Hydrogen breath test for lactose tolerance
Lactose tolerance tests measure the ability of your intestines to break down lactose, a type of sugar found in milk and other dairy products.
See also: Lactose intolerance
Two common methods include:
The hydrogen breath test is the preferred method. It measures the amount of hydrogen in the air you breathe out.
You will be asked to breathe into a balloon-type container. Then, you will be asked to drink a flavored liquid containing lactose. Samples of your breath are collected at set time periods and the hydrogen level is checked. Normally, very little hydrogen is in your breath. But if your body has trouble breaking down and absorbing lactose, breath hydrogen levels increase.
The lactose tolerance blood test looks for glucose in your blood. Your body creates glucose when lactose breaks down. For this test, several blood samples will be taken before and after you drink the lactose solution described above. For information on how a blood sample is obtained, see venipuncture.
You should not eat for 8 hours before the test. Avoid strenuous exercise for 8 hours before the test.
There should not be any pain or discomfort when giving a breath sample.
When the needle is inserted to draw blood, some people feel moderate pain, while others feel only a prick or stinging sensation. Afterward, there may be some throbbing.
Your doctor may order these tests if you have signs of lactose intolerance.
Hogenauer C, Hammer HF. Maldigestion and malabsorption. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Sleisenger MH, eds. Sleisenger & Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2010:chap 101.
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