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The hydrogen breath test is a test for bacterial overgrowth, or intolerances to lactose, fructose, or sucrose. Glucose is a sugar that will be broken down by bacteria if present in the small bowel with hydrogen or methane gas as a by-product. The breath sample will be analyzed for hydrogen or methane content to determine if you are able to properly break down the lactose, fructose, or sucrose, or if you have bacterial overgrowth.
What can I expect from a hydrogen breath test?
This test requires that you drink a solution of lactose, fructose, sucrose, or glucose in water. Lactose is the sugar found in milk and is normally broken down in the small bowel. Glucose is a sugar that will be broken down by bacteria if present in the small bowel with hydrogen as a by-product. Sucrose is a common sugar found in foods such as candy. After drinking the solution, you will be asked to breathe into a plastic bag. Breath samples are obtained every 15 minutes for adults, and every 30 minutes for children. The breath sample will be analyzed for hydrogen content to determine if you are able to properly break down the lactose or sucrose, or if you have bacterial overgrowth. The test for glucose lasts about 2 hours and the tests for lactose, fructose, and sucrose last about 2 to 3 hours. The test is performed in the Gastrointestinal Physiology Laboratory of the Medical Procedures Unit.
How do I prepare for a hydrogen breath test?
Please follow these instructions to ensure a successful test.
TWO WEEKS BEFORE your test:
YOU MUST BE OFF ANTIBIOTICS AND PEPTO-BISMOL FOR TWO (2) WEEKS.
TWO DAYS BEFORE your test:
Eat a LOW CARBOHYDRATE DIET. The purpose of this diet is to avoid foods that may produce gas in the intestinal tract for two days before your test, as this could cause inaccurate test results.
Breakfast: 2 scrambled eggs and 1 banana
Lunch: salad with grilled chicken, tomato, cucumber, carrots, feta, balsamic vinegar + olive oil dressing
Snack: 1 cup fruit (such as blueberries and strawberries), small handful of peanuts or almonds
Dinner: Grilled chicken, baked potato, ½ cup steamed broccoli
Snack: 1 cup popcorn
Breakfast: plain cheerios with lactose-free milk (such as Lactaid brand) or oatmeal with cinnamon and blueberries
Lunch: sandwich with turkey, cheese, lettuce, and tomato on gluten-free bread; plain potato chips or 1 orange
Snack: baby carrots and 1 cheese stick
Dinner: grilled salmon with lemon, brown rice or quinoa, sautéed zucchini and yellow squash
Snack: 1 cup grapes
THE DAY BEFORE your test:
You should have NOTHING BY MOUTH AFTER MIDNIGHT.
DO NOT EAT, DRINK, or SMOKE until your examination is completed.
This includes any type of GUM or CANDY