You’ve been referred for a breath test, which will help your gastroenterologist evaluate or treat your condition. At Digestive Healthcare Center, we offer three different types of breath tests. We will provide you with a basic understanding of each procedure – how it is performed, how it can help, and what side effects you might experience. Since testing is dependent on the individual patient and their unique situation, we encourage you to talk to your doctor about any questions or concerns you may have.
Breath testing is a non-invasive procedure to help doctors identify and diagnose numerous conditions. Through a breath examination, doctors can determine the amount of certain gases in the breath to diagnose issues that may be causing gastrointestinal symptoms. Before your breath test appointment, your DHC physician will provide instructions regarding how to prepare for the test.
Although there are normally lots of bacteria in the large intestine, the small intestine contains far fewer bacteria because of the rapid movement of food and the ability of the stomach acid to prevent bacteria from growing. However, certain conditions can allow bacteria to grow in the small intestine, such as low stomach acid, a parasite infection, intestinal scar tissue, diabetes, Crohn’s disease, and slow transit of food through the intestine. Bacteria in the small intestine can cause bloating, gas, and possible diarrhea within one hour of eating. Unexplained weight loss and Vitamin B12 deficiency are other clues to bacterial overgrowth.
To perform the test, the patient takes a drink containing the sugar lactulose. If there is bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine, lactulose will ferment, producing the gases hydrogen and methane. The breath test involves blowing into a mouthpiece, which collects the breath into vacuum-sealed collection tubes. It then looks for increased hydrogen and methane in the exhaled breath. The more of these gases present, the greater the degree of bacterial overgrowth.
Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest lactose, the sugar found in milk. It causes cramping, bloating, gas, or diarrhea following the consumption of dairy products. Lactose intolerance occurs due to the body’s lack of lactase, an enzyme normally produced by the small intestine that is needed to digest lactose.
To perform the test, the patient takes a drink containing lactose. The beverage may cause cramping, bloating, gas, or diarrhea. If you are lactose intolerant, your body will not be able to break down the lactose and it will instead be fermented by bacteria in the colon, releasing hydrogen. The released hydrogen will be absorbed into the bloodstream and eventually excreted in the breath. This breath test involves blowing into a mouthpiece, which collects the breath into vacuum-sealed collection tubes. It looks for increased hydrogen and methane in the exhaled breath.
Helicobacter pylori (abbreviated as H. pylori) is a bacteria that can infect the stomach or duodenum (first part of the small intestine). If left untreated, H. pylori bacteria can cause gastritis (an inflammation or irritation of the stomach lining) and duodenal or gastric ulcers. In addition, infection with H. pylori increases the risk of other diseases and is also a risk factor for gastric cancer. Preparation for an H. pylori breath test is specific to this type of breath test.
To perform the test, the patient either swallows a capsule or drinks a beverage containing specially-labeled urea. If H. pylori is present in the stomach, the urea is broken up and turned into carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide is absorbed across the lining of the stomach and into the blood. It then travels in the blood to the lungs where it is excreted in the breath. Samples of exhaled breath are collected, and the isotopic carbon in the exhaled carbon dioxide is measured.
Preparation for your breath test at DHC will depend upon the type of test you are receiving. In general, breath test preparation involves adjusting your diet before the test by avoiding certain foods that could alter your results. Breath tests can take around three hours, so you are welcome to bring reading or entertainment materials to keep you occupied throughout your appointment. We will be happy to answer any questions you have, and your doctor will provide specific preparation instructions before your appointment.
H. Pylori Breath Test InstructionsProcedure Prep Instructions
Breath tests are safe, non-invasive procedures. However, since the test involves the ingestion of substances that may trigger intolerances, some patients experience the typical symptoms they are used to. This may include bloating, distension, and diarrhea. However, during lactose intolerance breath tests, the amount of lactose used is very small. We would be happy to answer any questions you have about your particular breath test and what you can expect.
No matter which of the three types of breath tests you are seeking, DHC is proud to provide this form of testing at our Hillsborough, NJ office and surgical center, performed by our experienced nurses. Please call 908-218-9222 to schedule your appointment.
If you have any questions about your need for a breath test, alternative approaches to your problem, the cost of the procedure, or methods of billing or insurance coverage, do not hesitate to contact us today. We are dedicated to providing comprehensive care for all of our patients and ensuring that they have all the information they need to be knowledgeable and proactive about their health. Our team will work with you every step of the way, diagnosing any digestive condition that may be present and then formulating a personalized care plan to get you back to comfortable living. At our three locations in NJ, we are proud to provide comprehensive digestive health services and procedures, including Breath Tests, to help every patient put their digestive health first.