Bariatric surgeries can be lifesaving, but they’re not without consequence. Dumping syndrome is a frequent condition that occurs following weight loss surgery, stomach surgeries, and some esophageal surgeries. Dumping syndrome without surgery also occasionally occurs with patients who are otherwise in good health. The condition is also referred to as rapid gastric emptying and happens when food travels from the stomach to the small intestine at a faster than normal rate.
Another condition related to a disturbance in stomach emptying, gastroparesis, and dumping syndrome are related, but gastroparesis is the delay of emptying the stomach, the opposite of dumping syndrome. It can be treated with diet, medical devices, and surgery when needed.
With this rapid food transit through the GI system comes cramping and diarrhea as well as other uncomfortable and even dangerous physical symptoms. Some patients experience symptoms 10-30 minutes post-eating (early dumping), and other patients have these symptoms 1-3 hours after eating (late dumping). It’s also possible for patients to experience dumping symptoms during both of these time frames.
Finding dumping syndrome treatment can be as simple as making adjustments to diet or as extreme as requiring medications or even additional surgery.
Symptoms of Dumping Syndrome
The symptoms of early dumping syndrome follow quickly after eating. They include an overly full feeling, cramps, flushing, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, and even rapid heart rate.
Late dumping syndrome begins between one and three hours after eating. With late dumping syndrome, the body supplies large amounts of insulin to handle the sugars in the duodenum, causing low blood sugar. Other symptoms include flushing, sweating, dizziness, weakness, and rapid heart rate.
Risk Factors for Developing Dumping Syndrome
The most common dumping syndrome risk factors involve surgeries that modify the stomach. Many bariatric patients take years to develop dumping syndrome. While weight loss surgeries are the most common causes, surgeries for esophageal cancer, stomach cancer, or other maladies can all cause dumping syndrome. Dumping syndrome causes without surgery include functional dyspepsia and nerve damage. When dumping syndrome occurs with no surgery, the treatment will generally remain the same.
Preventing Dumping Syndrome
In most patients, dumping syndrome prevention is possible through dietary changes.
Increasing the fiber in your diet assists by making the absorption of carbohydrates in the small intestine take longer.
Limit or avoid lactose. The lactose in dairy products is a natural sugar that can aggravate your condition.
Consider changing the number and size of your meals. Eating less, more often can help.
Do not drink while you take your meals or in the 30 minutes pre and post mealtimes.
Lie down for 15 minutes after eating.
Focus on protein consumption within your diet and limit sugary foods.
Avoid drinking alcohol, caffeinated beverages, and carbonated liquids.
Avoid hot or cold food and drinks.
What to Expect during Your Medical Appointment
During the visit with your doctor, you’ll need to provide details about your medical history especially if dumping syndrome follows gastric sleeve or another bariatric surgery. The physician will also complete a physical evaluation and a discussion about your symptoms.
Testing completed during the exam might include a blood sugar test and a gastric emptying test. Both of these measurements can confirm the diagnosis, allowing for treatment for dumping syndrome. A blood sugar test that shows low blood sugar 1-3 hours after eating when the symptoms occur can indicate late dumping syndrome, and the gastric emptying test uses dye that demonstrates the speed of emptying for a concrete diagnosis.
What You Can Do
Knowing which dumping syndrome interventions are appropriate is a decision best left to your medical team. If you have symptoms of the condition, you should make an appointment to see your doctor even if you aren’t a surgical patient.
Red flags that the dumping syndrome you’re experiencing is a serious problem include a failure of diet to control the symptoms and significant weight loss caused by the condition.
After having weight loss surgery, early dumping syndrome usually calms down after three months post op. While diet usually controls the symptoms, if it doesn’t, or if the condition continues, treatments include dumping syndrome medication and surgery.
Anticipated Treatments for Dumping Syndrome
When diet and lifestyle changes fail to treat dumping syndrome, doctors may prescribe Sandostatin (octreotide). This medicine is taken as an injection and works to slow stomach emptying, but it may cause feelings of nausea and vomiting. Other medications you may be prescribed include the following:
- Octreotide LAR
If diet and medication fail, the question of how to treat dumping syndrome will extend to surgery. Many revision surgeries address the condition, some of which reconstruct the pylorus or reverse the gastric bypass procedure. The severity of surgical options range from reconstructive to completely bypassing the GI system via feeding tube, a last resort that will significantly inhibit the quality of life.
If you’re in the hospital or clinic and experience dumping syndrome, nursing interventions might include being placed in the low Fowler’s position to postpone gastric emptying. You might also be provided with simple sugars like soda or fruit juice.
Those determined to deal with gastric dumping syndrome without surgery might also try supplements or further dietary modifications designed to thicken the chyme held within the stomach. Pectin, black and blond psyllium, and guar gum are all potential supplements, and making sure to include a serving of protein and a serving of fat will also thicken digestive contents. Being careful with diet and eating habits should serve you well and help avoid the unpleasant symptoms.
Experiencing dumping syndrome after gastric sleeve or another GI surgery ought to be anticipated. You can proactively limit the severity of the symptoms by following the dumping syndrome diet ati. However, if these symptoms continue past the point when your doctor has told you to expect it, you must take measures beyond diet and lifestyle changes to limit the occurrence.
Following bariatric surgery or another GI surgery, you may experience dumping syndrome. Through changing your approach to food and eating, as well as consulting with your physician, you should be able to minimize the condition and return to normal health.