Breath Test

Hydrogen Breath Tests: A Look into Digestive Health

Hydrogen breath tests offer a valuable tool for diagnosing various digestive conditions, including lactose intolerance, fructose intolerance, and small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). These tests analyze the levels of hydrogen and methane in your breath, which can rise abnormally due to:
  • Incomplete sugar breakdown: When your small intestine struggles to digest certain sugars, like lactose or fructose, bacteria in your gut break them down instead, leading to increased hydrogen or methane production.

  • Bacterial overgrowth: An excessive presence of bacteria in your small intestine, known as SIBO, can also contribute to elevated hydrogen levels.

Since most individuals exhibit minimal hydrogen in their breath, even a slight increase can be significant. However, a small percentage of the population lacks the ability to produce hydrogen or methane in their breath, rendering the test ineffective for them.

Who Should Consider a Hydrogen Breath Test?

Your doctor might recommend this test if you experience chronic digestive issues, including:
  • Abdominal pain

  • Bloating

  • Excessive gas

  • Frequent diarrhea or constipation

Types of Hydrogen Breath Tests:

The specific type of test you undergo depends on the suspected condition:
  • Lactose breath test: This test measures your body’s ability to digest lactose, a sugar found in milk. After consuming a lactose solution, your breath is analyzed at regular intervals to assess hydrogen levels. Increased hydrogen indicates lactose intolerance.

  • Fructose breath test: This test assesses your ability to digest fructose, a naturally occurring sugar in fruits and vegetables. After measuring your baseline hydrogen levels, you consume a fructose solution, and your breath is monitored for an increase in hydrogen, potentially indicating fructose intolerance.

  • SIBO breath test: This test diagnoses SIBO, characterized by an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine. After consuming a sugary beverage, your breath is analyzed for elevated hydrogen levels, potentially indicating SIBO.

Related Test for Bacterial Overgrowth:

  • H. pylori breath test: This test detects the presence of Helicobacter pylori bacteria, which can cause chronic inflammation in the digestive system. After fasting for one hour, you blow into a device that analyzes your breath for carbon dioxide levels. Increased carbon dioxide after consuming a special solution may indicate the presence of H. pylori.

Importance of Early Diagnosis:

It’s crucial not to ignore persistent abdominal pain or excessive gas. Consulting your doctor and undergoing a hydrogen breath test can help identify the underlying cause and guide appropriate treatment, improving your digestive health and overall well-being.
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“Thank you for visiting Forest Hills Gastroenterology & Liver Disease, my goal is to treat my patients in a highly personalized manner and I am dedicated to give you the utmost attention and respect that you deserve. For more infromation on this disease or to schedule a consultation with me, please give us a call or book a tele-health appointment online.”

Albert Shalomov

Dr. Albert Shalomov, MD