Dumping syndrome sometimes happens after stomach surgery. Dumping syndrome is caused by food or fluid (especially sugar containing foods and fluids) passing quickly into the small intestine. This may cause one or more symptoms such as abdominal pain or fullness, nausea, diarrhea, dizziness, weakness, sweating, and fatigue.
Early versus late dumping
“Early Dumping” typically starts during or immediately after a meal. It is typically triggered by simple sugars (high and some moderately high sugar foods) emptying into the intestine. This can also happen with foods high in fat. The simple sugars attract a large amount of fluid to the small bowel causing it to become stretched (causing cramping pain). In turn, these cramps trigger hormonal and nerve responses that causes the heart to race (causing palpitations) and also may cause sweating. You may also experience vomiting or diarrhea.
“Late” dumping typically occurs 1 to 3 hours after eating. This happens because of fluctuations in blood glucose levels. When sugar (carbohydrate) is eaten it is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream triggering a rapid rise in blood sugar levels. The pancreas responds by secreting insulin and sometimes this is too much which results in low blood sugar. You may have symptoms such as weakness, dizziness and fatigue and also feel flushed and sweaty.
Tips to avoid dumping syndrome
You can avoid early and late dumping by avoiding the foods and beverages that cause dumping. Each person has a different tolerance and you will discover what your personal safe foods might be throughout your post-operative life. Some people can only tolerate foods that contain no more than 10 grams of carbohydrate per serving. The Nutrition Facts Label will tell you how many grams of carbohydrate are in the food item.
Be aware that what affects you may change from day to day and even change over time. What you tolerate in your early post-operative course might not be tolerated later on, and vice versa. Keeping a food diary will help you keep track of what you eat so that you can document your dumping and relate it back to a specific food.
Changing your diet (the foods you eat and how you prepare them) can help you to avoid dumping syndrome. People who have dumping syndrome need to eat several small meals a day that are high in protein and low in carbohydrates. You should drink liquids in between meals. After you finish eating, wait at least 45 minutes before sipping fluids. People who have changed their diet and still have dumping syndrome may need to take medicine to slow their digestion.
Here are some additional tips:
- Everyone tolerates food differently — Keep a food journal and avoid food that you know cause you problems.
- Read your food labels.
- Focus on protein foods for meals and snacks.
- Eat small, frequent meals such as 2-3 oz. portions every 2-3 hours. Try to include protein throughout the day and limit sugary/fatty foods/fluids as much as possible. Eat less processed/prepackaged foods and instead focus on more “whole foods” such as lean meats and other protein foods, vegetables and fruits which are found around the exterior edges of the grocery store. (Most processed foods line the isle ways of the interior/middle portion of the grocery store.)
- Avoid drinking liquids with your meal — try to wait 30-45 minutes or more after eating before sipping on fluids again.
- Avoid beverages that contain sugar such as regular soda pop and all types of juices.
- Avoid cream based soups and other foods that may be high in fat.
- If you have problems with hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), avoid sugar and sweets, such as candy, soda, cakes and cookies, honey, jams, etc. [this is usually the problem with “late” dumping]