In-depth Look:

Food Sensitivities & Breath Testing


Almost every patient has experienced an upset stomach or an unpleasant reaction to food or beverages they have consumed. Many times, certain foods can make one feel unwell, regardless if the patient is healthy and follows a balanced diet.

Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic report that food allergies, which are an immune system response, affect around 1 percent of adults and 7 percent of children. However, food sensitivities, or intolerances, are much more common in patients.

Food sensitivities can cause a variety of uncomfortable symptoms such as heartburn, headaches, irritability, and other digestive ailments. While patients may not have an actual food allergy that presents itself with a skin or blood test, they could still have a sensitivity to certain foods or food groups.

Food sensitivity is a digestive system response rather than an immune system response. According to the Cleveland Clinic, food sensitivity occurs when something in the food irritates a person’s digestive system or when a person is unable to properly digest, or break down the food. This food sensitivity can also be referred to as food malabsorption because it is often dose-related, and patients may not have symptoms unless a large portion of the food is consumed, causing an increased concentration of that food in the small intestine.

Three major types of food intolerances include:

  • Lactose intolerance, the most common food intolerance, affecting around 10% of Americans, is caused by a deficiency in lactase, an enzyme produced in the small intestine. Lactose is found in milk and dairy products.
  • Fructose intolerance, which is caused when there is deficient fructose carriers in the small intestine’s enterocytes. Fructose is a sugar that is found in many foods including fruits, honey, processed foods and foods with high fructose corn syrup, and even some vegetables.
  • Sucrose intolerance, caused by a deficiency or absence of the enzymes sucrase and isomaltrase. Sucrose is a sugar found in fruits and is also known as table sugar.

There are several ways to determine if a patient lives with a food sensitivity or malabsorption. This includes recommending an elimination diet, or utilizing breath testing for fermentable carbohydrate intolerances.

Commonwealth Diagnostics International, Inc. provides non-invasive hydrogen and methane breath testing for lactose, fructose and sucrose malabsorption that patients can take safely and conveniently from the comfort of their home. At-home breath testing, which aligns with best practices for keeping patients and staff safe during COVID-19, is a faster way to determine food sensitivities than diet elimination and keeping a food diary to track reactions. Breath testing reduces the trial-and-error elimination and tracking method and provides a better way for providers to focus on problem foods.

Food intolerance treatments include a long-term plan to eliminate certain foods from the diet or antibiotic treatment. Antibiotics for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth have been proven to help alleviate digestive discomfort.

Contact CDI to get your practice started with malabsorption breath testing or to learn about our complete portfolio of functional GI diagnostic solutions.