Did you know, gut health digestive disorders affect up to 40% of people worldwide, impacting millions of lives daily whilst also putting a strain on global health care economics? Gut health breath tests could help.
As many sufferers know, symptoms include bloating, cramps, flatulence and diarrhea. Yet the problem for many lies in confirming a specific diagnosis, leaving sufferers unable to make an appropriate and informed change to their diet and lifestyle that would help to alleviate symptoms and improve their quality of life.
There are currently a wide range of diagnostics tests used by gastrointestinal consultants, including blood tests, stool samples, imaging and endoscopic procedures, these procedures can require a large amount of preparation, are invasive, and expensive.
Breath tests are one of the diagnostic tools available, including a test that detects hydrogen and methane, also known as a Hydrogen Methane Breath Test (HMBT). This allows patients to have a completely non-invasive diagnosis that does not leave them in pain or uncomfortable.
How do these test work? Within our guts, bacteria in the small intestine produce hydrogen and methane when digesting sugars. These gases are then transferred into the bloodstream and transported to the lungs, before being exhaled via breath. However, sometimes there can be too much bacteria in our small intestine, leading to an elevated level of hydrogen or methane being detected in the breath, this is known as small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). Take a look at the video below to learn more about the gut health breath tests we offer in the UK.
Taking the test is relatively easy! It involves simply breathing into a straw or bag for an initial breath sample, and then drinking a solution made up of either glucose or lactulose, both non-digestible sugars, mixed with water. Breath samples are then taken every 15 minutes post ingestion for just over two hours, with the patient also noting down any symptoms they have during this time.
After completion, simply post the gut health breath test kit through the nearest post box. It will then go through the analysis, and a clinician will investigate the results alongside any symptoms that were also recorded before producing a report. The report will be sent to the patient and the referring consultant/doctor, who will explain the results in a follow-up consultation.
THE SCIENCE BEHIND WHAT WE ARE LOOKING FOR
Methane is not used within a SIBO diagnosis but its presence in the breath can indicate an imbalance of bacteria in the gut microbiome. Breath methane is found in 30-50% of the healthy adult population and high levels can be accompanied by symptoms such as constipation and bloating, as well as obesity and reduced weight-loss following bariatric surgery. When checking your gut health with the breath test and the results indicate an elevated level of methane, the referring healthcare professional will recommend treatment options such as antibiotics, pre and probiotics and a low Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Monosaccharides and Polyols (FODMAP) diet.
When analyzing the breath samples, we are looking for volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs have great potential for applications in the development of future breath tests for gastrointestinal disease, with over 1,000 that can be detected on breath.
SCFA (Short Chain Fatty Acids) are one group of VOCs that are highly abundant in the gastrointestinal tract and are beneficial for physiological functions in the gut. SCFA have potential as VOCs to be employed in the diagnosis of gastrointestinal disorders such as gastro-esophageal reflux, esophagogastric cancer and inflammatory bowel diseases. We will explore SCFAs in a future blog.
We are able to offer gut health breath tests for SIBO and food intolerances to people in the UK at a cost of £250, which include a detailed report of the results. Find out more about our gut health kits via the button below.
If you’re a specialist UK-based clinician please fill in the form on our dedicated page for healthcare professionals and we will be in touch.