You’ve been referred for a breath test, which will help your doctor evaluate or treat your condition. At Digestive Healthcare Center, we offer 3 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.
What is a Breath Test?
Breath testing is a noninvasive procedure to help doctors identify and diagnose numerous conditions. Through a breath examination, doctors are able to determine the amount of certain gases in the breath to diagnose issues that may be causing gastrointestinal symptoms.
Breath Test For Bacterial Overgrowth
Although there are normally lots of bacteria in the large intestine, the small intestine contains far less 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.
Breath Test For Lactose Intolerance
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, then 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.
Breath Test For H. Pylori
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.
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.
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 to all of our patients and ensuring that they have all the information they need to be knowledgeable and proactive about their health.