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Diagnosing Health Problems From Your Breath

Updated on October 9, 2012

As far back as 400 B.C., Hippocrates wrote a treatise on a person's breath and how it might reveal diseases of that person. The Star Trek Tricorder used by McCoy could scan one for health problems. While we are not there yet, doctors have been identifying thousands of chemical compounds from people's breath using mass spectrometers. These can detect minutes amounts per trillion. Tests are being created to detect and diagnose health problems from just your breath, like, liver and kidney disorders, asthma, diabetes, TB, and gastronintestinal infections.

Every time you exhale, you exhale thousands of micro chemicals that could signal a health related problem, depending on the results. For instance, high levels of nitric oxide indicate airways are inflamed in asthma victims, stomach ulcers emit carbon, lung cancer emits dozens of chemical compounds that differ from healthy lungs. If your breath smells like ammonia- think kidney disease. High levels of carbon dioxide are found in the breath of those with liver disease, rising hydrogen levels can indicate an irritable bowel syndrome or lactose malabsorption.

Breath analysis has proven accurate in some cases. One study showed that breath analysis could distinguish between benign and malignant nodules in the lungs of 72 patients with a 88% accuracy and assess the type and what stage the lung cancer was in-just from the patient's breath!

One day, the blood test may become obsolete.


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    • perrya profile image

      perrya 5 years ago


    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Great information to share. This may just help many to find a disease early. I learned something new today.

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 5 years ago from California

      This has great information and well written. The message would get out to more people if you added links that would collaborate with this information. Is there a YouTube video about this you might add to your hub? Google tends to like slightly longer articles.