What Is Dumping Syndrome? - Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Instructor: Danielle Haak

Danielle has a PhD in Natural Resource Sciences and a MSc in Biological Sciences

What a peculiar name - dumping syndrome! What is dumping syndrome? Read this lesson to find out what it is, what causes it, what the symptoms are, and how it can be treated!

What is Dumping Syndrome?

Dumping syndrome sounds peculiar, doesn't it? It is the collective term for the symptoms experienced when food moves too quickly from the stomach to the small intestine. It is most commonly found in people who recently had surgery that removed part or all of the stomach. Dumping syndrome may also be known as rapid gastric emptying.

Symptoms of Dumping Syndrome

Most cases of dumping syndrome have two sets of symptoms. The first are felt either during eating or withing 15-30 minutes after eating, and include gastrointestinal distress and cardiovascular effects. Gastrointestinal symptoms may include nausea, cramps, vomiting, diarrhea, and feeling overly full. Cardiovascular symptoms may include flushing, dizziness or lightheadedness, or irregular heart beats.

The second set of symptoms are felt within 1-3 hours after eating. These symptoms can include sweating, hunger, fatigue, dizziness, mental confusion, irregular heart rate, and even fainting. Both sets of symptoms tend to be amplified after a high-sugar meal!

What Causes Dumping Syndrome?

Dumping syndrome is usually triggered by a surgery that removes part or all of the stomach, as well as gastric bypass surgery (the weight loss surgery). Once the traditional pathway is disrupted, food and stomach acid loads into the small intestine faster than usual, causing a rush of sugar to be absorbed by the small intestine. To combat this sugar rush, the pancreas releases insulin to process the sugar. When all of these things happen at once, hormones become 'out of whack' and we feel symptoms. More cases of dumping syndrome are reported now that gastric bypass surgery has become more common, and symptoms may begin right after surgery or may take a few weeks or months before they begin.

One form of gastric bypass surgery that separates the stomach into two segments and attaches both to the small intestine.
gastric bypass surgery

Treatment Options

The primary treatment option for dumping syndrome is adjusting the diet. Most symptoms can be alleviated by learning what the body 'accepts' and which foods cause distress. These changes may include eating smaller portions at a time to reduce the amount of food in the stomach at once, avoiding liquids with food, or changing the diet away from foods high in sugar. Other changes may include chewing food more thoroughly, increasing fiber, avoiding alcohol and acidic foods, and resting after meals.

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