Lactose intolerance is a chronic gastrointestinal condition that impacts millions of Americans. Gas, bloating, diarrhea, cramps, and nausea begin after consumption of dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, and ice cream. If you’re experiencing these symptoms, your GI doctor may order a hydrogen breath test. It’s easy and yields information important to treatment planning.
Why Does Lactose Intolerance Develop?
Lactose intolerance occurs when a person cannot digest the milk sugar called lactose. To properly process foods containing lactose, the body naturally uses an enzyme called lactase. Some people do not have enough lactase in their systems to digest dairy products, and they experience uncomfortable gastrointestinal symptoms, even when they consume small amounts of foods containing lactose.Over time, people with lactose intolerance can become malnourished and even experience bone degradation in the form of osteoporosis.
To diagnose lactose intolerance, a board-certified gastroenterologist reviews a patient’s medical history and symptoms, and orders an in-office assessment called a hydrogen breath test.
How Does a Hydrogen Breath Test Work?
Used primarily to confirm the diagnosis of lactose intolerance, the hydrogen breath test measures the amount of hydrogen a person exhales during a specified test period. Hydrogen content in the breath indicates a high level of bacterial fermentation in the gut after consumption of dairy products. The fermentation process increases the amount of hydrogen gas in the bloodstream, the lungs absorb the hydrogen, and then release it with carbon dioxide and other byproducts of respiration.
To begin measurement of the hydrogen, the patient drinks a special solution that contains lactose. Then, over the subsequent two to three hours, the person breathes into a balloon-like collection vessel. Afterwards, the contents are analyzed.
Preparing For a Hydrogen Breath Test
Your gastroenterologist will tell you exactly how to prepare for your in-office hydrogen breath test. You will likely need to fast for 12 hours or more (up to a full day) before the assessment. Your preparation may be individualized according to your health needs.
When you go to the GI office for your appointment, you will drink the special lactose solution, breathe into the collection container at specific intervals, and then return home. There’s no downtime or adverse side effects from the test, and you should receive your results relatively quickly.
Most people with a confirmed diagnosis reduce their symptoms with diet modifications, with lactase medications taken before meals, or a combination of the two.
Lactose Intolerance Testing in Brooklyn, OH
To learn more about lactose intolerance testing and other digestive health services, please call North Shore Gastroenterology & Endoscopy Center in Westlake and Brooklyn, OH. We have 10 board-certified GI specialists on staff ready to help you have the best possible gastrointestinal health.
Call (440) 808-1212 today for more information, or to arrange a consultation at one of our two locations. Or, fill out our online appointment request form.