Dumping syndrome can happen to anyone, but it is more common in previous patients with gastric surgery procedures, including gastric bypass surgery and sleeve gastrectomy.

Dumping syndrome occurs when foods leave the stomach and enter the intestine too quickly, especially if these foods are high in simple sugars or fat. Once the food is in your intestine, the intestine will pull water from other parts of your body in an attempt to dilute the concentration of sugar or fat in your digestive system; this process creates numerous symptoms. Dumping syndrome can occur while eating a meal or within five to ten minutes of finishing your meal.

What is Dumping Syndrome?

According to the Mayo Clinic, the dumping syndrome occurs when the stomach empties its contents rapidly into the small intestine. Partially digested food causes excess fluid to build up in the small intestine, resulting in diarrhea, nausea, stomach cramping, and heart palpitations. There are different causes of dumping syndrome, ranging from what you eat and post-surgical complications.

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.

Sugar Guidelines to Prevent Dumping Syndrome

To prevent dumping syndrome, you will need to 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.

Common Dumping Syndrome Symptoms

The first set of symptoms tends to be shared among all patients who have dumping syndrome, as Mayo Clinic reported. These symptoms include nausea and vomiting, stomach cramps, feeling full quickly, diarrhea, dizziness or faintness, rapid heart rate, heart palpitations, and skin flushing. Others that may come along later are hunger, fatigue, sweating, and confusion.

Early Phase Dumping Syndrome

Early signs of dumping syndrome are abdominal fullness, abdominal cramping, and nausea. 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. Late signs of dumping syndrome are very much like having low blood sugar. They can occur 1 to 3 hours after the original dumping episode. You may feel shaky, weak, or nauseous.

It may also help to view the symptoms as separated by different phases of dumping syndrome. The first phase occurs about 30-60 minutes after having a meal or snack.

The earliest symptoms are;

  • Feeling full
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal cramping or other stomach pain
  • Flushing, sweating
  • Lightheadedness
  • Rapid heartbeat.

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

Late Phase Dumping Syndrome

Late phase dumping syndrome occurs after it has been 1-3 hours since the last meal. These symptoms can come without early phase symptoms or add to them, including;

  • Flushing
  • Sweating
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Hunger
  • 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.

Gastroparesis and Dumping Syndrome

Gastroparesis is a syndrome that is caused by a 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

Dumping syndrome is a frequent side effect from bariatric procedures that alter 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% in gastric bypass patients.

Diagnosis and Treatment Options

If you are showing any of these signs of dumping syndrome, consult your doctor. After a series of tests are performed, 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 to 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 improve the success of your weight loss surgery.

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