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Dumping Syndrome: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Dumping Syndrome
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What is Dumping Syndrome?

Dumping syndrome (or rapid gastric emptying) occurs when food passes too rapidly from the stomach into the small intestine. Although the condition is fairly common following gastric bypass surgery, symptoms are not usually serious. Dumping syndrome sometimes also occurs after esophageal surgery and can happen with any stomach-related surgery, including procedures for diseases such stomach cancer (x).

Experiencing diarrhea and/or stomach cramps right after eating, particularly when the meal is high in sugar, is a common symptom of dumping syndrome. Other signs of the condition include dizziness, flushed skin, nausea, vomiting and bloating or feeling too full. A rapid heart rate and/or heart palpitations, which are sometimes more noticeable when lying down (and especially at night), are also potential signs of dumping (x).

While many people experience symptoms shortly after eating or early dumping, late dumping (or gastroparesis) is also common. This is when signs don’t show up for a few hours after a meal. Diarrhea, cramping, rapid heart rate and dizziness or lightheadedness symptoms are common in both early and late dumping; however, a person with late dumping syndrome may also feel weak and become sweaty. Some people experience both early and late symptoms, so it’s possible for the symptoms to emerge many years after a surgery (x).

Connection to Gastric Bypass Surgery

With a full gastric bypass surgery, the stomach size is greatly reduced and a new connection is made into the small intestine, bypassing about half of the small intestine. With gastric sleeve surgery, the stomach size is reduced by 70-80 percent, but the connection to the small intestine remains unchanged. In fact, gastric sleeve surgery was created to help the severely obese lose enough weight so they could have gastric bypass surgery. Conversely, it was discovered that patients lost enough weight with just the initial surgery (x).

Bowel movements after gastric sleeve surgery vary from person to person. Some have a BM shortly afterward, while others complain of days going by without anything. Staying hydrated is essential and can help get things moving again. If constipation becomes a problem, an increased intake in fiber or a laxative such as methylcellulose may be prescribed.

The mini-gastric bypass, which is a simplified version of the original or Roux-en-Y surgery, may also cause dumping, but less so than the standard bypass. As a general rule, the more of the stomach that’s removed, the more likely dumping is to happen (x).

Dumping Syndrome Symptoms

Dumping syndrome symptoms include stomach cramps and diarrhea right after eating, feeling dizzy, sweating or having a flushed face, a rumbling or growling stomach and nausea, particularly after eating sugar. Sugar will often act as an irritant on a stomach that has undergone gastric bypass surgery and can cause diarrhea (x).

Both early and late dumping syndrome exist, but the primary difference is that early symptoms are obvious right after eating. Late symptoms occur, of course, later — hours later or sometimes even longer after eating. A person may suffer from one or the other, or both (x).

Besides dumping, other side effects of gastric bypass surgery include dehydration, indigestion, food intolerances, dental woes, gall and/or kidney stones, difficulty swallowing and hair loss (x).

Dumping Syndrome Symptoms

Dumping Syndrome Causes

As mentioned previously, any stomach-related surgery can cause dumping syndrome. The most common causes are as follows:

  • Gastrectomy (stomach removal surgery)
  • Gastric bypass surgery
  • Esophagectomy (removal of part or all of the esophagus)
  • Any stomach-related surgery (for stomach cancer, etc.)

Supplements for Dumping Syndrome

Supplements that can help delay stomach emptying and thus reduce or eliminate the symptoms of dumping syndrome include fiber sources, including pectin, guar gum, psyllium husks, glucommanan and methylcellulose.

Pectin

Pectin is a type of fiber that comes from citrus fruits and legumes. Studies show that it can reduce or eliminate the symptoms associated with dumping syndrome by delaying the emptying of the stomach (x).

Guar Gum

Guar gum is another kind of fiber. It thickens a food’s texture and can be useful when eating a lot of pureed foods, such as in the early days following bariatric surgery. It’s been effective in studies to help increase the tolerance of food in those who suffer from dumping syndrome (x). Take 1,500 mg of this supplement one to three times daily 15-30 minutes before a meal.

Methylcellulose

Methylcellulose is a kind of fiber derived from plants that’s not digested by the body. For constipation, methylcellulose is often used as a laxative to help soften stools and make them easier to pass. Take 1,000 mg with 8 oz. of water up to six times per day (x).

Psyllium Husk

Psyllium husk is an edible form of soluble fiber that is partially digested in the large intestine. When mixed with water, it doesn’t dissolve but forms a gel instead. Like many of the other fibers listed, psyllium can also delay the emptying of the stomach (x). The usual dose for adults is 5 grams. Mix it into 8 oz. of water one to three times daily.

Glucomannan

Glucomannan is a fiber derived from the konjac plant that originated in Asia. It can absorb about 50 times its weight in water, and according to studies, can delay the emptying process from the stomach (x). Take 2 grams once or twice daily with 8 oz. of water 30 minutes before a meal.

How to Avoid Dumping Syndrome

You may hear the complaint, “Food goes right through me!” in those who have had gastric bypass surgery, and there is definitely an adjustment period. Thankfully, you and your body will recover from the procedure and adjust to a new diet.

What Not to Eat

Many foods are gas-producing culprits. By avoiding them, your stomach will likely feel less bloated and uncomfortable. The list of things to pass on include dairy products, sugar and artificial sweeteners, beans, ‘white’ or processed carbs, fried foods and alcohol. Certain vegetables can also cause flatulence, such as cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, artichokes and onions (x).

Follow the Gastric Bypass Diet

Many people prefer to avoid the bypass surgery and just follow the gastric bypass diet instead. The gastric bypass diet consists of about 60 grams of protein per day, a limited amount of fat and fewer than 10 grams of sugar at any one meal. In the early days following surgery, the food is either pureed or consumed in the form of liquid protein drinks (x).

Eat Smaller Meals

For those who have had the surgery and want to prevent dumping syndrome, it’s a good idea to eat five or six smaller meals, rather than three larger ones. Avoid drinking fluids for a half-hour both before and after meals. Increase your fiber intake and make sure every meal contains protein. Chew thoroughly. Avoid sugary foods and beverages, along with foods high in fat and alcohol (x).

The Bottom Line

Dumping syndrome is a condition in which food moves too quickly from the stomach to the small intestine and is a common side effect of gastric bypass surgery. Symptoms include diarrhea, dizziness and a loud, grumbly stomach. Fortunately, one can alleviate these symptoms by eating an appropriate diet. Supplements such as pectin, psyllium husk and glucomannan can also help.

About the author

Susan Seabury


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