Having experienced some chronic digestive issues, I’ve tried various methods of tracking what I eat and how it makes me feel, including pen and paper, Google spreadsheet, and a web application geared mostly for the desktop.
I figured out some of my food sensitivities, but I’ve been looking for an Android app that would let me track foods more conveniently and might do some analysis to make sense of the still sometimes mysterious and unpredictable Stomach Troubles.
There are many apps for counting calories, but finding one for tracking allergies and sensitivities is more difficult. I tried out two apps to track symptoms from food and other triggers. (Neither of the apps below tracks calories or portion size.)
With so many people experiencing allergies, gluten sensitivity, lactose intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome, and other issues, the following discussion may be helpful for you, as well as for patients you might see in clinic. And while I’m focusing on food sensitivities, these apps could really be used to track the occurrence and severity of any symptom.
I want a food journal that:
- has a user-friendly, intuitive interface. Logging my food and symptoms should be easy.
- is fast. I don’t want to wait a long time for the app to load, and I want to be able to use it without a network connection.
- lets me export my food diary to show to a healthcare provider.
- analyzes my symptoms to detect patterns
Ideally, I’d like to be able to enter data via desktop computer as well as mobile device. Sometimes it’s just more convenient to enter foods with a keyboard. But I didn’t find this in either of the apps I tried.
mySymptoms Food Diary ($2.99; Android, iPhone, and iPad)
mySymptoms has detailed symptom analysis, is fairly easy to use, and comes with a large database of foods.
mySymptoms has many good features:
- Pre-existing database of foods, symptoms, and medications. You can edit, add, and delete items.
- Individual ingredients can be grouped under other food items, which is important for tracking sensitivities to particular ingredients.
- Complex analysis to detect triggers and patterns for various symptoms. Symptom intensity is factored in, and you can adjust the time period for analysis.
- Does not require a network connection.
- Lets you track stress, environmental triggers (like smoke or pollen), exercise, and more.
- Notes can be added to foods and events.
- The app is well-supported. It seems to be updated frequently, and when I submitted a bug report, I got a response the next day.
But I do have some complaints:
- It takes a while to get a hang of the interface. It’s not the most intuitive and doesn’t make good use of my phone’s Back button.
- You can export your food diary, but can’t export the analyzed results.
- Many of the pre-loaded foods are not broken down by ingredient. For example, yogurt should contain milk, tea should contain caffeine, and bread should contain wheat.
Also, there are a lot of somewhat obscure items in the database, but I was surprised that some common foods are missing. The database definitely has a British feel — when was the last time you ate bloater, Wensleydale cheese, or a Knickerbocker glory? There are no brand names or fast foods, which may be inconvenient for some users.
I’ve tracked my food for three weeks, and I’ve gotten some interesting leads, but no conclusions. mySymptoms reports some surprising “suspect” foods which I hadn’t considered, so that’s promising. I know getting results will take time, but at this point it still feels like a matter of faith that all the tracking will pay off. The testimonials on the mySymptoms website make me hopeful.
I don’t have a true food allergy, so I’d be interested to know how well mySymptoms can detect something more clear-cut, like celiac disease or a true allergy.
Allergy Journal (free; Android, iPhone, and iPad)
I wanted to be able to recommend a free app, so I also tried Allergy Journal. This app helps you keep a food diary and lets you review a) what happens after you eat a particular food, or b) what you ate prior to a particular symptom.
Honestly, I didn’t spend much time using its analysis tool, because I found it inconvenient to enter my food using this app:
- There’s no pre-existing database of foods.
- You can’t organize foods by their ingredients or group foods into meals.
- There’s no running list of what you’ve entered for a particular meal. To confirm what you’ve entered, you have to navigate to a separate section of the app, which is inconvenient.
- When I entered a new food, the current time did not always display.
- The interface is a little clunky in general.
I did like that there’s no need to categorize your food as a particular meal or snack. Foods are simply organized by the time you ate them.
The symptom analysis is more simplistic than in mySymptoms, but during my brief review, it functioned well:
- You can adjust the analysis window for reports.
- Export your food diary and symptom reports in PDF or Excel format.
Options for iPhones
I would also recommend trying the iOS version of mySymptoms, which has some additional functionality not available for Android.
In this case, it seems like you get what you pay for, as mySymptoms is definitely more robust and sophisticated than the free alternative. If I can determine a particular food or two that’s causing problems, mySymptoms will be well worth the three bucks, and hopefully, the time involved.
I didn’t find a lot of apps to try (and my time was limited, as well as my patience for using multiple trackers at once!). So if you have an additional app to recommend, I’m all ears!
Images of mySymptoms Diary (at top left) and Results, SkyGazer Labs Ltd.
Allergy Journal images, IBKR Analytics LLC.