Your bloating, gas, abdominal cramps or diarrhea may indicate Bacterial Overgrowth of the Small Intestine, a problem easily diagnosed using a simple breath test.
What is Bacterial Overgrowth of the Small Intestine?
Your body normally contains lots of bacteria on the large intestine, where they aid in food digestion and other beneficial processes. However, there are fewer bacteria in the small intestine where the environment is less conducive to their growth. The stomach's gastric acid and the rapid movement of food through the small intestine keep the bacterial population low. Many conditions allow bacteria to grow in the small intestine:
- Crohn’s disease
- parasite infection
- intestinal scar tissue
- low stomach acid
- slow transit of food through the intestine
How does it affect the body?
Too many bacteria in the small intestine disrupt the normal digestive process, creating gastrointestinal problems such as gas and diarrhea. Bacteria also compete with the body for nutrients, which can lead to deficiencies of nutrients such as vitamin B12.
What are the symptoms?
This condition often escapes diagnosis because its symptoms are common: abdominal bloating and gas and possibly diarrhea within one hour of eating. You may also experience problems digesting dairy products or other carbohydrates. Unexplained weight loss, steatorrhea (fatty diarrhea) and Vitamin B12 deficiency are other clues to bacterial overgrowth.
Can bacterial overgrowth be treated?
Yes. Once bacterial overgrowth has been diagnosed, a health practitioner can use natural antimicrobials to eradicate the bacteria, relieving your symptoms. Treatment can then begin on the underlying causes to keep overgrowth from recurring.
How can a breath test measure bacteria in the small intestine?
Your body's digestion consists of a series of steps where food is broken into smaller and smaller parts, enabling you to absorb the nutrients. In the Bacterial Overgrowth of the Small Intestine Breath Test, you take a special drink containing lactulose, a non-digestible sugar. If bacteria are excessive in the small intestine, they will ferment the challenge drink, producing hydrogen and methane. Some of the gas is reabsorbed into your bloodstream and carried to your lungs through capillaries. The breath test looks for increased hydrogen and methane in your exhaled breath to indicate the presence and degree of bacterial overgrowth.
How does the breath test work?
With the Bacterial Overgrowth of the Small Intestine Breath Test, you simply blow into a special mouthpiece and vacuum-sealed collection tubes. You can do the test at home. There aren't any blood or urine tests and no mess. The tubes containing breath specimens are sent by prepaid overnight delivery to Great Smokies Diagnostic Laboratory for analysis. Once we receive the test results they will be mailed to you.
Many conditions allow bacteria to grow in the small intestine. Take this quiz to determine your likelihood of Bacterial Overgrowth of the Small Intestine.
Ask yourself -
Within one hour of eating, do you often have ?
- Abdominal cramps?
If so, ask yourself the following:
- Are you losing weight and don’t know why?
- Have you been told you have too much or too little stomach acid?
- Do you take medications for 'heartburn'?
- Have you had an intestinal parasite?
- Do you have trouble tolerating starchy foods or dairy products?
Do you have:
- Crohn’s disease?
- Chronic pancreatitis?
- Systemic lupus erythematosus?
- Chronic constipation?
- Have you had intestinal surgery?
If you answered 'yes' to one or more of these questions, you may have Bacterial Overgrowth of the Small Intestine, a common cause of chronic digestive problems.
Great Smokies Diagnostic Lab, in North Carolina offers this testing procedure. Bacterial Overgrowth of the Small Intestine Breath Test is available to you.