No one wants to experience cramps, diarrhea, and other digestive issues. Unfortunately, you may struggle to diagnose the medical problem that is causing you to experience these symptoms. At Chetco Medical & Aesthetics in Brookings, Oregon, we can use a non-invasive method called hydrogen breath testing to determine the cause of your digestive challenges.
What Does Hydrogen Breath Testing Diagnose?
Hydrogen breath testing is a straightforward technique that measures the amount of hydrogen in your breath. This non-invasive test is used to diagnose several different gastrointestinal issues.
If you have lactose intolerance, also known as a milk allergy, your body will struggle to metabolize lactose. This is a sugar that is found in milk and other dairy products. Normally, an enzyme called lactase is used to digest the lactose in milk. If you are lactose intolerant, your body will not create adequate amounts of this enzyme.
As a result, you will experience negative symptoms if you drink milk or eat cheese and other dairy products. You may develop bloating, cramps, loose stools, and other unpleasant problems. This is a very common condition, and experts estimate that 30 million people in America are lactose intolerant.
Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth
Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth, also known as SIBO, develops when the bacteria that is located in your large intestine starts to grow in your small intestine. This problem can cause you to become bloated, experience cramps, and have gas. There is scientific evidence that shows that many people who are diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome have this unpleasant condition.
SIBO often develops after you have an abdominal procedure, such as a gastric bypass or a gastrectomy. In addition, scar tissues and other structural issues that affect your small intestine can cause you to develop SIBO. Medical problems like celiac disease, diabetes, and Crohn’s disease can also lead to SIBO. These conditions can interfere with the movement of food and waste through your digestive system.
Fructose is a type of sugar that is found in pears, wheat, onions, and other natural foods. In addition, high fructose corn syrup and other processed foods contain this substance. If you have fructose malabsorption, your digestive system will struggle to process fructose. This problem can cause you to become bloated and experience diarrhea after you eat substances that contain fructose.
How Does This Test Diagnose My Gastrointestinal Issues?
This test uses an innovative method to measure the amount of hydrogen in your breath. Normally, you will not have a large amount of this substance in your breath. Accordingly, increased hydrogen levels can be a sign that you have a digestive problem.
The Effects of Digestive Problems
If you can digest dairy products, your body will use an enzyme called lactase to break down the sugar in these substances. However, if you are lactose intolerant, the lactose in the dairy products that you consume will go into your colon. Next, your body will use bacteria to break down this sugar. This process will create hydrogen.
Measuring Your Hydrogen Levels
During hydrogen breath testing, we will measure your breath before you have eaten anything. Next, we will instruct you to drink a special substance that contains a small amount of sugar. For instance, if you think that you might be lactose intolerant, you will drink a solution that contains some lactose.
As your body digests this sample, we will take periodic measurements of your breath. Measuring the changes in the hydrogen levels in your breath will help us determine whether you are suffering from a digestive problem.
How Should I Prepare for My Test?
You will need to make some changes to your diet before you receive your breath test.
We will probably advise you not to take Pepto-Bismol or antibiotics for about one month before your test. In addition, you should not have a colonoscopy or other medical procedure that involves bowl preparation techniques. Starting about one to two weeks before your breath test, you will need to stop taking stool softeners, laxatives, and antacids.
On the day before your breath test, you will need to eat a bland, simple diet. You should eat foods like plain white rice and white potatoes. You should drink water or unflavored tea or coffee. You should not eat fibrous foods like beans or cereal or drink sweet beverages. In addition, you will need to avoid smoking or inhaling second-hand smoke. Using nicotine products can damage the results of your breath test.
On Your Testing Day
You will need to avoid drinking and eating on the day of your test. If you take insulin or other prescription medications, you may need to adjust your dosage of these medications during this time. When you schedule your breath test, we will tell you when you will need to stop consuming water and food.
You will also need to avoid using breath mints and mouthwash on your testing day. Further, you should not chew gum, smoke, or engage in any exercise before your test.
Will My Test Be Unpleasant or Uncomfortable?
There’s no need for you to feel uncomfortable or nervous when you are preparing to get your breath test. This testing method is completely non-invasive, and we will not insert tubes into your throat or use other uncomfortable methods to measure your breath.
