What is Breath Testing?

Certain kinds of digestive issues can allow unabsorbed food to reach the colon. When this happens, some of the bacteria in the colon produce increased amounts of hydrogen and methane.. This hydrogen then finds its way into our breath, and those increased levels can be tested.

Breath testing can also be used to diagnose infection with certain bacteria .

Why do you need this test?

High amounts of hydrogen and methane in the breath can indicate that some foods are not being properly digested. The breath test can help diagnose conditions such as:

  • Malabsorption of sugars such as fructose
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)
  • Irritable bowel syndrome

All of these conditions can cause significant gastrointestinal symptoms, including bloating, nausea, heartburn, indigestion, upset stomach, and diarrhoea.  

Preparing for the test

We will give you specific instructions about how to prepare.

You can take your regular prescription medications with a small amount of water. If you have diabetes, you may need to adjust your insulin dosage before the test. Make sure to tell us about any prescription medications.

On that day, don’t exercise, chew gum, or use mouthwash or breath mints. Also, inhaling any type of smoke may interfere with your test results.

What is involved in this test?

Breath testing is performed in our clinical unit MGIU, Suite 35, Cabrini Medical Centre (map) or with home kits. It is risk-free and involves no discomfort.

You start your hydrogen/methane breath test by blowing into a bag or tube to get a baseline breath sample. Then you will drink a solution containing different types of sugar. After that, you will breathe into a bag or tube every 15 to 30 minutes while the solution is digested.

Breath tests are easy to do, but they can take two to three hours. You may want to have something with you to read or watch during the intervals.

What do the results mean?

Your doctor will measure how much your hydrogen level changes after you drink the sugar solution. If it increases significantly, you may require treatment for one of the conditions listed above.

Patient Information

Handy resources to make your preparation and admission as easy as possible.