Dumping syndrome is a group of symptoms most likely to develop if you've had surgery to remove all or part of your stomach, or if your stomach has been surgically bypassed to help lose weight. Also called rapid gastric emptying, dumping syndrome occurs when the undigested contents of your stomach are transported or "dumped" into your small intestine too rapidly. Common symptoms include abdominal cramps and nausea.
Most people with dumping syndrome experience symptoms soon after eating. In others, symptoms may occur one to three hours after eating. In either case, symptoms can range from mild to severe.
Dumping syndrome often improves on its own without medical treatment or after adjusting your diet. In more-serious cases of dumping syndrome, you may need medication or surgery.
When symptoms of dumping syndrome occur during a meal or within 15 to 30 minutes following a meal, they may include:
When signs and symptoms develop later, usually one to three hours after eating, they may include:
Some people experience both early and late signs and symptoms. Conditions such as dizziness and heart palpitations can occur either early or late — or both. No matter when problems develop, however, they may be worse following a high-sugar meal, especially one that's rich in table sugar (sucrose) or fruit sugar (fructose).
Some people also experience low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), related to excessive levels of insulin delivered to the bloodstream as part of the syndrome. Hypoglycemia is more often related to late signs and symptoms. Insulin influences your tissues to take up the sugar present in your bloodstream.
When to see a doctor
In dumping syndrome, food and gastric juices from your stomach move to your small intestine in an unregulated, abnormally fast manner. This accelerated process is most often related to changes in your stomach associated with surgery. For example, when the opening (pylorus) between your stomach and the first portion of the small intestine (duodenum) has been damaged or removed during an operation, dumping syndrome may develop.
Dumping syndrome may occur at least mildly in one-quarter to one-half of people who have had gastric bypass surgery. It develops most commonly within weeks after surgery, or as soon as you return to your normal diet. The more stomach removed or bypassed, the more likely that the condition will be severe. It sometimes becomes a chronic disorder.
Gastrointestinal hormones also are believed to play a role in this rapid dumping process.
Stomach and pyloric valve
Your stomach is a muscular sac about the size of a small melon that expands when you eat or drink to hold as much as a gallon of food or liquid. Once your stomach pulverizes the food, strong muscular ...
Several types of stomach surgery increase your risk of dumping syndrome. These include:
Certain underlying conditions and medications also may make you more susceptible to dumping syndrome. These include:
Gastric bypass surgery
Before gastric bypass, food (see arrows) enters your stomach and passes into the small intestine. After surgery, the amount of food you can eat is reduced due to the smaller stomach pouch. Food is ...
In people with severe cases of dumping syndrome, marked weight loss and malnutrition may occur. Sometimes people who lose a lot of weight may also develop a fear of eating, related to the discomfort associated with the rapid dumping of undigested food. They may also avoid outdoor physical activity in order to stay close to a toilet. Some have difficulty keeping a job because of their chronic symptoms.
Preparing for your appointment
If you have signs and symptoms of dumping syndrome, you're likely to first see your family doctor or a general practitioner. However, you may be referred to a doctor who specializes in treating digestive system disorders (gastroenterologist).
Because appointments can be brief, and because there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to be prepared. Here's some information to help you get ready, and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions will help you make the most of your time together. List your questions from most important to least important in case time runs out. For dumping syndrome, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask questions at any time that you don't understand something.
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
Your doctor may use some of the following methods to determine if you have dumping syndrome.
Treatments and drugs
Most cases of dumping syndrome improve as people learn to eat better for the condition and as the digestive system adjusts. There's a good chance that changing your diet will resolve your symptoms. But if it doesn't, your doctor may advise medications or surgery to slow the emptying of your stomach's contents.
The medications that doctors most frequently prescribe are:
Lifestyle and home remedies
Here are some dietary treatment strategies that your doctor may recommend and that you can do on your own:
Even with dietary changes, you may continue to experience symptoms associated with dumping syndrome.
Some people use supplements such as pectin, guar gum, black psyllium and blond psyllium to improve the symptoms associated with dumping syndrome. If you decide to try a supplement, discuss it with your doctor to learn about any potential side effects or interactions with other medications you're taking.
You can't prevent dumping syndrome. However, measures such as dietary adjustments may prevent recurrences of your symptoms or minimize their severity.
Last Updated: 2010-04-03
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