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Dumping Syndrome

Dumping syndrome is a group of signs and symptoms that develops most often in people who have had surgery to remove all or part of their stomach, or in whom much of their stomach has been surgically bypassed to help lose weight e.g. gastric bypass surgery. Symptoms may come on quickly or a little while after eating but it tends to decrease over several months as the pouch and small intestine learn to work better together. Although dumping is uncomfortable, it is not dangerous.

Early dumping: 15-30 minutes after eating

It is thought to be caused by foods which are high in sugar passing too quickly from the stomach pouch into the small intestine. Because the food is very concentrated (dense) it attracts a correspondingly large amount of fluid into the gut causing it to become stretched and painful. Early dumping syndrome symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain, cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness
  • Bloating, belching
  • Fatigue
  • Heart palpitations, rapid heart rate

Late dumping: 1-3 hours after eating

Late dumping syndrome is caused by marked changes in blood sugar levels. When sugar is eaten it is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream triggering a rapid rise in blood sugar levels. The pancreas responds by secreting an equally large amount of hormones to deal with the excess blood sugar.  However, sometimes the pancreas produces too much, resulting in a low blood sugar level (hypoglycaemia). Late dumping syndrome symptoms include:

  • Sweating
  • Weakness, fatigue
  • Dizziness, light-headedness
  • Shakiness
  • Feelings of anxiety, nervousness
  • Heart palpitations, rapid heart rate
  • Fainting
  • Mental confusion

If you experience late dumping syndrome you need to eat a glucose sweet (anything sweet will do) immediately. Then eat something which is lower in sugar – eg. crackers, wholemeal biscuits, yoghurt etc. Here are some general tips to avoid both early and late dumping: 

10 Tips to Avoid Dumping Syndrome

  1. Avoid problem foods: Everyone tolerates food differently, avoid foods you know cause problems

  2. Eat smaller meals: Try taking 5 or 6 small meals a day rather than 2 or 3 larger ones

  3. Avoid drinking liquids with your meal:  Drink up to 15 minutes before eating and wait at least I hour after your meal before drinking again

  4. Reduce sugar and simple carbohydrates in your diet: Eat more low-carbohydrate foods and fewer simple carbohydrates such as sugar (found in sweets, chocolate, ice-cream, cakes, biscuits etc). Read labels on packaged food before buying, with the goal of not only avoiding foods with sugar in their ingredients list, but also looking for (and staying away from) alternative names for sugar, such as glucose, sucrose, fructose, dextrose, honey and corn syrup. Artificial sweeteners are acceptable alternatives

  5. Consume more protein: and adopt a high fibre diet with more fruit and vegetables

  6. Increase pectin intake: Found in many fruits eg peaches, apples, plums, as well as some fibre supplements, pectin can delay the absorption of carbohydrates in the small intestine

  7. Avoid acidic foods: Tomatoes and citrus fruits are harder for some people to digest

  8. Use low-fat cooking methods: Prepare meat and other foods by baking or grilling

  9. Vitamins and Minerals: Make sure you are taking your supplements as prescribed

  10. Lie down after eating: This may slow down the movement of food into your intestines
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*Weight loss surgery results and benefits vary and are different for each individual. As such, Healthier Weight cannot guarantee specific weight loss goals.