What is Dumping Syndrome?
Dumping syndrome refers to several symptoms that may occur following the surgical removal of some or all of the stomach from weight loss surgery. Symptoms, which usually present themselves after eating range from nausea to diarrhoea to fainting.
This happens when food (especially sugar) moves too quickly through the stomach and is ‘dumped’ into the small intestine. The body has a tough time handling this rapid ‘dumping’ and responds by adding a large amount of fluid to the small intestine. This fluid is the cause of patient dumping symptoms. Thankfully, this does not usually require medical treatment.
There are two kinds of patient dumping, early and late. Both occur after a meal, especially after eating foods high in fat, carbohydrates or sugar (both table and natural, like that found in fruit).
Early dumping occurs within 30 minutes of eating a meal. In addition to high fat, high carbohydrate and high sugar foods, it can also be brought on by eating foods that are too hot or too cold, or drinking liquids during your meal. Such early symptoms include bloating, vomiting, diarrhoea, heart palpitations, nausea, sweating, dizziness and a rapid heart rate.
Late dumping is a form of hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar). When you ingest too much sugar, your now smaller stomach does not digest it properly so your intestines absorb and deposit too much of it into your bloodstream. Your body then compensates by releasing more insulin which makes your blood sugar drop. Symptoms for this late dumping include anxiety, heart palpitations, fainting, fatigue, diarrhoea, rapid heart rate, a strong feeling of hunger, sweating, weakness, dizziness and confusion.
As long as you do not stray from your prescribed weight loss surgery diet, you should not experience ‘dumping syndrome’. For this reason, many patients view the syndrome as a ‘blessing in disguise’ since it helps to keep their mind focussed on keeping up with their correct diet.
Interestingly, some patients’ tolerance for foods that might trigger ‘dumping syndrome’ can change over time. Some find that several years out of surgery they can tolerate small amounts of foods they could not eat in the earlier days.
As many as 80% of gastric bypass patients experience ‘dumping syndrome’ but less than 5% have serious problems with it. As a general rule, the more of your stomach that has been removed, the more likely you are to ‘dump’.