By Rachel Sircy
When I last wrote, I was beginning a series of New Year’s resolutions- the first of which was to actually keep a symptom/food journal. So, I thought that this time I would go over my progress so far. If I’m being honest, it’s been pretty hit and miss. I thought I’d share a few of the methods I’ve tried for anyone out there who may need some fresh ideas on how to track their own food consumption and symptoms. I am still experimenting and have yet to come to a perfect solution, but here’s what I’ve tried so far:
Food/Symptom Tracking Apps (I have an iPhone. I’m not sure if/how all of these apps will work on other kinds of phones. I’m not really good with technology myself, but this advice should help you if you’re an Apple user.)
1. Lose It! – this is technically a weight-loss app, but to me, this is the easiest food tracking app out there. Most of its important functions come with the free version of the app. I’ve never really seen any need to purchase a subscription, although if you are really interested in tracking how much water you drink and getting weight-loss suggestions, then purchasing the full version of the app might be a good idea. The thing that I like about this app is that you can tell that a LOT of people already use it and pretty much any food that you can think of (including most items from major brands and restaurant menus) has already been logged by someone. I am incredibly lazy and not very technologically savvy, and I hate looking up the calories on a food I’m eating. Most foods I put in there already have been put in the app, and someone else has already done the research for me. Also, this app has a scanner which recognizes almost all the food items that I scan. You can also track the exercises that you do in a day and for a big rush of endorphins, save that for last and watch your calorie count drop. That always makes me feel good.
Keep in mind that it’s not a perfect app for celiac because it doesn’t have a place to track your symptoms (again, it’s made for weight-loss), but the ease of use can help you at least take down the foods that you’ve eaten even on really busy days. For that, it’s worth having on your phone.
2. Cara – This app is very intensely detailed, allowing you to take pictures of the foods you’ve eaten and allows you to (as far as I can tell) group certain foods together as “ingredients” to create “dishes.” The advantage of this is that if you make the same meal often, you can just choose the dish, but you still have a list of every single thing in that dish. This app also allows you to track your symptoms, bowel movements (yeah, I thought the BM tracker made me feel a little uncomfortable, but if you have intense gut issues – like most celiac/gluten intolerant people do – then it is undeniably useful), medications, moods, menstrual cycles, exercises, and sleep. The app also has a feature that allows you to export your data into PDF, CSV, and web files so that you can potentially share this information with your doctor. This is important in my book, and it’s what makes this app worth having.
I frankly couldn’t keep up with this app. I don’t necessarily mind tracking all of that stuff, but being the Luddite that I am, I prefer not to do it on my phone. I somehow find it more difficult to track things on the computer or on my phone than in a notebook, but I think I’m sort of the odd duck out in that respect. I think most people these days usually prefer to track stuff electronically, and if you’re into detail, then this app is for you. This app is also free, which is a huge plus.
3. Symple – This app seems well worth your while if you are experiencing continuing symptoms even after going on a gluten free diet. The trial version of this app allows you to track up to five symptoms and factors (that is, anything that could be causing your symptoms) daily. The app then compiles this data into graphs and even has a feature that allows you to send the information to a laptop or desktop computer where you can print out reports for your doctor. That fact alone makes me think that this is probably the best app for anyone who has a food allergy or intolerance and for anyone who thinks they may have an allergy/intolerance. I truly believe that sharing with your doctor is important, and I would urge everyone out there not to be a lone wolf about any illness. You can and should get help. The trial version of this app is pretty basic, but for $6.99 you can get the full version. Really, for this kind of technology, I think $6.99 is a pretty reasonable price.
The drawback to this app is that it is not a food tracking app, although you can list gluten free food as one of your factors, you can’t list other foods- just “gluten free food.” If you choose to upgrade, however, there is a journal feature, and you can take and store up to 10 photos per day, so you could potentially keep your food log in that way. The “doctor’s report” feature on this app allows you to include journal entries that you have tagged, which would allow you to include your food journal with the graph of your symptoms.
Again, I’m not someone who is good with technology, so I didn’t pay for the upgrade of this app because I really didn’t feel that I would use it. This is what I bought instead:
4. Health Journal: Discover Food Intolerances and Allergies
Yeah, most people my age (that is early to mid-thirties) are probably shaking their heads in shame at me, but I really prefer the old-fashioned method of writing stuff down on paper. I purchased this journal, just called Health Journal: Discover Food Intolerances and Allergies, from Amazon for $12.99. It seems to be made by a small company, and it is geared specifically to tracking food allergy and intolerance symptoms. These are the sample pages from the journal (You didn’t really think I was going to shame myself by taking pics of my personal food logs, did you?):
I like the fact that this journal not only allows you to track what you’ve eaten and your symptoms, but also other factors which might be causing the symptoms, like the weather or other common irritants like household cleaners. When your immune system is haywire, it can be hard to track down what is really triggering an immune response, and I thought that these features were really helpful. There are also places to track your blood pressure, blood sugar, water intake, weight, and exercise, so this can work for your overall health and also can help you if you’re trying to lose weight. In the back of the book, there is a Health Information section which includes the subsections: Medical Tests, Medical History, Notes and Questions, and a Symptoms Glossary.
One drawback to this book is that the binding is pretty stiff, and it makes it difficult to write in. One fellow Amazon purchaser showed a picture of where he had taken the book to a copy shop and had it spiral bound for a few bucks, which might not be a bad idea if you, like me, really prefer pen and paper to all this technology. The other downside to this book is that while you have paper reports in front of you, you’ll have to find a way to copy these for your doctor. Perhaps your doctor will recruit some poor nurse or office associate to do the copying for your while you’re in talking to the doc, but it’s an added difficulty.
Well, I hope these little reviews will help some of you out there looking for ways to improve your health in the coming year. Good luck!