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Be Aware of Dumping Syndrome

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Dumping syndrome, also called rapid gastric emptying, occurs when food, especially sugar, moves from the stomach into the small bowel too quickly. The condition can develop after surgery that removes all or part of the stomach or after surgery to bypass the stomach to support weight loss. Dumping syndrome can also develop in people who have undergone esophageal surgery.

Most people with dumping syndrome experience symptoms, such as abdominal cramps and diarrhea, 10 to 30 minutes after eating. Other people may have symptoms emerge one to three hours after eating. Some people may have both early and late symptoms.

The best way to prevent dumping syndrome is by changing the patient’s diet after surgery. Eating smaller meals and limiting high-sugar foods can help reduce the risk of developing the condition. However, in more serious cases of dumping syndrome, patients may need to take medication or undergo surgery.

What Are The Symptoms of Dumping Syndrome?

Patients may experience symptoms immediately after eating, especially after a meal high in table sugar (sucrose) or fruit sugar (fructose). Signs and symptoms of dumping syndrome may include:

  • Feeling bloated or too full after eating
  • Flushing
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness
  • Rapid heart rate

Surgeon-performing-weight-loss-surgery

Late dumping syndrome can start one to three hours after eating a high-sugar meal. These signs and symptoms take a while to emerge because the body releases large amounts of insulin to absorb the sugars entering the small intestine. The end result is low blood sugar.

Signs and symptoms of late dumping syndrome can include:

  • Sweating
  • Flushing
  • Weakness
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness

Dumping syndrome can even develop years after surgery.

What Causes Dumping Syndrome?

In dumping syndrome, food and gastric juices move from the stomach to the small intestine in an uncontrolled, abnormally fast manner. This condition is often related to changes in the stomach associated with surgery.

Dumping syndrome can occur after patients have undergone a stomach surgery or major esophageal surgery, such as removal of the esophagus (esophagectomy).

Woman-experiencing-pain-characteristic-of-dumping-syndrome

What Are The Risk Factors of Dumping Syndrome?

The risk of dumping syndrome is higher among patients who undergo surgery to alter their stomach.

These surgeries may include weight loss surgery to treat obesity and treatment for stomach cancer, esophageal cancer, and other conditions. Surgeries that increase the risk of dumping syndrome:

  • Gastrectomy – a portion or all of the stomach is removed.
  • Gastric bypass surgery (Roux-en-Y operation) – a small stomach pouch is created to treat morbid obesity. After surgery, patients are no longer able to eat as much as they once did. Surgery involves connecting the small intestine to this pouch in the form of a gastrojejunostomy.
  • Esophagectomy – all or part of the tube between the mouth and the stomach is removed.

When Patients Should See a Doctor

It may be time to see a doctor if:

  • You develop signs and symptoms of dumping syndrome, even if you haven’t had surgery.
  • Your symptoms don’t improve after making dietary changes.
  • You are losing significant weight due to dumping syndrome. (A registered dietitian can help create an eating plan.)