As many as 20 million Canadians have at least one digestive disease or disorder for all or part of their lives. With our gut health closely related to our overall well-being – how can we boost our chances for better outcomes?
That’s the question that inspired the development of MyHealthyGut, an app designed to support people dealing with health challenges and disorders of the digestive system, says Darlene Higbee Clarkin, CEO and founder of KORE Digital Health Therapeutics. “We call it a dietitian-in-your-pocket, since it was created in collaboration with dietitians and other medical experts to enable people to make the lifestyle changes and dietary choices that can improve their well-being and outlook.”
The focus is on a pro-digestive and anti-inflammatory approach that can support microbiome balance and lead to better digestive health,” explains Higbee Clarkin. “Our education section, if it was printed out, would encompass 350 pages of up-to-date and reliable evidence-based content, educating people about gut health – starting with general digestive health and understanding your gut. The resources then delve deep into celiac disease and gluten intolerance and address irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) as well.”
People with gastrointestinal conditions can experience periods of flare-ups that are extremely debilitating, she says. The app can help, for example, by providing a health report (that is essentially a snapshot of lifestyle and nutrition details) and alerting patients when their chances of a flare-up are elevated, with known triggers highlighted in a detailed food list.
We are constantly providing information that can help people make better decisions. We have also developed nutritional and lifestyle recommendations, including the top 100 foods for optimum gut health.— Darlene Higbee, Clarkin CEO and founder of KORE Digital Health Therapeutics
The app is comprehensive, allowing users to track bowel movements and other symptoms, offering advice on when to consult a doctor and providing pro-digestive and anti-inflammatory quick facts twice a week, plus daily tips. “We are constantly providing information that can help people make better decisions,” she says. “We have also developed nutritional and lifestyle recommendations, including the top 100 foods for optimum gut health.
“An icon indicator appears when you journal or eat foods that could be cross-contaminated or cause inflammation,” says Higbee Clarkin. “And when you are looking to incorporate any of our top recommended healing foods into your diet, a pop-up explains any scientific language related to that food’s healing properties in layman’s terms.”
In order to make it easier to be proactive, the team worked with a chef who created meal plans that favour “clean, nutrient-dense therapeutic foods that can help people get back on track when they’re feeling unwell,” says Higbee Clarkin.
Since the tool was created in collaboration with health-care providers and researchers, the data it generates can serve to inform our understanding of the issues patients grapple with, she says. “Our interactive chatbot helps us gain insights from how people are using the app and the questions they ask, and we are constantly updating the technology to enhance its impact.”
The app also serves as a resource and educational tool for health-care practitioners and can lead to significant cost savings for the health-care system, believes Higbee Clarkin. “When patients have access to virtual health tools, this takes the burden off the health-care system and helps to shift the focus to preventative measures.”
These goals resonate with a number of partners, from the medical and research community, to insurance and health benefit providers and non-profit organizations working to improve gastrointestinal health outcomes for Canadians.
“With our partners, we are bringing technology and therapies together and making them accessible,” Higbee Clarkin adds.
Produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s Editorial Department was not involved in its creation.