Some bariatric procedures, such as gastric bypass surgery, alter the digestive tract, meaning patients may experience a side effect called rapid gastric emptying. Also known as dumping syndrome, this condition causes the stomach to empty too quickly following a meal, leading to cramping and diarrhea, weakness, nausea, vomiting, sweating, lightheadedness, flushing, or even heart palpitations. The team at Tijuana Bariatrics in Tijuana, Mexico, will provide detailed recovery instructions, including how to address this side effect. Dumping syndrome can typically be avoided if patients adopt healthy eating habits and do not eat and drink at the same time.*
What Causes Dumping Syndrome?
The anatomical changes caused by certain types of bariatric surgery mean that the food patients eat does not follow the normal course of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Dumping syndrome occurs when food, especially sugar, moves too quickly from the stomach to the first part of the small intestine (duodenum).
Dumping syndrome can typically be avoided if patients adopt healthy eating habits, such as choosing whole grains over refined starches.
Depending on when the symptoms occur, the condition is categorized as either early dumping syndrome and late dumping syndrome.
Early Dumping Syndrome
This form of the condition occurs when the patient eats a large amount of food and undigested particles enter the small intestine too quickly. During normal digestion, food is broken down and regulated by the valves at the top and bottom of the stomach, then pass into the small intestine at a controlled rate. After bariatric surgery, food mixes with saliva instead of stomach acid, and fluids flush into the small intestine to dilute the food. This rapid movement of fluid typically causes symptoms 10 to 30 minutes after a meal.
Late Dumping Syndrome
Late dumping syndrome occurs two to three hours after a meal, when foods which are high in sugar move rapidly into the intestine. This raises the patient's glucose level and causes the pancreas to release additional insulin. The increased insulin level results in a rapid drop in blood glucose levels, causing hypoglycemia or low blood sugar. Patients may experience symptoms such as hunger, shaking, anxiety, perspiration, exhaustion, and fainting.
Minimizing the Effects
Patients should be aware that dumping syndrome is one of the possible side effects of bariatric surgery. Although some individuals will require treatment such as medication, many patients find that simple dietary changes can provide relief:
- Avoid foods and beverages which are high in sugar such as cookies, baked goods, and soda.
- Do not eat too much at once. Instead, consider having five to six smaller meals throughout the day.
- Avoid simple carbohydrates such as white bread and pasta.
- Incorporate more fiber into your diet with whole wheat and grains.
- Do not drink fluids 30 minutes prior to or after a meal.
- Eat more protein such as chicken, turkey, and tofu.
- Chew food thoroughly to aid digestion.
You should steer clear of foods marked as "sugar-free" as the sugar substitutes contain ingredients that can trigger symptoms. Patients should also be careful about avoiding nutritional deficiencies since dumping syndrome can affect the body's ability to properly absorb nutrients from food. Your doctor can provide further guidance in this area.