Breath methane was studied in 394 subjects. Among 152 controls, 50.0% produced methane--42.1% of males and 57.9% of females. One hundred sixteen patients with gastrointestinal diseases were studied. Among 32 with Crohn's disease, only 2 (6.1%) produced methane, as well as 16 of 51 ulcerative colitis patients (31.4%) and 11 of 32 patients with the irritable bowel syndrome (34.4%). Breath methane is thus unusual in Crohn's disease. After bowel cleansing for colonoscopy or surgery, 15 of 18 methane producers became nonproducers, whereas after antibiotic treatment, 24 of 30 producers sustained their methane-producing status. After gentamycin and cephazolin therapy, methane production was abolished in three of eight patients. Slight spontaneous variations in methane production were also noticed with two of 23 control subjects, becoming nonproducers on restudy after 10-25 months. Thus gastrointestinal diseases, bowel cleansing and, to a much lesser degree, antibiotic therapy, affect methane production.