Methane Gas and Constipation

Methane-positive breath test link with constipation confirmed

By Helen Albert
18 February 2011
Dig Dis Sci 2011; Advance online publication

MedWire News: Results from a systematic review and meta-analysis confirm that having a methane-positive breath test is significantly associated with functional constipation and constipation associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Mark Pimentel and colleagues from the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California, USA, previously found, using an in vivo model, that the methane produced by gut bacteria can slow small intestinal transit by almost 70%.

In addition, other studies have linked the presence of methane on breath testing with constipation-predominant IBS.

To assess the validity of this association, Pimentel and co-workers carried out a meta-analysis of data from nine studies involving 1277 individuals; 319 methane producers and 958 methane non-producers. Seven of the studies included IBS patients only, one included children, and one study assessed functional constipation in non-IBS individuals.

Pooled results showed a significant association between having a methane-positive breath test and having functional constipation or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)-associated constipation (odds ratio [OR]=3.51).
The researchers found that the association remained valid when only adults were included (OR=3.47) and on assessment of individuals with IBS alone (OR=3.60).

The team notes that heterogeneity between studies was moderate and there was no evidence of significant publication bias.

Regarding intestinal transit, the systematic review identified a further eight studies that established a link between methane-positive breath and significantly slower intestinal transit.

“These results suggest there may be merit in using breath testing in constipation,” write the authors in the journal Digestive Diseases and Sciences.

“Moreover, methane may be used to identify candidates for antibiotic treatment of constipation,” they add.

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2011

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