Dumping syndrome is a group of symptoms that are 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 move too rapidly into your small bowel. Common symptoms include abdominal cramps, nausea and diarrhea.
Most people with dumping syndrome experience symptoms soon after eating. In others, symptoms may occur one to three hours after eating. Some people experience both early and late symptoms.
Dumping syndrome is managed by adjusting your diet. In more-serious cases of dumping syndrome, you may need medications or surgery.
Symptoms of dumping syndrome are most common during a meal or within 15 to 30 minutes following a meal. They include:
Signs and symptoms also can develop later, usually one to three hours after eating. This is due to the dumping of large amount of sugars into the small intestine (hyperglycemia). In response, the body releases large amounts of insulin to absorb the sugars, leading to low levels of sugar in the body (hypoglycemia). Symptoms of late dumping can include:
A study of more than 1,100 people who had their stomachs surgically removed found that about two-thirds experienced early symptoms and about a third experienced late symptoms of dumping syndrome. Some people experience both early and late signs and symptoms.
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).
When to see a doctor
In dumping syndrome, food and gastric juices from your stomach move to your small intestine in an uncontrolled, abnormally fast manner. This is most often related to changes in your stomach associated with surgery, such as when the opening (pylorus) between your stomach and the small intestine (duodenum) has been removed during an operation.
The pylorus acts as a brake so that stomach emptying is gradual. When it's removed, stomach material dumps rapidly into the small intestine. The ill effects of this are thought to be caused by the release of gastrointestinal hormones in the small intestine, as well as insulin secreted to process the sugar (glucose).
Dumping syndrome can occur after any operation on the stomach as well as after removal of the esophagus (esophagectomy). Gastric bypass surgery for weight loss is the most common cause today. 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.
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 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).
Here's some information to help you get ready, and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
Questions to ask your doctor
Don't hesitate to ask questions anytime 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. (See recommendations under Lifestyle and home remedies.) If it doesn't, your doctor may advise medications or surgery to address the problem.
The medications that doctors most frequently prescribe are:
Because octreotide carries the risk of side effects (diarrhea, bulky stools, gallstones, flatulence, bloating) in some people, doctors recommend it only for people who haven't responded to other treatments and who are not candidates for surgery.
Lifestyle and home remedies
Here are some dietary treatment strategies that your doctor may recommend and that you can do on your own. They can help maintain good nutrition and minimize your symptoms.
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 thicken the digestive contents and slow its progress through the intestines. 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.
Last Updated: 2013-02-23
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