Bacterial Overgrowth Breath Test

Procedure Questions

What is a Bacterial Overgrowth Breath Test?

It’s a test that samples levels of hydrogen to diagnose Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) .

Procedure Bullet Points

The Bacterial Overgrowth Breath Test is:

  • Performed in-office or at home
  • Well-tolerated

A sugar that your body is not able to digest, such as lactulose, is included in a substrate packet. You ingest the substrate packet and your breath is measured every 20 minutes for a 3 hour period.

If bacterial overgrowth is present, hydrogen will show up twice during the test. Once when the sugar passes the small intestine and once when it enters the colon.

If left undiagnosed and untreated, it can lead to symptoms including:

  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Abdominal pain
  • Excess gas
  • Deficiencies in vitamins and minerals
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue

Your doctor will give you instructions to prepare for the Bacterial Overgrowth Breath Test. There is a 1 day preparation period. You’ll be on a modified diet for the first 12 hours, and you’ll be required to fast for the second 12 hours.

Inform your doctor of:

  • Any medication that you take regularly
  • Any known allergies to medication
  • Any medical conditions that will require special attention, such as;
    • heart conditions
    • lung conditions
    • any other major conditions

It’s important to follow all of your doctor’s instructions.

After you ingest the sugar you take samples of your breath every 20 minutes for 3 hours. If SIBO is present hydrogen will show up twice during the test.

In that time do not:

  • Eat
  • Smoke
  • Sleep
  • Exercise or perform vigorous activity

You will go over the results with your doctor and they will walk you through the best treatment if SIBO is present.

Treatments include:

  • Short-term antibiotics
  • Long-term probiotics
  • A mix of the two

You may resume:

  • your normal activities
  • your normal diet, unless otherwise advised
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