You know what tastes good, but you may not be so clear on how certain foods make you feel. Identifying foods that cause adverse reactions can involve a bit of detective work. An app called mySymptoms helps solve the puzzle.
The first step in tracking food sensitivities is keeping a food diary. The second step is correlating specific foods with recurring symptoms. As the name suggests, the mySymptoms app links your diet to the symptoms you experience throughout the day, so you can weed out offending foods.
The app has several options for recording meals or snacks: You can scan the barcodes, find your foods in the limited mySymptoms database, or type in each ingredient from a homemade recipe. You can also record drinks, medications, supplements, environmental factors, physical activity—whatever you can think of that might trigger an undesirable reaction.
Meanwhile, you also record your symptoms and their intensity. Super bloated and gassy at noon? Exhausted after lunch? Afternoon migraine? Type them in. You can also add other details such as sleep quality and bowel movements.
This data entry is tedious at first, but it gets easier with time, as you’re likely to eat similar meals, and so you can simply copy the repeats. The more detail you can provide, the clearer the picture you’ll get. This means recording your meals even on days when you don’t have any symptoms.
Within a few days, you’ll start to see patterns emerge, but mySymptoms also features detailed analyses to give even more perspective.
Once you’ve run the analysis for a symptom, the app shows a “top suspects” results table with the highest scoring item at the top. You can find out more information about the score of an individual item by tapping on it to open the result-detail screen.
Keep in mind that mySymptoms can identify correlation but not cause, so you must still apply some critical thinking to the process. However, the program offers easy-to-read PDF reports that you can send to your doctor or dietitian for further evaluation.
This app is particularly helpful for those with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), or food sensitivities, but it also provides valuable insight to people who want a better look at how their bodies react to food and drink.
Although it strives to be intuitive, there is definitely a learning curve when you start mySymptoms. This is especially true of the Android version, which can be tricky to navigate. With the iPhone version, it’s much easier to find what you’re looking for.
If you’re not very smartphone savvy or try not to be so tethered to your devices, you might want to skip the app and keep your food and symptom diary to old-fashioned paper and pen and observe the patterns that emerge. Of course, you would miss out on the analysis and reporting features of mySymptoms, but you might also gain some welcome time away from your cellphone. As with the app, consistency and details are essential to making the process work.
The basic app is free, but if you want the detailed report and analysis, you have to pay $2.99 for the premium version.