Hydrogen Breath Test Preparation for Bacterial Overgrowth

What is bacterial overgrowth, and how will this study help me?

In normal settings, the colon, or large intestine, is full of bacteria that help with digestion. The small intestine, however, is usually free from such bacteria. When bacteria start to grow in the small intestine, various symptoms can occur, including gas and bloating, diarrhea, and weight loss. This test is performed to see whether there are bacteria living in your small intestine that can be causing your symptoms.

How is the test performed?

The morning of the test, you will be asked to blow into a bag to collect a sample of your breath. After that you will be given a sweet liquid to drink. Please let the nurse know if you are diabetic prior to being given this liquid. You will then be asked to blow into a different bag every 15 minutes for the next 3 hours. You will also be asked to report any symptoms you are experiencing during the test.

Note: Please allow up to four hours at the testing center. You will not be permitted to smoke, exercise, or lie down/sleep during the exam as these activities can affect test results.

What do I need to do to prepare?

Proper preparation is extremely important for this type of testing to be accurate. Please follow these instructions carefully:

Starting two weeks before your test:

  • Do not have a colonoscopy within two weeks of your test.
  • Avoid all antibiotics.
  • Avoid all probiotics, including medications (e.g., Align, Culturelle, Florastor, Sustenex) and probiotic-rich foods (e.g., yogurt, Kefir, sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, kimchi).

Starting three days before your test:

  • Avoid the use of laxative medications or stool softeners (e.g., Colace, Lactulose, Miralax, Senna).

Starting one day before your test:

  • Stop using all medications related to your GI tract, i.e., any medication used for acid suppression, abdominal pain/spasm, diarrhea, or constipation.
  • Please do not eat any carbohydrates in the following categories: bread, pasta, potatoes, rice, crackers, oatmeal, cereals, or any other starchy food products. Do not eat broccoli, cauliflower, beans, nuts, onions, leeks, garlic, tofu, or drink any soda. These dietary restrictions must be followed in order to obtain an accurate result.
  • Stop eating at 7 p.m. the night before your test. You may still take your necessary medications with water up until 1 hour before your test.

Starting the morning of your test:

  • Brush your teeth regularly. Use mouthwash if you have it.
  • Stop smoking at least one hour prior to arriving at the testing center.
  • Do not exercise prior to arriving at the testing center.

Please follow these instructions carefully. If you need to cancel or reschedule your procedure, please call 860-679-3238 at least 48 hours in advance.

Test results are typically available to your doctor within one week.