Symptoms and causes

What is it?

Dumping syndrome is when the stomach empties too quickly and is one of the most important side effects after a gastric bypass. Because the pylorus (stomach sphincter) is bypassed, the food cannot be released in small quantities into the small intestine, but rather is quickly 'dumped' in large 'pieces' into the small intestine. This leads to reactions in the gastrointestinal tract, which cause symptoms after eating.

What are the symptoms?

There are two types of symptoms with dumping syndrome: early and late dumping symptoms.

Early dumping symptoms start a half hour after meals and vary from a bloated feeling, diarrhoea, nausea, headache, stomach pain, and cramps to a drop in blood pressure (accompanied by dizziness, drowsiness, and heart palpitations).

Late dumping symptoms start somewhat later (1-1.5 hours) after eating. These may include sweating, shaking, sleepiness, confusion and feeling hungry. Since food enters the small intestine too quickly, sugars circulate to quickly in the bloodstream, causing an overproduction of insulin (that ensures that sugar in the blood are taken up by the surrounding tissues). If the blood sugar leel normalises, insulin is still produced and leads to a low blood sugar level, or hypoglycemia, as a result.

The symptoms usually disappear by themselves and often improve by lying down.

What are the causes?

Dumping syndrome has various causes:

  • eating too quickly;
  • not chewing thoroughly;
  • drinking during or after eating;
  • eating foods that are either too fatty or too sugary;
  • drinking sweet beverages (sodas or fruit juices);
  • eating oversized portions;
  • consuming too much lactose (dairy products);
  • an irregular eating pattern.

Diagnosis and treatment

Treatment consists of dietary adjustments and, if this is insufficiently effective, medication may be started (diabetes medication or somatostatin).

Latest publication date: 11/01/2022