Dumping syndrome might sound like a term coined for someone with serious relationship problems.
But you might be surprised to find that dumping syndrome is a complication commonly associated with some forms of bariatric surgery.
As a bariatric surgery patient, you should do all you can to avoid dumping syndrome, which can be extremely uncomfortable.
Keep reading to learn more about this annoying ailment, and how to avoid it while you continue along on your successful weight loss journey.
What is Dumping Syndrome?
Dumping syndrome happens when the contents of the stomach empty too rapidly into the intestine.
The medical condition is also referred to as rapid gastric emptying.
If you are unlucky enough to experience dumping syndrome, you might feel nauseous with abdominal cramping.
These symptoms appear because the small intestine is unable to absorb all the food that has emptied from the stomach. This means the food has not been digested properly.
You are at risk of dumping syndrome if you have had certain types of bariatric surgery.
One culprit that tends to lead to this condition is gastric bypass surgery.
What are the Two Types of Dumping Syndrome?
Medical experts have classified dumping syndrome into two specific types.
Early Dumping Syndrome
This condition type occurs when large quantities of food slip from your stomach into your small intestine (duodenum).
When the food moves, it tends to bring a heavy amount of fluid with it.
This fluid, which is a mixture of stomach acid and partially digested food and drinks, rushes into your small intestine. It causes symptoms like queasiness and diarrhea.
The symptoms of early dumping usually manifest within 30 minutes after eating.
Early dumping syndrome is the most common form of this bariatric surgery complication.
Late Dumping Syndrome
This type of condition happens when significant amounts of sugar (glucose) from the foods and beverages you consume slip quickly into the small intestine.
A heap of sugar in your duodenum can cause your blood sugar to rise faster than is considered normal.
The pancreas responds to this by releasing the hormone insulin.
Insulin causes your blood glucose levels to fall quickly, which can cause low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) and other symptoms, such as weakness and sweating.
Symptoms of late dumping appear within 1 to 3 hours after eating.
Most people have either early or late dumping syndrome, but it is also possible for one person to suffer from both forms of the condition.
How Long Does Dumping Syndrome Last?
In most cases, dumping syndrome symptoms improve over time.
Nearly 75% of patients who undergo gastric bypass surgery will experience dumping symptoms following their treatment. Most find their symptoms disappear within a year and a half.
Why Does Dumping Syndrome Happen?
To understand why dumping syndrome occurs, you should be familiar with the functions of normal digestion.
When you digest food, the stomach will empty its contents into the duodenum, which is the upper portion of the small intestine.
The food is emptied in a controlled manner where oversized food particles are filtered out.
For some bariatric patients, the changes made during surgery result in a dysfunction of the digestive system.
One function of bariatric surgeries like gastric bypass surgery is to make your stomach smaller.
With a smaller stomach, you may lose the ability of the pylorus, which is the body part responsible for acting as a stomach dam.
Without a fully functioning pylorus, larger food particles might be released too quickly into the duodenum, which is when dumping syndrome occurs.
What are Symptoms of Dumping Syndrome?
The symptoms you experience with this condition can vary.
Early dumping syndrome tends to make patients experience bloating, weakness, dizziness, cold sweats, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramping, and nausea.
Late dumping syndrome can deliver annoying symptoms like cold sweats, dizziness, rapid heartbeat, irregular heartbeat, weakness, and low blood sugar (hypoglycemia).
How do Doctors Diagnose Dumping Syndrome?
A doctor will begin a dumping syndrome diagnosis by assessing your specific symptoms and the type of bariatric surgery you underwent.
A series of tests can then be used to determine if you do in fact have dumping syndrome while also ruling out alternative medical problems.
Gastric Emptying Test
This assessment measures the way your stomach empties its contents in the hours following a meal.
Before you take the test, you’ll eat a meal containing a trace amount of radioactive material.
A special scanner used by your doctor can then identify the food in your stomach and its movement through your gastrointestinal tract.
