Diagnostic tools for gastroenterologists, even some as experienced as our doctors, are worth their weight in gold. Your digestive tract is not the easiest part of your body to reach without a scalpel. A gastroenterologist can’t simply poke your abdomen, ask “Does it hurt when I do this?” and know immediately what ails you. Adding to the problem is that many gastrointestinal disorders exhibit similar symptoms. Fortunately, hydrogen breath tests now are available to uncover the source of some gastrointestinal disorders. This procedure makes it easier for our doctors to diagnose certain medical conditions, such as:
- Fructose intolerance
- Lactose intolerance
- Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)
A simple breath test, it works because each of the above conditions results from your body’s inability to absorb a dietary carbohydrate or from a condition that promotes abnormal bacterial growth in your digestive tract. These disorders create a specific chemical response that can be measured in your breath, leading to an accurate diagnosis.
Why You May Need Hydrogen Breath Testing
All three conditions listed above can cause gas and bloating, cramping, diarrhea and even nausea or vomiting in some people. These symptoms aren’t by themselves dangerous, but they can make daily life unpleasant, and if left untreated — or worse, if you have it and don’t know it — you continually place stress on your digestive system.
Since the symptoms caused by these disorders are the same as from many other medical conditions, diagnosis can be difficult. The hydrogen breath test helps our doctors pinpoint a more accurate diagnosis. The hydrogen breath test is not a wonder drug or a new electronic gizmo; it’s simple chemistry.
Hydrogen Breath Testing Preparations
You don’t need any preparation for this breath test. It just measures the chemical composition of your natural breath. At this time, you also can tell your doctor if you’ve experienced any recent diarrhea or if you’re taking any antibiotics. Both can affect the test results.
Here are some general instructions for you prior to the test. However, our office staff will give you a more detailed explanation and demonstration prior to doing the breath test.
- 24 hours before your test, avoid high-fiber cereals, bran, and lentils and beans.
- 12 hours before your test, do not eat at all and drink only water.
- 3 hours before your test, drink the beverage given to you as part of your kit
- 30 minutes before your test, refrain from smoking, sleeping or exercising.
Hydrogen Breath Testing Procedure
The hydrogen breath test measures the amount of hydrogen in your breath after drinking a solution designed to test for a specific condition — mild for lactose intolerance, for example. Normally, your breath contains no detectable hydrogen, but the chemical reaction in your digestive tract from the beverage you consumed creates hydrogen if the test is positive.
After you drink your beverage, you arrive at our office for the test. At regular intervals, you breathe into a device that collects your exhaled breath and analyzes it. It’s that simple. The doctor will review the results of the test before you leave the office.
Note that certain foods and medications, as well as smoking, can skew test results, so it’s important that you avoid them the day before the test. See the list above.
Recovering from Breath Testing
You will have no special needs after the test. You can resume eating, drinking and smoking (if necessary) after the test has concluded.
Hydrogen Breath Testing Complications
There are no side effects or complications from the hydrogen breath test, except now you will know for certain whether you are lactose intolerant, fructose intolerant or suffer from SIBO.
Important Reminder: This information is only intended to provide guidance, not definitive medical advice. Please consult a doctor about your specific condition. Only trained, experienced board certified GI doctors like our doctors can determine an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment.
As best in class NYC gastroenterologists, our doctors provide highly personalized and comprehensive care. Their philosophies regarding the doctor/patient relationship is based on trust and has earned them some of the most respected reputations in NYC.
For more information about the GI conditions we treat or to schedule a consultation with one of our GI doctors, please contact our NYC office. We offer the most comprehensive hydrogen breath tests in NYC.