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Breath TestingOur Services
What is the purpose of breath testing?

Breath testing includes several different tests that measure chemical compounds in the breath, usually after the ingestion of a test material, to diagnose conditions including Helicobacter pylori infection of the stomach, bacterial overgrowth of the small intestine (SIBO), or intolerance to certain carbohydrates found in food, such as lactose or fructose. These conditions are often considered by a gastroenterologist in patients with unexplained gas and bloating, diarrhea, or abdominal pain. One or more of these tests may be performed in order to make a diagnosis and formulate a treatment plan.

How is breath testing performed?
  • Breath testing may take place at our office or your home, though only in the office to test for Helicobacter pylori.
  • You will be asked to drink a liquid solution of a test material (usually a carbohydrate) and to provide a series of breaths into a container for analysis.
  • For the Helicobacter pylori test, this is two breaths over fifteen to twenty minutes.
  • For the other breath tests, such as hydrogen-methane breath tests, breath samples are usually collected every fifteen to twenty minutes for approximately three hours.
  • Breath tests are among the safest (and most boring) of all tests in medicine, so be prepared with a book, a magazine, a downloaded video, or other entertainment.
What preparation is required for breath testing?

Your doctor will give you specific instructions about how to prepare, such as:

  • Limitations on what to eat or drink before the test and when to start.
  • Limitations on what medications you can and cannot take before the test and when to start.
  • If you have diabetes, you may need to adjust your insulin dosage or other medications before the test. Discuss this with your doctor. 
What happens following a breath test?
  • Most people experience no side effects from breath tests, but occasionally bloating and/or diarrhea may occur afterward.
  • Your doctor will review and deliver the breath test results a few days after the test and will discuss a plan of action depending on what the results were.
Where are breath tests performed?

Breath tests can be performed in the office or at home.