Guest Author - Linda Hamill
Diagnostic Tests – Noninvasive
Breath tests are easy, quick, and noninvasive. They are the safest way to investigate digestive diseases, before doing evasive tests. There are two types of tests, the hydrogen breath test and the 13C stable radioisotope breath test, and both are non-radioactive. They are safe for adults and children, and pregnant women. How do these tests work, do you say? What do they represent?
These tests determine if H. pylori bacteria is present and this is determined by having the patient drinks an *orange prepared solution and within ˝ hour, exhales into a tube. This will show if H. pylori bacteria is present. Usually, there is no hydrogen in your breath. Suppose you are lactose intolerant and you exhale into the tube, and it shows hydrogen is present. This means that undigested food has turned into gases in the intestines, and is drawn into the blood and carried to the lungs. This shows that the patient is lactose intolerant.
Another example that you may be interested in, is having H. pylori bacteria present. When H. pylori is in the stomach, it causes urea (natural in the digestive process), to turn into carbon dioxide, ammonia, and water. The patient drinks the orange solution (as noted above*) with a tiny bit of urea, waits ˝ hour and then exhales into the tube. If he results if H. pylori are present, then the patient has an infection. This is better than a blood test, as a blood test will only reveal that you have H. pylori, but not that an infection is present. Breath tests are good to use to see if the infection has been successfully treated.
Fasting is required the night before the test and medications can interfere with the test result. Talk to your doctor about any medications that you are or have been taking up to 2 weeks in advance of the test date.
Many blood tests can be used to detect problems or diseases of the digestive system. The complete blood test (CBC/ that a regular doctor can do also), can identify anemia if the stomach is bleeding. Sometimes your physician may require a CBC test and you go into the lab and have blood drawn. This test shows if there are malfunctions or problems in the liver enzymes, inflammation, bile salt levels, and others. Blood tests can also determine if the problem is being cured, by doing another CBC test.
Stool Acidity Test
This test is usually done for infants and children to determine if they are lactose intolerant, as it measures the amount of acid in the colon, plus any fatty acids. Undigested lactose is ripened by bacteria. A sample of stool is taken and tested. Glucose problems can also be determined in this same test.
Fecal Occult Blood Test
This test was first used back in 1950; five years before I was born, and still an excellent test for finding hidden blood in fecal matter, that indicates ulcers or polyps in the colon. Blood in the colon is a positive sign of cancer of the colon and rectum. If you are bleeding from hemorrhoids, please don’t automatically think it is cancer, as I don’t want you petrified, but anytime you keep bleeding and it is more than a cupful, you should see a doctor as soon as possible. It is always wise to play it safe.
Many of you may know this test well. One is given a card that has places where one can smear their stool on the card and then it is analyzed. This test is very accurate when done properly. Cards can be found at your doctor’s office, hospitals, health fairs, and over-the-counter in grocery store pharmacies. Usually, one takes two stool samples per day for three days. One can apply the chemical to the samples in a doctor’s office, a hospital, or at home. If the sample turns blue, then the conclusion is that there is blood in the stool. One must be on a special diet two days before beginning this test. A number of things can mess up the test! These include: aspirin, red meat, turnips, horseradish, citrus fruits, Vitamin C, and Iron supplements.
Usually, the test comes with a list of foods that you can and cannot have before the test begins.