Bacterial overgrowth and lactose intolerance: How to best assess

Adil Ghafoor, Tennekoon Karunaratne, Satish S.C. Rao

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Purpose of reviewTo provide an up-To-date review on the clinical assessment of two important gastrointestinal problems with overlapping symptomatology but diverse cause and testing methods. Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) is characterized by the presence of excess bacteria in the small intestine associated with bloating, distention, gas, and diarrhea. Lactose intolerance is caused by lactase enzyme deficiency in the small bowel mucosa leading to lactose malabsorption and symptoms of bloating, gas, and diarrhea.Recent findingsSIBO is assessed by hydrogen/methane breath test using glucose as a substrate and/or small bowel aspirate and culture but these tests have shortcomings. Consequently, several new diagnostic techniques, including novel capsule technologies and other approaches are being evaluated. Lactose intolerance can be assessed by hydrogen/methane breath test using lactose as a substrate, or small bowel mucosal lactase assay, genetic testing and lactose tolerance test, although the efficacy and practicality of these diagnostic modalities are not equal.SummaryIn clinical practice, gas, bloating, distention, pain, and diarrhea are common gastrointestinal symptoms that often remain unexplained when routine gastrointestinal endoscopy, imaging, and stool tests are negative. These patients should be evaluated for SIBO and/or food intolerances including lactose intolerance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)334-340
Number of pages7
JournalCurrent Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2022


  • breath test
  • diagnosis
  • disaccharidases
  • lactose intolerance
  • small intestinal bacterial overgrowth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)


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