Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth Breath Testing

Mature doctor explaining liver problems


Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth Breath Testing

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) occurs when there is an abnormal increase in the overall bacterial population in the small intestine.  The small intestine normally has few bacteria due to the rapid flow of contents and the presence of bile. Some symptoms of SIBO may include bloating, flatulence, cramping, diarrhea and/or constipation.  If your doctor suspects you have SIBO, a non-invasive, breath test will help in the diagnosis and subsequent treatment. 

Why Have SIBO Testing? 

SIBO can result from various causes. It can occur as result of alteration of anatomy due to surgical procedures or from other conditions such as celiac disease or Crohn’s disease, abnormal motility due to medications or underlying conditions such as diabetes. It can also be associated with irritable bowel syndrome. 

The SIBO breath test measures the amount of hydrogen or methane gases exhaled following ingestion of a sugar solution to evaluate for overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine.  

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Is SIBO a good choice for you? Speak with one of our doctors and find out.


Preparing for SIBO Testing

  • You will need to stop and avoid taking antibiotics, probiotics and certain medications such as Pepto Bismol for at least 2 weeks prior to the procedure.  
  • You will need to stop and avoid taking antacids, laxatives and stool softeners for one week prior to the test . 
  • The day before your test follow the diet your doctor recommends and may include: 
    • Plain white bread or rice
    • Plain white potatoes 
    • Baked or broiled plain chicken or fish 
    • Water 
    • Unflavored coffee or tea 
    • Avoid sweet drinks, food with high fiber, butter and margarine 
  • You should also avoid smoking or being around secondhand smoke as inhaling smoke can interfere with your test results. 
  • 8 to 12 hours prior to your test, avoid eating or drinking anything, including water.  Take your usual prescription medications with a small amount of water.  Discuss this with your doctor. 
Doctor holding an educational tool

What to Expect

What to Expect During SIBO Testing 

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During SIBO Testing

  • You’ll be asked to exhale into a balloon-like bag to provide a baseline comparison. 
  • Next you’ll drink a solution that contains different types of sugar. 
  • You’ll then breathe into the bag every 15 to 20 minutes as your body digests the solution. 
  • After each breath, the technician will empty the bag with a syringe. 
  • The test can take 2 to 3 hours.
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After SIBO Testing

After the procedure you may resume your normal activities with no restrictions. 

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SIBO Follow-up

The results will be collected and logged into the computer and sent to your physician for interpretation. If the test results indicate a rapid rise in exhaled hydrogen, it may indicate bacterial overgrowth in your small intestine.  For most people, the initial way to treat SIBO is with antibiotics.  Your doctor will discuss all your treatment options so you can make an informed decision.


SIBO Testing Specialists