Hydrogen Breath Test

What is a hydrogen breath test?
The hydrogen breath test is used to evaluate a number of gastrointestinal symptoms such as gas, bloating, diarrhea, and malabsorption syndromes. The test uses hydrogen levels found in the breath to make diagnoses. Everyone has bacteria that live inside the gastrointestinal tract. Some of these bacteria produce hydrogen when they digest sugars and carbohydrates. Although it is normal to have small amounts of hydrogen generated in the colon and detected in the breath, high levels of hydrogen may be indicative of gastrointestinal problems.

When is a hydrogen breath test ordered?
Dr. Khorrami may use a hydrogen breath test for evaluation of certain conditions including:
    Food intolerance
    Dr. Khorrami will order a hydrogen breath test if you are believed to be intolerant to a specific sugar. The most common intolerance is to lactose, which is a sugar found in milk.

    Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)
    SIBO is a condition where the colon contains excessive amounts of bacteria which help create excessive amounts of gas, causing a variety of gastrointestinal complaints. Hydrogen breath tests are used to help determine whether or not a person may be suffering from SIBO. Once this diagnosis is established, antibiotics can be used to reduce the bacterial load and thus eliminate the undesirable symptoms.

    Rapid Intestinal Transit
    If food moves too quickly through the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, then one may experience certain abdominal problems such as diarrhea. A hydrogen breath test may help determine whether food is moving too quickly through the digestive system.
What to expect during a hydrogen breath test?
For best test results, you will be required to fast for 12 hours before your examination. During the test, you will be asked to fill a balloon with exhaled air several times. After you have filled each balloon, a sample of air is taken from the balloon to be tested for hydrogen levels. Multiple samples are taken and analyzed at intervals of 15 minutes for a period of about two and a half hours. Most advanced testing sites will now also test each sample for methane levels since the bacteria in some patient may produce this gas instead of hydrogen.

Discuss Your Options with Dr. Khorrami
Dr. Khorrami has been in practice since 1996 as a double-board certified gastroenterologist and primary care physician, has experienced a variety of patient cases, and is well equipped to solve your digestive problems and general conditions. Get in touch to learn more about the hydrogen breath test and how you can benefit from it.


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About Dr. Khorrami

Dr. Payman Khorrami is a UCLA graduate, has been in practice since 1996, and is double board certified. Undergraduate Education at University of California, Berkeley, Medical School at University of California, San Francisco, Internal Medicine Training at University of California, San Diego Read Full Bio