Dumping syndrome after gastric bypass surgery is when food gets “dumped” directly from your stomach pouch into your small intestine without being digested. There are 2 types of dumping syndrome: early and late. Early dumping happens 10 to 30 minutes after a meal. Late dumping happens 1 to 3 hours after eating. Each has slightly different symptoms, such as abdominal cramping, fast heartbeat, lightheadedness, and diarrhea.
Early dumping syndrome can occur because of the dense mass of food that gets dumped into your small intestine at an earlier stage of digestion. The intestines sense that this food mass is too concentrated, and release gut hormones. Your body reacts by shifting fluid circulating in your bloodstream to the inside of your intestine. As a result, your intestines become fuller and bloated. Diarrhea often occurs 30 to 60 minutes later. In addition, certain substances are released by your intestine that affect heart rate and often blood pressure, causing many of the symptoms of early dumping. This can lead to lightheadedness or even fainting.
Symptoms of late dumping happen because of a decrease in blood sugar level (reactive hypoglycemia). Reactive hypoglycemia is low blood sugar caused 1 to 3 hours after a large surge of insulin. You are more likely to have dumping syndrome if you eat a meal heavy in starches or sugars. The sugars can be either fructose or table sugar (sucrose). Insulin levels can increase to high levels, then lower your blood sugar too much.
Dumping syndrome can happen in at least 3 out of 20 people who have had a part of their stomach removed for any reason.
Most people have early dumping symptoms. Typical early dumping symptoms can include:
About 1 in 4 people have late dumping symptoms. The symptoms of late dumping syndrome can include:
Your healthcare team will likely diagnose dumping syndrome based on your symptoms and when they occur. Tell him or her which foods or liquids give you symptoms. You may also need to have a glucose tolerance test or hydrogen breath test to help your healthcare provider diagnose you.
The main treatment for dumping syndrome is changes in your diet. These include
Another option is to slow gastric emptying by making your food thicker. Your healthcare provider may advise adding 15 grams of guar gum or pectin to each meal. But many people don’t tolerate these additions to their food.
If dietary changes don’t help, your healthcare provider may give you some slow-release prescription medicines. In rare cases, these may help, but they often don’t work. In severe cases of dumping syndrome, your healthcare provider may suggest tube feeding or corrective surgery.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:
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