The in vitro and in vivo production of hydrogen gas (H2) from various carbohydrates or proteins has been examined in normal rats and in rats infected with the nematode Nippostrongylus brasiliensis. Normal rat fecal homogenates were capable of producing H2 in vitro from glucose, sucrose, xylose, lactulose, bovine serum albumin, or casein hydrolysate. Direct injection of glucose, sucrose, xylose, lactulose, bovine serum albumin, or casein hydrolysate into the cecum of normal rats resulted in approximately twice as much H2 production in vivo than when these same carbohydrates or proteins were administered to the normal rats by gavage. Partial small intestinal villous atrophy was produced by infecting rats with the nematode N. brasiliensis. Impaired small intestinal cell function and evidence of malabsorption in the nematode-infected rats included: (a) decreased activity of intestinal cell lactase (-43%), sucrase (-33%), and alkaline phosphatase (-46%); (b) decreased gut sac uptake of 3-O-(methyl-3H]-D-glucose (-21%) or 1-[carboxyl-14C]-aminocyclopentane-1-carboxylic acid (-28%); and (c) increased (+ 64%-561%) 14CO2 production after D-[U-14C]xylose administration. These rats produced approximately twice as much H2 after gavage administration of glucose, sucrose, xylose, bovine serum albumin, or casein hydrolysate compared with normal rats. The present study suggests that H2 analysis may be useful in the evaluation of small intestinal malabsorption states in rats.