Mediaplanet: What types of gastrointestinal conditions can a hydrogen breath test (HBT) effectively test for?

Eric Hamilton: Hydrogen/methane breath tests are an inexpensive, non-invasive test used in testing for malabsorption and intolerance disorders such as lactose, fructose and sucrose intolerance, as well as small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), which in many cases mimics similar symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) including flatulence, bloating, diarrhea, constipation and many other digestive issues.

MP: How should a patient prepare for a hydrogen breath test in order to ensure the most accurate results?

EH: Patients are asked to complete certain antibiotic treatments at least two weeks prior to a breath test and are also asked to follow a simple 24-hour dietary preparation before the test. This is done in two stages of 12 hours each. The first 12 hours is a restricted diet, mainly eating only white rice and baked or broiled chicken or fish. The second 12 hours is a fasting where patients are asked to consume nothing but water. Patients time the fasting so their test is early in the morning allowing them to fast during their sleep. This is not a difficult diet, and patients can review the information provided with the test kit to come up with meal plans.

MP: What does the test measure?

EH: Depending on the analyzer at the laboratory or clinician’s office, the tests may be analyzed for hydrogen, methane and carbon dioxide. For the most comprehensive test, it is highly recommended all tests be analyzed for all three of those gas components.

MP: How do the measurements from the HBT indicate a digestive disorder?

EH: Each test is slightly different, but essentially clinicians are looking for an increase in the hydrogen or methane gas throughout the test period, which follow certain patterns and levels. The clinician will then review that information with each patient’s medical history to assist them in their final assessment of the test results.