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BLOG: August 2009

New gut test for children and adults

Have you checked on your gut health lately? There is no health without well functioning gut - and the good news is that a novel diagnostic gut test makes it even easier to assess its performance. All it takes is breath analyzer.

The test measures the level of 13C metabolic marker in the breath, after ingestion of an enriched sucrose mix. The 13C biomarker gives quantitative indication of the activity of sucrase enzyme, active in the small intestine's villi area. As you probably know, that is where nutrients are absorbed into the bloodstream - assuming they were properly broken down in the digestive process.

Hence, low activity of this digestive enzyme indicates compromised function of the lining of small intestine.

In a series of clinical trials, mainly in Australia, 13C Sucrose Breath Test has consistently shown the ability to indicate impaired gut function. Its results correlate well with those obtained with established tests, such as lactulose/rhamnose test (Ritchie et al, Pediatrics 2/2009).

This novel test is not the first, nor the only one that uses breath analysis as an aid in assessing intestinal function. Another clever breath-based test already available from some diagnostic tests laboratories is the Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth Breath Test. A solution of lactulose sugar is consumed; if the small intestine has bacterial overgrowth, the bacteria will break down this normally unmetabolized sugar by fermentation into methane and hydrogen. They enter the blood, and are carried to the lungs where they are exhaled.

Person taking the test simply blows through a mouthpiece into vacuum-sealed collection tube. The exhaled breath is then analyzed for the hydrogene/methane content; the higher its level vs. average values, the more indicative it is of the bacterial overgrowth.

  While neither of these two tests offer detailed, specific insight into condition of small intestine, they provide valuable diagnostic information. More than just another addition to quite diverse arsenal of diagnostic tests already available, this novel gut test is another remainder of the direction that medicine should follow much more than it does at present. And that is

 seeking specific information on patient's body functions

through individual medical tests, instead of generalized treatment options based on suppressing the symptom resulting from the last in a chain of adverse reactions.

Not less important remainder, also, that our teeth are not the only part of our digestive system requiring periodic attention and care.