Chronic Illness

Breakspear, Round 3…

Last week Jack and I packed up the car, got plenty of snacks together, shoved as many cushions and hot water bottles as it would take to keep me reasonably comfy, and set off back to Hemel Hempstead. I had hoped the previous trip would have been my final visit that involved testing, and that the next time we had to go I would finally be able to find out the consultant’s treatment plan. As usual, my body had other ideas! As I mentioned in my first Breakspear post, the blood tests I had showed up many sensitivities to different foods, that combined with the suspected gastroparesis, meant the consultant needed to send me off for one final test, the lactulose breath test.


The test itself sounded fairly simple, as long as I remembered to follow the huge list of instructions for the three days prior to the test… remembering is not my strong point. The Monday before the test I had to stop taking the antibiotics treating the pneumonia and the stomach acid suppressant, omeprazole. The latter was not so pleasant as is still bothering me now! I was instructed to follow a 24 hour preparation diet which was limited to white/refined grains, fish, poultry, meat, eggs and cheese with a very small amount of fruit and vegetables. I also was instructed to fast from 8pm that evening, in preperation for the test starting at 9am the next morning. The next morning I was only allowed small amounts of water or herbal tea, none of my meds and I had to brush my teeth just before leaving for the clinic.

Despite being incredibly jealous of Jack eating breakfast, I survived the fast and it was time for the test to begin. I was seated in possibly the most comfortable hospital chair ever, made to do a baseline breath test and then drink a test dose of lactulose. Then began a very long three and a half hour wait for my body to be allowed food and meds again. Throughout the test I was only allowed to sip on a small glass of water and rest or read, no sleeping or moving around allowed, I did get a lot of my university work done though! Then each half hour the lovely nurse would come and take another breath test. Turns out that holding your breath for 15 seconds is not as easy as you’d think. Towards the end of the testing I also had to endure several blood tests. Fasting, warm room and having bloods taken is the recipe for disaster with a PoTs sufferer…

The purpose of the test is see whether my small intestine is functioning and emptying as it should. Using the levels of hydrogen in each breath test, they’ll be able to see if the lactulose I drank is moving through my digestive system as it should be, or if it’s getting stuck somewhere, causing bacterial overgrowth in my small intestine. They can also use variations of this test to determine lactose or sucrose intolerance.

Apart from the agonising pain from no meds, the terrible acid reflux I was getting, and the exasperation of my PoTs symptoms, it was fairly easy as medical tests go. The payback began later, when my stomach was so full of air I couldn’t fit food in without causing myself pain, the nausea I felt all the way home and then there was the crazy fire-breathing dragon that appeared to be living inside of me. This test had better prove what they wanted it to! Have any of you ever had this test or one of the variations done?

Amie xxx


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