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Breath Testing
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An introduction to breath testing for the source of gastrointestinal symptoms and disease

As leaders in detecting and treating gastrointestinal illnesses, the team at Triborough GI in New York City has numerous technologies to support prompt and effective disease management. Breath testing is just one of many diagnostic tools used by our seven board-certified gastroenterologists in Brooklyn, the Bronx, Bushwick, and Staten Island. Breath testing can diagnose a wide range of intestinal conditions from carbohydrate intolerance to H. pylori infections.

 In addition to the conditions above, we may use options like the hydrogen breath test to detect small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)  and other prevalent digestive issues. These and other conditions can cause abnormal levels of hydrogen gas and other substances in the gut. These levels can actually be measured in the breath. By measuring the likes of hydrogen – its volume and how fast it’s produced – our specialists understand how your digestive system is functioning. 

More specifically breath tests can be used to:

  • Evaluate one’s intolerance to certain carbohydrates/sugars, such as lactose, fructose, sucrose, sorbitol, and glucose. These sugars can be challenging for some individuals to digest properly. Results that indicate high levels of hydrogen in the breath generally mean that the particular tested sugar isn’t being digested well by the intestines. 
  • Evaluate for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth(SIBO). This test is done by drinking a sugary solution containing glucose then measuring hydrogen in the breath at 15 minute interval. When high levels of hydrogen and methane are measured in the breath, it means that too much anaerobic bacteria have relocated to your small intestine. This overgrowth results in the bacteria fermenting and digesting the glucose before it can be absorbed. This can result in bloating, diarrhea and other gastrointestinal complaints
  • Evaluate for Helicobacter Pylori infection, though a test known as a Urea Breath test. This test identifies active H. Pylori infection. These bacterial invaders have been implicated in the development of gastritis, peptic ulcers, and stomach/gastric cancers. To perform this test, the patient would drink a small amount of a liquid containing urea. Then, the levels of CO2 will be assessed in the breath, as the patient exhales. High CO2 levels are associated with the presence of bacteria.

If you are scheduled for one of the above breath tests, you will receive specific instructions to follow leading up to the test. This may include a period of fasting then consuming a liquid prior to coming. Please confirm the exact instructions prior to arriving.

All breath tests generally work in the same way: an initial sample is taken by breathing into a device resembling an inflatable bag with an attached tube. This is done to establish a baseline. Afterward, additional samples are taken that involve consuming certain sugars and substances, such as those mentioned above. The extra samples are collected at specific intervals. 

We encourage you to contact Triborough GI today to find out more. Our Brooklyn office can be reached at (718) 332-0600. For your convenience, we also have three other metro NY area locations in the Bronx, Bushwick, and Staten Island. Call us at (718) 987-1700 for Staten Island, (718) 292-3822 for the Bronx, and (718) 821-0643 for Bushwick.

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