteurization process heats eggs just enough to kill off bacteria without cooking the egg. Heat-treated flour and pasteurized eggs also explain why the sort of cookie dough you find in ice cream is harmless. But if you insist on making your chocolate chip cookies from scratch, there’s a DIY way to sterilize your own ingredients: bake the cookie! It’ll still taste good.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published on February 12, 2019.

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