Hydrogen Breath Test: A Non-Invasive Diagnostic Tool for Gut Functional Disorders
Living a healthy life has become a Herculean task in today’s polluted environment where people’s eating habits and diet have worsened. This has led to several gastrointestinal disorders affecting the digestive tract, even if someone takes a healthy diet rich in vitamins, proteins, and minerals. Despite a healthy diet, the gut may react badly to some foods causing food intolerance. This condition occurs when the human body is unable to absorb a specific sugar in the small intestine, leading to malabsorption and causing several gut symptoms like bloating, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.
Gastrointestinal symptoms can be a result of different abnormalities. It can be due to bacterial overgrowth or intolerance to specific sugars like fructose, lactose, sucrose, or sorbitol. However, determining the specific abnormality causing disturbing symptoms can be challenging. It is here that the hydrogen breath test comes into play, being a non-invasive diagnostic tool for gut functional disorders.
Why Doctors Suggest A Hydrogen Breath Test?
The hydrogen breath test is a simple test that helps in diagnosing malabsorption in the gastrointestinal tract. It is a popular diagnostic tool recommended by doctors to pinpoint the underlying cause of gut functional disorders like bloating, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea.
What Is A Hydrogen Breath Test?
A hydrogen breath test is a non-invasive diagnostic tool that can identify sugar intolerance and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). In the gut, bacteria break down undigested carbohydrates, which produce hydrogen. In normal conditions, the small intestine absorbs carbohydrates, and no hydrogen is generated. However, in case of bacterial overgrowth or sugar intolerance, unabsorbed sugars reach the large intestine where the bacteria break down the sugar and produce hydrogen, which gets absorbed in the blood, and reaches lungs. Humans thus breathe out hydrogen, which is measured to interpret the test results.
What Is The Test Procedure?
The test involves blowing up a balloon with your breath after fasting for 12 hours. Then, a small amount of sugar, such as lactose, fructose, or lactulose, is given to you for ingestion. The breath sample is collected again every 15-30 minutes. The exhaled breath samples are analyzed to measure hydrogen and methane levels. The levels of hydrogen and methane help in determining the type of malabsorption, like lactose or fructose intolerance or bacterial overgrowth.
Analysis and interpretation of the collected samples by medical professionals help in determining the type of malabsorption a person is experiencing. If a person experiences any gut symptoms during the test, the medical professional also takes them into account for interpreting the test results.
Things To Consider Before The Test:
Proper preparation before the test is mandatory, as it can impact the test results. Here are a few tips for preparation that doctors recommend:
1. Stop taking antibiotics two weeks before the test.
2. Avoid eating carbohydrates two days before the test.
3. Avoid heavy and flavored meals on the day before the test.
4. Stop eating, drinking, and smoking 12 hours before the test.
5. Avoid smoking until the test is completed.
The hydrogen breath test is a non-invasive diagnostic tool that can identify a range of gut functional disorders, including SIBO and sugar intolerance. The test helps determine the underlying cause of several symptoms like bloating, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea. It offers the advantage of being a simple, non-invasive, and repeatable test procedure, which can be performed at home with a test kit. However, samples should be analyzed only by medical professionals. Proper preparation is mandatory before the test to get accurate and reliable results. So if you experience any gut functional disorder symptoms, consider getting prescribed for a hydrogen breath test by a medical professional to identify the underlying cause and to start with appropriate treatment.