Instead, you will periodically breathe into a small bag. Your breath test will take two to three hours to complete. During this time, you can watch a movie, read a book, or close your eyes and relax.
What Will Happen During My Test?
When you arrive at our office in Brookings, you will need to blow into a small bag. After we have collected your initial sample, you will need to drink a special solution. This solution will contain a small amount of the type of sugar that you are struggling to digest. For example, if you think that you have fructose intolerance, the solution will contain a small amount of fructose.
During the next two to three hours, we will ask you to breathe into a bag every 15 to 20 minutes. We may also ask you to record any cramping or other symptoms that you experience as your body digests the sugar in your special solution.
What Will I Do After My Test Is Complete?
Since we won’t use any invasive techniques during your breath test, you won’t have any downtime after you leave our office in Brookings. Instead, you can go back to your work and other usual activities.
It will take some time to analyze your test results. Once we have finished evaluating this information, we will explain the results to you. In general, if the hydrogen in your breath increases by more than 20 parts per million, you probably have a digestive problem. In addition, this test is usually considered to be positive if you develop diarrhea while you are in our office.
How Will This Test Improve My Life?
Having undiagnosed digestive problems can prevent you from succeeding at your job and having a full social life.
Your digestive challenges can damage your social life and career. For example, if you have frequent gas, you might feel uncomfortable in a shared office environment. In addition, diarrhea can prevent you from leaving your home and enjoying social events with your family and friends.
Over time, your digestive problems can cause malnutrition and other problems. For example, if you have fructose malabsorption for a long period of time, you might become deficient in calcium, folic acid, iron, and other important nutrients.
If you have SIBO, you might lose too much weight and develop weakened bones. In addition, you could develop a B-12 deficiency. Over time, this problem can cause you to develop nerve damage that causes tingling, numbness, and other negative symptoms.
A New Solution
Diagnosing the cause of your digestive problems will help you treat your medical issues and improve your quality of life. As you avoid the foods that are causing your negative symptoms, your gas, diarrhea, and other problems are likely to improve. Relieving your digestive issues will help you feel more confident in an office setting. In addition, you will be able to enjoy spending time socializing with your friends.
How Can I Treat My Digestive Issues?
If hydrogen breath testing shows that you have a digestive issue, there are a number of techniques and treatments that can improve your medical issue and decrease your cramps, bloating, and other negative symptoms.
For example, if you are diagnosed with lactose intolerance, you will be able to decrease your digestive issues by avoiding substances that contain dairy. In addition, over-the-counter medications like Lactaid may help to control your negative symptoms. Alternatively, if you are diagnosed with SIBO, you may be advised to improve this condition by taking antibiotics.
If I Have a Sugar Intolerance, Will I Have to Completely Change My Diet?
You may not have to give up all of your favorite foods and drinks in order to treat your sugar intolerance. If you are lactose intolerant, you might be able to manage this condition by making minor adjustments to your diet. For example, you could consider consuming smaller amounts of cheese, milk, cream, and other dairy products. You could also look for substitutes, like dairy-free ice cream and alternative kinds of milk, that allow you to enjoy your favorite foods.
You might also be able to find dairy products that do not produce negative symptoms. For example, products that contain cultured milk, like yogurt, may be easier on your digestive system. In addition, you might be able to tolerate products that contain a lower amount of lactose, such as hard cheeses or lactose-reduced products.
Will Insurance Cover the Cost of My Breath Test?
Since hydrogen breath testing is used to diagnose lactose intolerance and other medical issues, your insurance may cover the costs of your test. To learn whether your health insurance will pay for this diagnostic tool, you should contact your insurance agent before you receive your test.
If your insurance will not pay for your breath test, don’t worry. Since this test does not use invasive methods to diagnose your medical issues, it is very affordable and cost-effective. When you come in for your initial consultation, we can give you more information about the costs of your hydrogen test.
Diagnose Your Medical Issue
Experiencing frequent diarrhea, bloating, stomach cramps, and other gastrointestinal issues can be a frightening and uncomfortable experience. Fortunately, you don’t have to diagnose the cause of your digestive issues on your own. Hydrogen breath testing can diagnose your issues in a non-invasive manner. To learn more about this diagnostic tool, contact us at Chetco Medical & Aesthetics in Brookings, Oregon.