Dumping syndrome can happen to anyone, but it is more common after undergoing bariatric procedures like gastric bypass and gastric sleeve surgery. Also known as rapid gastric emptying, dumping occurs when foods leave the stomach and enter the intestine too quickly. Eating foods high in simple sugars or fat has the highest prevalence of causing dumping.

Dumping syndrome is a frequent side effect of bariatric procedures that alters the stomach or esophagus’s anatomy. Roux-en-Y gastric bypass and sleeve gastrectomy are some of the most common culprits of dumping syndrome. These side effects occur in about 10-15% of gastric sleeve patients and 25-40% of gastric bypass patients.

Dumping Syndrome After Bariatric Surgery - Signs and Symptoms

What is dumping syndrome?

According to Mayo Clinic, dumping syndrome occurs when the stomach empties its contents rapidly into the small intestine. Partially digested food causes excess fluid in the small intestine, resulting in diarrhea, nausea, stomach cramping, and heart palpitations. When food enters the intestine, the digestive system pulls water from different body parts to dilute the concentration of sugar or fat in your digestive system; this process creates numerous signs and symptoms. Dumping syndrome can occur while eating or within 30 minutes of finishing your meal.

Dumping syndrome is more typical in weight loss surgery patients because food movement can be irregular, causing it to be dumped into the small intestine too quickly.

What are the signs and symptoms of dumping?

The first set of symptoms tends to be shared among all patients who have dumping syndrome: diarrhea, abdominal cramping, and nausea. Additional side effects include vomiting, stomach cramps, feeling full quickly, dizziness or faintness, rapid heart rate, heart palpitations, and skin flushing. It can also result in excessive hunger, fatigue, sweating, and confusion. Dumping syndrome is classified into two categories; early and late dumping.

Early dumping syndrome

Early signs of dumping syndrome occur within 30 minutes after eating. You may feel warm, dizzy, weak, or faint. You may also experience a rapid heartbeat and break out in a cold sweat. Often dumping syndrome is accompanied by diarrhea, but not always.

Early phase dumping syndrome is usually the result of stretching of the small intestine or hormones released into the small intestine’s bloodstream.

Late dumping syndrome

Late signs of dumping syndrome generally occur 1 to 3 hours after eating or following the early dumping episode. It may feel a lot like having low blood sugar. You may feel shaky, weak, and nauseous. These symptoms can come with or without early phase symptoms.

  • Flushing
  • Sweating
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Hunger
  • Cold sweats
  • Rapid heartbeat or palpitations
  • Shakiness, dizziness, or passing out
  • Confusion
  • Lack of concentration

Late phase dumping syndrome symptoms are often because of the rapid rise and fall of blood pressure.

How to get diagnosed and treated

If you are showing any signs of dumping syndrome, consult your doctor. After a series of tests, you should have an official diagnosis. To treat it, changing your diet is usually the first step. This includes avoiding foods like sweets, cakes, candies, soda and sweetened juice, pastries, and some bread. You may also be instructed to avoid alcohol and dairy products. Foods you are encouraged to eat are fiber, complex carbohydrates, and drinking plenty of water.

How can I prevent dumping syndrome?

To prevent dumping syndrome, you must avoid eating too much simple sugar and/or too much fat at a meal. You must eat slowly. Each individual will likely tolerate a different amount of simple sugar and/or fat. For this reason, you will need to learn what your limits are by paying attention to the nutrient content of your meal.

Step 1: Refer to the nutrition facts label of the product. If the product has less than 5 grams of sugar, this will likely be a well-tolerated food or beverage.

Step 2: If the product has more than 5 grams of sugar, read its ingredient label. If one of the first five ingredients is an added simple sugar – avoid this product.

Avoid these added simple sugars:

  • Cane sugar
  • Sugar-in-the-Raw
  • Confectioner’s sugar
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Maple syrup
  • Maltose
  • Molasses
  • Malt
  • Sucrose
  • Table sugar
  • Brown sugar
  • Dextrose

Step 3: Foods and beverages that naturally contain sugar (such as milk, fruit, and starchy vegetables) are typically tolerated; however, some people experience dumping syndrome if the portions are too large. Fruit juice should be limited to 8 ounces per day and diluted 50/50 with water.

How can I avoid dumping syndrome?

By eating smaller snacks throughout the day, not drinking liquids right after eating, and stopping your meals once you feel full, you can avoid dumping syndrome. In most cases, dumping syndrome is easy to treat simply by changing your lifestyle, including what, how, and when you eat. Make small changes to see if your symptoms start to subside, consulting a doctor if it doesn’t get better.

Many patients who have had weight loss surgery assume these symptoms are normal. While dumping syndrome isn’t a serious medical condition in most cases, you should still let your doctor know. Keep in mind what you are eating when choosing fiber-rich foods, fruits, and vegetables over sweets and pastries. Not only will it help to prevent dumping syndrome, but it will improve the success of your weight loss surgery.

How is dumping different from gastroparesis?

Gastroparesis is a syndrome that is caused by delayed gastric emptying without the occurrence of any obstruction to the gastric outlet. Symptoms of gastroparesis include;

  • Early satiety
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Postprandial fullness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal cramping

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