The purpose of the online food and symptom diary

The primary purpose is to track down the trigger foods and ingredients, work out the optimal personal diet and eradicate the symptoms. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is the typical use case for the food diary.

Are you likely to benefit from the food diary?

The only prerequisite is that your symptoms are recurring, but you also experience relatively symptom-free periods. Additionally you are motivated to relieve your symptoms, you would rather avoid some foods than eat pills.

The principle and scope of the online diary

The food diary application provides a convenient user interface for maintaining a detailed record of the consumed foods and experienced symptoms. In contrast to apps, the diary does not store numbers for graphs and charts, but aims to help the users recognise the right and the risky foods. The specific focus allows for a simpler user interface and more meaningful output. The users are spared the pain of having to enter any numbers. The diary entries are created in a calendar-like interface with the minimum of controls. The accumulated personal records are automatically analysed to produce a personal food hazard rating. The records can be downloaded or printed out to be shared with a doctor.

The harmful food prediction algorithm differentiates between two extremes:

  • symptom-free satisfactory condition
  • unsatisfactory condition caused by the recurred symptoms

Two types of chronological entries are recorded in the diary:

  • short food intake events each holding the list of the consumed foods
  • longer symptom episodes

Meals may overlap with symptoms.

The time precision in the calendar is a half hour. But one can be even more approximate.

The organism reaction depends on the amount of the consumed food. Even pure water is sure to cause diarrhea if overdosed. The number-free user interface that the users eat every time roughly similar amounts of any particular food.

When registering a recurred symptoms, the experienced symptoms can optionally be listed, detailed or rated. Note, there is no point in discriminating the symptoms. Regarding IBS, the Food and Drug Administration is still working on defining the symptoms and developing their reliable measures and scores (Fehnel et al. 2017). The statistical prediction algorithm disregards any comments or ratings. If you suffer several non-overlapping symptoms, focus on the most bothersome. And when the symptoms are minimized by eliminating the triggering foods, explore the remaining ones.

Obesity, a deadly eating disorder, is outside the scope of the tool. The online food diary helps formulate the least harmful diet and is not optimized for counting calories or computing physical activities.

Note, the food and symptoms diary is an internet browser-based web application designed for personal computers or desktops. It is not yet another app and is not adapted for mobile phones.

A week view in the calendar-like interface of the IBS food and symptom diary. The IBS diary stores two types of records. Meal entries are in grey, whereas an IBS symptoms episode is in pink.

How to get started with the online diary?

The user interface is quite intuitive. Log in with your email address. Sign in to the online food diary using your email address Click any buttons to navigate the diary. Create test meal and symptom entries in the week calendar. See your personal food hazard rating based on your test entries.

Do I have to create new entries as I eat?

No, and you do not necessarily need to remember what you ate. Use your mobile phone to take a photo of your meals and drinks whenever you eat. Each photo includes the exact time. Fill your diary according to your photos at your convenience.

How long does it take for food to trigger the symptoms?

The food you ate right before the onset of symptoms may not be the trigger. Although food can provoke adverse reaction in one hour, the symptoms might show up even several days after eating. Depending on personal characteristics and the food, intestines can spent up to 3 days to process the ingested food. Observations in healthy individuals suggest that whole gut transit time may vary between 4 and 60 hours (Chaddock et al. 2014). In the constipated people food digestion can take even longer. Therefore, any food consumed during the three days preceeding symptoms should be considered as a potential culprit.

How to record a meal?

Create a new entry in the week calendar whenever you eat. Do not skip quick snacks or drinks. Enter the distinctive names of all the eaten foods or composite dishes.

How to specify the ingredients of a dish or food product?

Even very minor ingredients can induce a big reaction in your gut and the more detailed and accurate is the log, the easier it will be to spot the harmful foods. Once you save a record, you can specify the ingredients that you are aware of for each of the listed foods. The ingredients of a regularly consumed food product have to be specified only once. Afterwards, when the same product is included in a meal record, all its ingredients will be automatically included and considered by prediction algorithm. Read more about food.

How to record symptoms?

Ideally an entry should cover the entire duration of the most bothersome symptoms. What matters most is the onset of the symptoms. The end time can be less precise.

Optionally, you can use the comments field to describe the symptoms or add any additional information that helps your dietitian to review your records.

How long do I have to keep the diary?

Some patience is required to work out the optimal personal diet. The total duration depends on the diversity of your diet. One month might be enough to discover the most obvious culprits that have to be eliminated from your diet. At the same time you will recognise many foods that can be used to safely diversify your diet.

Analysing the records

The problematic foods will repeatedly precede your symptoms by up to three days. Importantly, the same food may not always induce adverse reaction. Unless you have allergy, a food will induce the symptoms occasionally. There is no easy rule to predict when a food will cause the symptoms. A food effect on the organism depend on its amount, presence of other foods, stress, and overall health condition. If some threshold specific to your organism is exceeded, that is if you eat too much of the food, you will develop the symptoms. Other foods might not be well tolerated by your gut only when consumed in combination with some other foods. Some foods, for example wheat-containing, have to be considered as a group. If they are responsible for the symptoms you will not feel any improvement unless the entire group is excluded from your diet.

The foods consumed up to 3 days before the symptoms onset are possible suspects. The prime suspects are the foods that were repeatedly consumed prior to the symptoms, whereas the food that was only once consumed prior to the outbreak of symptoms is a less likely suspect. Conversely, the foods that are never preceed the symptoms are considered safe.

On demand, the online diary rates the hazard of all the registered foods and their ingredients. The ratings are based on:

  • how often the food consumption preceeded the sickness
  • how many times the food was consumed. The food that that was consumed 10 times, of which 5 preceded symptoms (50%) is considered to be more likely trigger than a food consumed 4 time of which 2 preceded symptoms.

Only the food consumed during symptom-free days will be considered in prediction. Any food overlapping with symptoms is disregarded and excluded from calculations as it is hard to conclude whether the consumed food triggers the symptoms when the symptoms that developed even before the food was eaten. The food eaten less than 3 times is disregarded because conclusions based on few events are statistically unreliable