Association between symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and methane and hydrogen on lactulose breath test

J Korean Med Sci. 2013 Jun;28(6):901-7. doi: 10.3346/jkms.2013.28.6.901. Epub 2013 Jun 3.


Whether hydrogen and methane gas produced during lactulose breath test (LBT) are associated with symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is not determined. We aimed to investigate whether hydrogen and methane on LBT are associated with IBS symptoms. Sixty-eight IBS patients meeting the Rome III criteria for IBS, and 55 healthy controls, underwent LBT. The IBS subjects recorded their customary gastrointestinal symptoms on a questionnaire using visual analogue scales. LBT positivity was defined to be above 20 ppm rise of hydrogen or 10 ppm rise of methane within 90 min. Gas amounts produced during LBT were determined by calculating area under the curve of hydrogen and methane excretion. Symptom severity scores were not different between the LBT (+) IBS and LBT (-) IBS subjects and also between methane producers and non-methane producers. Gas amounts produced during LBT were not associated with IBS symptoms, except a weak correlation between total gas amounts and a few IBS symptoms such as bloating (r = 0.324, P = 0.039), flatulence (r = 0.314, P = 0.046) and abdominal pain (r = 0.364, P = 0.018) only in LBT (+) IBS. In conclusion, hydrogen and methane gas on LBT are not useful for predicting the customary symptoms and subtypes of IBS.

Keywords: Hydrogen; Intestinal Gas; Irritable Bowel Syndrome; Lactulose Breath Test; Methane.

Publication types

  • Controlled Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Pain / etiology
  • Adult
  • Area Under Curve
  • Breath Tests
  • Female
  • Flatulence / etiology
  • Gases / analysis
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen / analysis*
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / diagnosis*
  • Lactulose / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Methane / analysis*
  • Middle Aged
  • ROC Curve
  • Risk Factors


  • Gases
  • Lactulose
  • Hydrogen
  • Methane