Dumping Syndrome

What is dumping syndrome?

Dumping syndrome, also known as rapid gastric emptying, affects some patients who have undergone gastric surgery. It describes food passing too quickly from the stomach to the small intestine or small bowel.

Gastric surgery is performed primarily to treat those who are classified as obese (bariatric surgery), but may also serve as a treatment for other conditions such as stomach cancer. Surgeries include:

  • Esophagectomy: In this surgical procedure, a portion of or the entire esophagus (the tube leading from the mouth to the stomach) is removed.
  • Gastrectomy: During this procedure, a portion of or the entire stomach is removed.
  • Gastric bypass: Performed to treat morbid obesity, this surgery makes the stomach smaller and connects it to the small intestine via gastrojejunostomy.

What causes dumping syndrome?

For those who have undergone gastric surgery, it can be hard to regulate the movement of food from the stomach to the small intestine. Eating certain foods such as those with refined sugars, which quickly absorb water, may cause symptoms. Other foods, such as dairy and fried foods, may also contribute to the condition.

Dumping syndrome may be broken down into two phases:

  • Early phase: Symptoms resulting from the early phase may happen when food is quickly “dumping” into the small intestine due to factors such as the small intestine stretching, water pulled from the bloodstream that enters the small intestine or a change in blood pressure when hormones are released from the small intestine into the bloodstream.
  • Late phase: Symptoms of the late phase may occur due to the sudden and quick rise and fall of blood sugar levels in the body. Consuming too much sugar or simple carbohydrates can contribute to this condition.

What are the symptoms of dumping syndrome?

Symptoms of this condition are dependent on what phase the dumping syndrome is in.

Early Phase Symptoms

Early phase symptoms can happen 30 to 60 minutes after eating and may last up to an hour. These symptoms include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Feeling full after just eating a small amount of food
  • Flushing
  • Light-headedness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Sweating

Late Phase Symptoms

This phase occurs 1 to 3 hours after eating and may include:

  • Fainting or passing out
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling shaky or dizzy
  • Flushing
  • Hunger
  • Loss of concentration or mental confusion
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Sweating
  • Weakness

What are the treatment options for dumping syndrome?

While disconcerting, dumping syndrome is a non–life-threatening condition that can be easily corrected by taking the right steps regarding your diet.

Foods to Avoid

Avoid eating sugary items such as:

  • Alcohol
  • Cakes
  • Candy
  • Cookies
  • Dairy products
  • Pastries

It is also recommended that patients who have undergone geriatric surgery do not drink any liquids 30 minutes before and after having a meal.

Foods to Eat

To ease or avoid symptoms of dumping syndrome, suggestions include:

  • Eating complex carbohydrates like whole-wheat bread or vegetables, which are also rich in fiber
  • Taking fiber supplements
  • Keeping hydrated with more than 4 cups of water or decaffeinated, non-carbonated and sugar-free beverages per day
  • Using sugar alternatives such as Splenda® or Equal®

How to Eat

To lessen the effects of dumping syndrome, other tips include:

  • Cease eating when a full feeling occurs
  • Combine proteins or fats with fruits or starches
  • Cut food into small pieces and chew thoroughly
  • Eating five or six small snacks or meals throughout the day
  • Keep the portions small
  • Reclining after eating may reduce the risk of feeling light-headed

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