At the Personalized Natural Medicine Clinic, we will sometimes do what is called a hydrogen breath test. Though it isn’t a new test, few physicians perform it. We perform baseline hydrogen breath tests during all visits. What we look for is an uneven distribution of good bacteria versus bad bacteria. When there is a province of bad bacteria, it is called Dysbiosis. Common symptoms of Dysbiosis include gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, heartburn, fatigue, and nausea.
How does a Dysbiosis Test work?
The test works by monitoring the amount of hydrogen gas that is exhaled during the course of 12 seconds. If the result is in the 20s, it indicates an excessive amount of “bad” bacteria in the digestive tract. While there are bacteria all over the body from the skin to the digestive tract, they are usually beneficial. When the system gets disrupted, the digestive tract changes and non-commensal bacteria (aka bad bugs) take up residence. These non-commensal bacteria start stealing food and supplies and wreaking havoc. While these cells are stealing supplies, they start producing hydrogen gas as a waste product, which we measure with a hydrogen breath test.
What do your hydrogen breath test results mean?
If the test comes back low, it means one of two things:
- You are healthy and do not have Dysbiosis or
- You have Dysbiosis and might have non-commensal bacteria that produce methane instead of hydrogen (very few patients fall under this category)
If the Test comes back elevated, it can mean a few things
- You have Dysbiosis or
- You just recently consumed food
Depending on how high your hydrogen level is, we recommend coming back for a full hydrogen test. A full hydrogen test includes fasting for 12 or more hours followed by taking a baseline hydrogen blow. After we take the baseline hydrogen blow, the patient drinks a sugary liquid called Lactulose. We then take hydrogen breath readings every 15 minutes for the next hour. Lactulose is an undigestible synthetic sugar which bad bacteria love to eat. When the bad bacteria consume the Lactulose, they produce hydrogen as they try to digest this undigestible sugar.
The interesting part about the full test is we can gauge where the Dysbiosis is depending upon when the result appears. For example, if after the first 15 minutes of drinking Lactulose, your hydrogen blow result is high, this indicates some “not so friendly” bugs in your upper GI tract. If your hydrogen blow result is high after 45 minutes, it would indicate Dysbiosis in the lower GI tract. When a Lactulose test comes back positive it indicates a diagnosis of Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth aka SIBO.
How do we treat Dysbiosis?
While there are many different ways to help someone with Dysbiosis, at the PNM Clinic we always use a personalized approach. We are all, unique and thus should be treated as such. Dr. Brody usually first addresses Dysbiosis with diet. He will sometimes recommend microbiome testing to individualized a protocol further. To read more about microbiome testing please click here. Creating a personalized diet helps even more via allowing the “good” bacteria to proliferate. Dr. Brody will also use supplements to supplement the diet.
In 2013 Drs. Peter D’Adamo and Natalie Colicci did a small investigation to determine if the Blood Type diet can effect SIBO. They found that patients who followed the diet have a decreased amount of hydrogen levels. To look at the article please click here.
To schedule an appointment, please contact Meaghan at the Personalized Natural Medicine Clinic, located in a beautiful Victorian house in the heart of Newtown, Connecticut.