Breath Tests

Breath Test For Bacterial Overgrowth

The indication: Although there are normally lots of bacteria in the large intestine, the small intestine normally contains far less bacteria because stomach acid prevents bacteria from growing and because food is rapidly moved through it. 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.

The test: To perform the test, the patient takes a drink containing the sugar lactulose. If there is bacteria 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 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

The indication: Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest lactose, the sugar found in milk. It causes cramping, bloating, gas, or diarrhea any time dairy products are consumed. 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.

The test: 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 the undigested lactose 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. The 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

The indication: 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.

The 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.

Breath Test for Fructose & Sorbitol Malabsorption

The indication: Fructose is known as the ‘fruit sugar’ but it’s found in many other foods. Some people cannot absorb fructose and develop gas, bloating and diarrhea.
The test: The patient takes a drink containing fructose and then blows into a mouthpiece which collects the breath in a vacuum sealed collection tube. It looks for increased hydrogen in the exhaled breath.

The indication: Sorbitol is mostly found as an artificial sweetener and is poorly absorbed by most people leading to gas, bleeding and diarrhea.
The test: The patient takes a drink containing soribtol and then blows into a mouthpiece which collects the breath in a vacuum sealed collection tube. It looks for increased hydrogen in the exhaled breath.