Sounds Like What It Is

What is Dumping Syndrome?

“Dumping syndrome” is the name given to a range of symptoms that can develop after gastric surgery. The symptoms are varied in both in number and severity, and in most patients they lessen over time.

What Causes Dumping Syndrome?

Normally, food that enters the stomach remains there for some period of time and is broken down, or digested, before being passed into the small intestine where nutrients are then absorbed into the bloodstream. Surgery on the stomach often results in the removal or restricted functioning of this controlled entry and exit of food through the stomach.

Without this control, partially or fully undigested food moves rapidly, or is “dumped,” into the small intestine. The undigested food draws water from the body directly into the intestine to continue the digestive process. This rush of fluid from the body is the main cause of symptoms related to dumping syndrome.

Types of Dumping Syndrome

There are two types of dumping syndrome – quick onset and late onset. With quick onset, the symptoms appear very soon after eating; typically within 15 minutes. With late onset, symptoms occur from 1-3 hours after eating. People can experience one or both types (or neither, of course).

Symptoms of Dumping Syndrome

The symptoms of dumping syndrome are also as varied as the population. People can experience no symptoms at all, some symptoms, or all of them. The extent of the symptoms also varies widely, from mild discomfort to incapacitating.
In quick onset dumping syndrome, the following symptoms can occur:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Diarrhea (Sometimes explosive)
  • Dizziness
  • Belching and bloating
  • Fatigue
  • Racing heart rate

In late onset dumping syndrome, the following symptoms can occur:

  • Sweating
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Trembling
  • Anxiety
  • Racing heart rate
  • Fainting
  • Confusion
  • Diarrhea (Sometimes explosive)

Treatment of Dumping Syndrome

Most people are able to reduce the symptoms by careful diet and changes in their eating habits. Some tips are:

  • Reduce sugar intake. Sugar is a major contributor to dumping syndrome. Many people find that reducing sugar intake is the biggest relief of symptoms.
  • Eat smaller meals. Most are unable to eat large meals after surgery, but old habits die hard and there is often a tendency to overeat.
  • Eat more slowly
  • Don’t drink with meals (NOTE: this affects people differently, some find drinking with meals helpful).
  • Lower your intake of fat
  • Lie down after a meal

If the symptoms of dumping system worsen or change over time, seek medical attention. If the symptoms are extreme, they can often lead to avoidance of food and weight loss and malnutrition is a possibility. Doctors have drugs and treatments than can alleviate the symptoms.

Author: Roger Tunsley, ECAA Board Member