Breath tests assess numerous disorders including a potential cause of IBS.
The hydrogen and methane breath test provides valuable information in the diagnosis of SIBO, a condition in which bacteria from the large intestine have migrated to the small intestine. SIBO can also occur when bacteria native to the small intestine have simply overgrown. Using a breath test to diagnose SIBO is simple, non-invasive and inexpensive. A breath test specifies which gases are present, in addition to the location and severity of bacterial overgrowth.
The misplacement of normal colonic bacteria into the small intestine results in fermentation, rather than the normal digestion and absorption that are the primary functions of the small intestine. When carbohydrates ferment rather than digest, hydrogen and methane can be produced in measurable quantities. The process of fermentation rather than digestion creates a host of symptoms that can be difficult to treat effectively without diagnosing and addressing the root cause.
Recent research shows that approximately 84% of people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are positive for SIBO. The large intestine is where the body’s beneficial bacteria resides in a normal state. The small intestine should be relatively free of bacteria. When bacteria overgrow in the small intestine, it becomes a site of inflammation that can lead to digestive issues and food allergies in addition to many other symptoms.
To complete this test, you would drink a special sugar mixture that acts as food for these bacterial colonies. You take a breath sample every 20 minutes over a three hour period as this mixture moves through the small intestine. The bacteria can produce a mixture of hydrogen and methane gas as it feeds on the mixture. By sampling the amount of gas produced, we can determine whether there is a bacterial overgrowth present.