If you’ve never heard of dumping syndrome, you may be wondering what it refers to. Dumping syndrome is the rapid emptying of the bowels to the small bowel or duodenum following a meal. Dumping syndrome can be early—occurring in the first half hour after a meal or late—occurring one-to-three hours after a meal. Dumping syndrome symptoms include dizziness and lightheadedness, nausea, diarrhea, and fatigue. Interestingly, dumping syndrome can occur in anyone. Learn what causes dumping syndrome and exactly how to prevent gastric dumping to avoid this not uncommon medical event.
What are Dumping Syndrome Symptoms?
If you’re experiencing gastrointestinal distress and want to know if what you’re experiencing is dumping syndrome, self-assess by asking if you have these issues.
If the symptoms are within 30 minutes of your last meal, it could be a sign of early dumping syndrome. Early dumping syndrome can present with the following symptoms:
- Bloat or extreme fullness
- Nausea / vomiting
- Abdominal pain and cramping
- Stomach growling / rumbling
- Light headedness, dizziness, fainting
- Fatigue / tiredness
- Irregular heartbeat
Late dumping syndrome, meanwhile, typically occur one-to-three hours after your last meal and can present with the following symptoms:
- Poor focus
- Fast heartbeat
- Fatigue / tiredness
- Shaking / jitteriness
- Lightheadedness / fainting
To know if your experience with dumping syndrome is cause for concern or merits contacting a doctor, you need to learn the causes of dumping syndrome as some are more predisposed than others to this issue.
What Causes Dumping Syndrome?
While it’s known that dumping syndrome is caused by food too rapidly vacating the stomach and passing to the duodenum, the exact cause for this rapid passing and the circumstances surrounding it are what you need to be most aware of.
When dumping syndrome occurs, your stomach, which is responsible for digestive hormone production, kicks into overdrive and pushes for more rapid hormone production. This creates a rush of hormones and fluids to the small intestine, which likely causes the symptoms of dumping syndrome.
There’s a suspicion that the rush or digestive hormones cause the pancreas to produce an excess of insulin, which is why there’s a blood glucose low that occurs 1-3 hours after the dumping syndrome event.
Importantly, while this can happen to anyone, dumping syndrome is most common among those who have had bariatric and other surgeries related to the digestive tract. These surgeries include:
- Gastric bypass or gastric sleeve for weight loss
- Esophageal removal procedures for esophagus problems including cancer and Barrett’s esophagus
- Surgeries to treat reflux conditions and hiatal hernias
- Gastrectomy, which is a surgery that removes all or part of the stomach common in treatment of stomach cancer and peptic ulcers
- Vagotomy, which is a surgery that involves cutting the vagus nerve to reduce the production of stomach acid
Note that you can experience dumping syndrome without surgery. If you do, it may be because of a medical condition such as diabetes; those with type 2 diabetes are more vulnerable to gastric dumping. Duodenal ulcers and pancreatic exocrine deficiency can also be causes for gastric dumping in those who have not experienced any kind of gastric or esophageal surgery.
How Does One Prevent Dumping Syndrome?
While dumping syndrome occurs in one in 10 people who have gastric surgery, it is not a desirable side effect. Thankfully, one can prevent dumping syndrome symptoms with dietary change.
Because dumping syndrome is typically caused by consuming high sugar foods, your doctor will recommend a diet low in sugary foods. You will also be encouraged to:
- Eat a diet with higher-fiber foods
- Eat a diet with higher-protein foods
- Eat a diet comprised of natural foods
- Drink your fluids before and after (30-60 minutes) meals rather than with meals
- Eat more smaller meals during the day as opposed to three large meals
- Lay down after eating
You should also check with your doctor about alcohol consumption. Though often consumed in social settings, alcohol can be very disruptive digestively and because of its impacts on metabolic process, alcohol can be a contributor in dumping syndrome depending on how you consume it.
When is Dumping Syndrome a Problem?
Dumping syndrome can be a problem if it is ongoing because it can lead to malnutrition and extreme weight loss. Even for those who have had gastric surgeries for weight loss do not want to suffer this dilemma because it can lead to major negative health issues.
If you experience dumping syndrome, it’s important to contact your doctor. Even though dumping syndrome is more common with surgeries, it’s possible to experience dumping syndrome with a gastric balloon, and if you do, that could be a signal that further dietary changes are needed.
If you are already following a diet consistent with high-protein, low refined sugars, high fiber, etc., then you should definitely reach out to your doctor to rule out other health issues. Again, dumping syndrome can lead to malnourishment and dangerous weight loss, so if it’s something you experience and have a cause for concern, contact your health care provider. Now that you know what is dumping syndrome, you can avoid and manage it.
While dumping syndrome isn’t a common occurrence with gastric balloons, it is a possible health outcome. This is why we at Spatz Medical make sure to help everyone make the proper dietary adjustments. These help prevent dumping syndrome and enhance the performance of your Spatz3 Adjustable Gastric Balloon