What is the Hydrogen Breath Test used for?
The purpose of the test is to examine the 2H2 content of the air we exhale in order to gather information regarding our gastrointestinal function and the process of sugar digestion. If sugar is not adequately broken down in our system, then they get into the intestines undigested where, due to fermentation of bacteria, hydrogen gases will form which will get into the blood circulation through the intestinal wall and then with the exhaled air through the lungs out into the air. Depending on which testing material is used, the body’s intolerance to lactulose, lactose, glucose and/or fructose may be shown.
How should I prepare for the test?
You should discuss with your doctor who requested the test, which of your medications you may or may not take on the day prior to the examination. Any medication or consumed material influencing digestion, peristalsis, bowel movements, intestinal flora and stomach acid may distort the results of the H2 Breath Test. The evening before the test, you should not consume and foods that are difficult to digest, such as fatty, fiber rich and food that cause bloating as well as high carbohydrates such as potatoes, rice and pasta. You should not smoke, or use candies or breath fresheners containing mentholatum or tooth paste twelve hours before. Since the test requires an empty stomach, you should not eat 6 hours prior to the test, and since the test takes more than 3 hours and there is a waiting period between measurements, you would do well to bring reading material with you.
What happens during the examination?
You will be asked to rinse your mouth by gargling with a disinfectant solution before the examination. Then, in a location containing clean air, we will measure the hydrogen content of the air you exhaled which will provide the base value to which all further results will be compared. Next, you will be asked to drink 3 dl of water containing either 20 gm lactulose or 75 gm lactose, glucose or fructose following which the hydrogen content of your exhaled air will be measured every 20 minutes over a period of 120 or 180 minutes. The diagnosis will be set up according to the measure of the H2 content changes.
Will a follow-up examination be necessary?
The test may be supplemented by measuring the blood serum glucose levels at predetermined periods since its quantity will help determine the breakdown of lactose . In the case of lactose intolerance, the serum glucose concentration does not change demonstrably while the normal lactose breakdown is accompanied by the appropriate blood sugar level.
If lactose intolerance was not diagnosed but the complaints (bloating, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, etc.) still persist, then other digestion and absorption disorders such as gluten sensitivity should be screened.