Anyone who remembers the days before finger stick blood glucose meters became available to people with diabetes will recall how awful life was for diabetics. All they had was urine dipsticks which were sloppy, yielded only crude non-quantitative feedback on blood sugars, and gave you a gauge of what blood sugars were in the recent past, not the present. It meant that dosing insulin or diabetes drugs was grotesquely imprecise and accounted for many episodes of hypoglycemic coma and acceleration of diabetic complications. It was not uncommon in those days, for instance, for a type 1 diabetic to be blind and experience kidney failure in their 20s.
Then, in the early 1980s, finger stick blood glucose meters became widely available. Because they allowed more accurate tracking of blood sugars, this technology proved a game-changer for diabetics. Insulin and other drugs could be dosed more precisely. Low blood sugars could be identified before loss of consciousness developed, high blood sugars could be identified before dehydration and diabetic ketoacidosis took hold, better blood sugar control meant diabetic complications were delayed.
That same kind of game-changing technology is now available for gastrointestinal health in the form of hydrogen gas, H2, breath testing. While formal H2 breath testing has been available for a number of years, the test is cumbersome, most doctors know nothing about it, and costs around $150 to several hundred dollars each time you undergo the test (which is typically needed several times to assess response to treatment and identify recurrences).
Now a consumer device called AIRE made by the Food Marble company is available, a sleek and easy-to-use device that talks via Bluetooth to your smartphone. (By the way, I have NO relationship with the company. I have talked with the founders, but I have no reason to promote this device except that it’s exceptionally helpful and cool.) I’ve discussed how to use this device in an earlier Wheat Belly Blog post, especially tracking H2 levels (on a 0-10 scale) after consumption of a prebiotic fiber to trigger H2 release and determine time-response to determine whether small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, SIBO, is present. The faster H2 is released, the more likely it is that you have SIBO (since bacteria have to be in the upper gastrointestinal tract to cause H2 release).
I’ve argued that SIBO is present at epidemic levels in the U.S. now, likely harbored by something like 100 million people, or 1 in every 3 or 4 Americans. If not identified and corrected, real health complications can be in your future such as autoimmune conditions, diverticular disease, neurological diseases such as Parkinsonism and Lou Gehrig’s disease, Alzheimer’s dementia, heart disease, and colon cancer. So this is not something to stick your head in the sand over. Once identified, you can take steps—even without the involvement of your doctor—to manage SIBO and thereby reduce or eliminate risk for all these health conditions.
If you have any of the telltale signs of SIBO such as intolerance to prebiotic fibers, fat malabsorption, or have been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome or fibromyalgia, then consider identifying excessive breath hydrogen with this do-it-yourself-at-home device. For further discussion on how to manage SIBO once identified, you will find a detailed protocol, an in-depth 2-hour workshop, and weekly live video interactions in our Undoctored Inner Circle to help you craft a program.
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