Breath Testing

A breath test is a non-invasive and a simple investigation to measure the amount and type of gas produced by the bacteria in the bowel exhaled with breath. By analyzing the gases, a proper diagnosis can be arrived at for common gastrointestinal problems such as abdominal pain, bloating, flatulence, diarrhoea and constipation, etc.

AIG offers a wide range of breath tests as highlighted below:

Hydrogen breath test: Hydrogen breath test measures the amount of hydrogen produced by the bacteria present in the intestine following ingestion of carbohydrates such as glucose, fructose, lactose and lactulose.

  • Glucose hydrogen breath test: Glucose hydrogen breath test is used to diagnose small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). Presence of excess bacteria in small bowel breakdown the ingested glucose to produce hydrogen that is captured by a breath analyzer. The condition SIBO causes bloating and loose stools and is seen in a significant proportion of patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Identifying this subset of patients and treating them appropriately can relieve their symptoms.
  • Lactose and fructose hydrogen breath test: Lactose and fructose hydrogen breath tests help in detecting lactose and fructose malabsorption or intolerance (inability to digest or tolerate), respectively. The lactose and fructose present in a wide range of foodstuff may go undigested in the small bowel and reach the large bowel intact. The bacteria normally present in large amounts in large bowel breakdown these sugars to produce an excess of hydrogen. Excess hydrogen thus produced cause bloating, abdominal distension and gas formation commonly seen in patients with IBS. Patients with fructose and lactose malabsorption or intolerance benefit from avoidance of specific foodstuff and introduction of low FODMAP diet.
  • Lactulose hydrogen breath test: Lactulose hydrogen breath test is used to measure the transit time from mouth to large intestine. The transit time can be altered in various GI diseases.

Methane breath test: Bacteria present in the bowel of some patients produce more methane gas from the breakdown of sugars. Methane gas slows down the movement of the bowel and can lead to constipation. Methane breath test detects excess methane in the breath and can be helpful in patients with difficult to treat constipation.

Urea breath test: Urea breath test is a non-invasive test to detect H.pylori infection in the stomach. H.pylori bacteria is responsible for peptic ulcer in the stomach and can also lead to gastric cancer. In the urea breath test, a solution of urea containing special non-radioactive carbon isotope is given to the patient to ingest. If H.pylori bacteria is present in the stomach, it breaks down urea to produce carbon dioxide that is captured in the exhaled breath by the breath analyzer.

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