SIBO Test: What Is It, Types, and Preparation
01 December, 2023
Small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) is a common condition wherein there is an excessive amount of bacteria in the small intestine. This type of infection can lead to various unpleasant symptoms, including abdominal pain and bloating. Thus, the SIBO test can provide valuable insight into the digestive health of a person. There are different types, such as glucose, lactulose, and methane-based breath testing. To prepare for the test, the person should abstain from certain foods, drinks, and medications.
Bacterial overgrowth in the system can lead to various health problems. It can interfere with nutrient absorption and cause malabsorption of essential vitamins and minerals. Therefore, it is crucial for individuals showing various symptoms to undergo medical testing. The test can diagnose if there are serious health problems and prevent further complications. This article will present the essentials of the test, the different types, and how to prepare for the test.
What Is a SIBO Test?
The SIBO test is a diagnostic procedure to detect the presence of excessive bacteria in the small intestine. It can determine if a person has digestive problems due to an infection. The small intestine is responsible for the absorption of nutrients. However, when there is bacterial overgrowth, it can interfere with this process, leading to nutrient deficiencies and other health issues.
The test measures the levels of hydrogen and methane gas produced by bacteria in the digestive system. If either of these gases is present in elevated amounts, it could indicate an overgrowth of bacteria. The procedure is simple and non-invasive, making it a convenient option for patients. It can be performed in a clinic or at home.
There are different methods to perform the test. The common procedure is a breath test. It involves drinking a solution and then measuring the levels of gases in the breath over a period of time. Another method is the small intestine aspirate and culture. In this procedure, a tube is inserted through a nose or mouth to collect a sample of fluid.
- Stomach pain: cramping or discomfort in the abdominal region. It is often described as sharp or burning and can range from mild to severe.
- Bloating and distension: abdominal fullness due to abnormal digestive process.
- Diarrhoea or constipation: abnormal bowel movements, either too frequent or too infrequent, can be a sign of SIBO. Diarrhoea may also contain mucus or blood.
- Flatulence and belching: Excess gas in the digestive system may indicate an overgrowth of bacteria. This can lead to excessive burping and passing of foul-smelling gas.
- Joint pain: excessive inflammation from infection can lead to joint pain.
Types of SIBO Tests
There are several types of SIBO tests to diagnose the condition. One common test is the glucose breath test. This procedure involves consuming a specific amount of glucose and exhaling it into a specialised device. Glucose is the preferred type of sugar to test for bacterial overgrowth. Moreover, the small intestine quickly absorbs glucose. If there is a presence of bacteria, they ferment the sugar and produce hydrogen.
The lactulose breath test is another type of test. This one uses lactulose, a sugar solution, to measure the levels of hydrogen and methane produced by intestinal bacteria in the digestive system. The solution is non-absorbable. The samples are measured for levels of gases in the breath. Therefore, the rise in breath hydrogen is suggestive of SIBO.
Lastly, methane-based breath testing is a specific test for methane-producing bacteria. It uses the same protocol as glucose or hydrogen breath testing. In addition, this method measures the methane gas levels to assess various digestive disorders, such as carbohydrate malabsorption.
Which Type to Conduct?
When considering the type of test to conduct, it is vital to factor in the medical history and gastrointestinal symptoms of a person. For instance, if a patient is experiencing frequent bloating or abdominal pain, then a glucose or lactulose breath test may be suitable.
However, if they have constipation and joint pain, a methane-based breath test would be more appropriate. Moreover, health professionals may consider the invasiveness of the test. Generally, breath tests are non-invasive, while small intestine aspirate can be intrusive. In any case, it is best to consult a doctor to determine the most appropriate test for each individual.
Preparing for a SIBO Test
The preparation for a SIBO test involves several measures. Generally, a physician may advise dietary restrictions, such as high-fibre, dairy products, or fermentable foods like beans and legumes. In contrast, a low-fibre or low-carbohydrate diet can help temporarily reduce the bacterial population, making the test results more reliable. Additionally, a doctor may advise patients to stop taking certain medications and supplements like antibiotics and probiotics.
For hydrogen breath tests, avoid taking antibiotics four weeks before the test. Also, avoid laxatives and stool softeners the week before sample collection. Individuals should discuss any medications they are taking and other medical conditions with their provider. Additionally, do not smoke, exercise, eat, or drink (except water)12 hours before the test. This includes gums and mouthwash.
During the test, the doctor will get a baseline breath sample to establish hydrogen and methane levels. Then, the individual drinks a sugar solution and takes additional breath samples. The person repeats this process in regular time intervals for two to four hours. Finally, the doctor analyses the results and diagnoses SIBO if there are high levels of gases in the breath.
Interpreting the Results
After completing the test, the doctor will calculate the levels of hydrogen and methane gases to compare with the baseline level. If there is an overgrowth of bacteria, these gases will be present in elevated levels in the breath. Furthermore, there are several factors to consider when interpreting the results.
The doctor will look at various components, such as the length of time for the hydrogen or methane to reach peak levels and the amount of gas released over time. After receiving a positive result, healthcare providers can tailor a treatment plan based on the patient’s specific needs.
SIBO is a common digestive disorder, and the breath test is an essential tool for diagnosing it. People with irritable bowel syndrome may trigger this condition. A SIBO test can provide valuable insight into the cause of digestive discomfort or other symptoms. The test involves the use of either glucose or lactulose breath testing for hydrogen gas or methane-based breath testing. Breath pathology tests are the preferred method because they are non-invasive.
As part of the preparation for the test, individuals should follow the instructions of their healthcare providers to ensure accurate results. This involves stopping certain medications and following a low-fibre or low-carbohydrate diet for a few days before the test. During the procedure, the person drinks a sugar solution and blows repeatedly into a breath test kit. Finally, the doctor interprets the results by comparing it with the baseline level and recommends a treatment plan.