Gastric emptying tests can be conducted at a radiology center or your local hospital.
Upper GI Endoscopy
This test employs the use of an endoscope, which is a flexible tube-shaped camera with a light on the end.
Your doctor uses the scope to peer into the internal workings of your digestive system: your esophagus, stomach, and small intestine (duodenum).
The results of this test can also help your doctor identify additional medical problems that could be leading to your symptoms, such as an ulcer or stomach lining inflammation.
Glucose Tolerance Test
With this assessment, your doctor will draw a sample of your blood after you have fasted for at least eight hours.
After one blood draw, you will drink a glucose solution. More blood samples are then taken every thirty minutes for up to three hours.
The results of the test will help your doctor determine who your body uses insulin to bring your body’s blood glucose levels under control.
Upper GI Series
With this test, your doctor will tell you to remain seated or stand in front of an X-ray machine.
You’ll then drink a barium solution, which your doctor can see on the X-ray.
The barium makes some complications like intestinal blockages more visible on X-rays.
Using this test, your doctor can observe how your body processes liquids to determine if you are suffering from dumping syndrome.
Who is Most at Risk for Dumping Syndrome?
You are more likely to experience dumping syndrome when you undergo a bariatric surgery that removes or bypasses major portions of your stomach.
Gastric bypass surgery is one example.
You can also experience this complication of bariatric surgery if you have some medical conditions, such as functional dyspepsia.
Functional dyspepsia causes the upper part of your digestive tract, including your stomach and esophagus, to consistently push food forward.
Some types of nerve damage caused by esophageal surgery can also affect how well your stomach retains and passes food to the small intestine.
How to Avoid Dumping Syndrome
Is dumping syndrome becoming a regular occurrence for you?
You can alleviate your symptoms by making a few lifestyle changes.
For example, instead of eating three substantial meals throughout the day, switch to five or six smaller meals.
Keep away from soda, baked goods, and sugary foods like chocolate bars.
Eat protein-rich foods like fish, chicken, tofu, and peanut butter.
Try to get more fiber in your diet. You can try switching things up from simple carbohydrates like pasta and white bread to whole grains like whole-wheat toast and oatmeal. Fiber supplements can also help. Eating lots of fiber helps sugar and carbohydrates absorb more slowly into the intestines.
When it comes to drinking fluids, wait at least 30-minutes before and after meals.
While you eat, do your best to chew your food slowly and completely before you swallow, which helps with digestion.
You can also try lying down after meals and adding thickening agents to the foods you eat.
Finally, your doctor may recommend that you take a nutritional supplement or a prescription medication such as octreotide (brand name Sandostatin), which is a drug that alters the operation of your digestive tract.
When you take this drug, the food in your stomach will empty into the duodenum more slowly. The drug also blocks the pancreas from releasing insulin.
Some side effects of the drug include nausea, pain at the injection site, foul-smelling stool, and changes in blood sugar levels.
When Should You Call a Doctor About Dumping Syndrome?
If you have undergone bariatric surgery and are experiencing dumping syndrome, call and let your doctor know if your symptoms fail to improve or get worse.
In severe cases, a follow-up surgery may be required to repair the pylorus, which can help to alleviate symptoms of dumping syndrome.
Dumping Syndrome is Common. Now You Know How to Avoid It.
You may or may not experience dumping syndrome as a patient of bariatric surgery. If you do ever feel the awful symptoms of this common complication, you now have several means of alleviating your discomfort.
You can also mitigate your chances of ever experiencing the condition by putting effort into finding the best bariatric surgeon in your area.
Want to learn more about bariatric surgery and how it can help you defeat obesity for good?
Call Healthy Life Bariatrics today. We are home to world-renowned bariatric surgeon, Dr. Babak Moeinolmolki, and we help patients like you throughout Los Angeles, Encino, and Glendale, California, achieve better health. Ask about our medical tourism program for those living outside the L.A. area. Dial now to get started – (310)694-4486.