Dumping Syndrome

Dumping syndrome is common after gastric surgery. It is a group of symptoms that may result from having part of your stomach removed or from other surgery involving the stomach. The symptoms range from mild to severe and often subside with time. Although you may find dumping syndrome alarming at first, it is not life threatening. You can control it by making changes in what and how you eat. By controlling dumping syndrome, you will also be avoiding the foods that tend to make you gain weight.

Causes of Dumping Syndrome

After gastric surgery, it can be more difficult to regulate movement of food, which dumps too quickly into the small intestine. Eating certain foods makes dumping syndrome more likely. For example, refined sugars rapidly absorb water from the body, causing symptoms. Symptoms may also happen after eating dairy products and certain fats or fried foods.

Dumping Syndrome: Symptoms of the Early Phase

An early dumping phase may happen about 30 to 60 minutes after you eat. Symptoms can last about an hour and may include:

  • A feeling of fullness, even after eating just a small amount
  • Abdominal cramping or pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Severe diarrhea
  • Sweating, flushing, or light-headedness
  • Rapid heartbeat

Dumping Syndrome: Causes of the Early Phase

Symptoms of an early phase happen because food is rapidly "dumping" into the small intestine. This may be due to factors such as these:

  • The small intestine stretches.
  • Water pulled out of the bloodstream moves into the small intestine.
  • Hormones released from the small intestine into the bloodstream affect blood pressure.

Dumping Syndrome: Symptoms of the Late Phase

A late dumping phase may happen about 1 to 3 hours after eating. Symptoms may include:

Continued

Dumping Syndrome: Causes of the Late Phase

The symptoms of this late phase may happen due to a rapid rise and fall in blood sugar levels. The cause of this rapid swing in blood sugar may be worse when eating sweets or other simple carbohydrates.

If you have not already been diagnosed with the dumping syndrome, and you have confusion, dizziness, rapid heartbeat, or fainting, get immediate medical help. Call 911 right away.

Dumping Syndrome Treatment

Many people find that taking steps like these greatly reduces symptoms of dumping syndrome.

Foods to avoid. Avoid eating sugar and other sweets such as:

  • Candy
  • Sweet drinks
  • Cakes
  • Cookies
  • Pastries
  • Sweetened breads

Also avoid dairy products and alcohol. And avoid eating solids and drinking liquids during the same meal. In fact, don't drink 30 minutes before and 30 minutes after meals.

Foods to eat. To help with symptoms, also try these tips:

  • Use fiber supplements, such as psyllium (Metamucil or Konsyl), methylcellulose (Citrucel), or guar gum (Benefiber).
  • Use sugar replacements, such as Splenda, Equal, or Sweet'N Low, instead of sugar.
  • Go for complex carbohydrates, such as vegetables and whole-wheat bread, instead of simple carbohydrates, such as sweet rolls and ice cream.
  • To prevent dehydration, drink more than 4 cups of water or other sugar-free, decaffeinated, noncarbonated beverages throughout the day.

How to eat. Here are some other ways to lessen symptoms of dumping syndrome:

  • Eat five or six small meals or snacks a day.
  • Keep portions small, such as 1 ounce of meat or 1/4 cup of vegetables.
  • Cut food into very small pieces. Chew well before swallowing.
  • Combine proteins or fats along with fruits or starches. (For example, combine fruit with cottage cheese.)
  • Stop eating when you first begin to feel full.
  • Drink liquids 30 to 45 minutes after meals.
  • Reclining after eating may help prevent light-headedness.

When to Call the Doctor About Dumping Syndrome

It is important to manage dumping syndrome so you stay well-nourished and don't lose too much weight. Talk to your health care provider about any symptoms you have and what else you can do. In some cases, medication or surgery may be needed to help correct the symptoms of dumping syndrome.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on April 15, 2015

Sources

SOURCES:

Ukleja, A. Practical Gastroenterology, February 2006.

American Society for Bariatric Surgery: "Bariatric Surgery: Postoperative Concerns."

Ohio State University: "Dumping Syndrome after Gastric Bypass Surgery."

University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health: "Dumping Syndrome." 

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