Dumping Syndrome

What Is Dumping Syndrome?

Dumping syndrome is a medical condition in which food leaves the stomach for the small intestines before it is properly digested. Think of it as your stomach being in too much of a hurry to do a good job with the tasks assigned it by your body. Dumping syndrome can affect anything you eat, but is more severe with foods that are high in sugar. Rapid gastric emptying is another term for the same condition.

There are two forms of dumping syndrome, early and late. Early dumping syndrome occurs within 10 to 30 minutes after a meal. Late dumping syndrome occurs two to three hours after a meal. Both forms should be addressed through diet or medical attention. 


Early dumping syndrome symptoms:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal pain, cramping, or feelings of bloat
  • Diarrhea 
  • Sweating, dizziness, or weakness
  • Flushing and rapid or irregular heartbeat

Late dumping syndrome symptoms:

  • Hypoglycemia (low sugar levels)
  • Sweating, dizziness, or weakness
  • Flushing and rapid or irregular heartbeat

Keep in mind that different persons can respond in different ways to dumping syndrome.


Dumping syndrome is generally the unwanted result of bariatric or weight-reduction surgery. Included among these procedures are gastric bypass surgeries, which decrease the stomach’s size, and gastrectomies, which remove a portion of the stomach from use. Another dumping syndrome cause is surgery on the esophagus. Any of these procedures can limit the body’s ability to control the movement of food through the gastrointestinal or GI system, leading to accelerated digestion and elimination.

Dumping syndrome is one of the most common complications of bariatric surgery. Up to 50% of those who have had a gastrectomy may experience it. It also occurs in around 10% of those who have had any type of gastric surgery.

Risk Factors

You may be at risk for dumping syndrome if you undergo bariatric or esophageal surgery. Dumping syndrome is otherwise uncommon.


Physicians perform a dumping syndrome diagnosis based on individual symptoms and the results of one or more diagnostic procedures. These may include:

  • Oral glucose tolerance test. This dumping syndrome diagnosis test measures your body’s ability to absorb glucose or sugar – a form of energy. It is performed in a physician’s office or medical laboratory and can take up to six hours to complete. Fasting is required beforehand. 
  • Gastric emptying test. This dumping syndrome test involves eating a bland food with a minute trace of radioactive material. A radiologist tracks this material at hourly intervals using non-invasive imaging technology as the food moves through your system. The rapidity with which it progresses can indicate whether your body is “dumping” stomach contents. 
  • Upper GI endoscopy. An endoscope is a tiny camera with a light that a gastroenterologist inserts into your stomach or small intestines by means of a long flexible tube through your mouth. He or she uses this camera to inspect for evidence of a medical condition. Though not a surgical procedure, endoscopy typically requires some type of anesthesia.
  • Upper GI series. Also called a barium swallow, an upper GI series is a non-invasive means of monitoring activity in your small intestines. You drink a chalky liquid containing barium, the progress of which is charted by X-rays. Physicians use this information to diagnose medical issues involving the intestines. Fasting may be required prior to an upper GI series. 

Diagnosis of dumping syndrome is complicated by the fact that symptoms overlap with those of other medical conditions. The symptoms of early dumping syndrome are often similar to those of ulcers, internal hernias, and cases of fistula, ischemia, and stenosis. Late dumping syndrome shares symptoms with hypoglycemia and related medical concerns. Medical researchers have developed a variety of diagnostic tools for correctly differentiating dumping syndrome from these other conditions.


The severity of dumping syndrome varies by individual but it does tend to diminish over time. The good news is that dumping syndrome treatment is often controlled by changes in diet. If you are looking for dumping syndrome treatments, here are some steps you can take to improve your condition:

  • Eat more frequently but in smaller portions. Five or six “mini-meals” a day may be better for you than three large ones. 
  • Refrain from drinking liquids for at least a half-an-hour after eating. 
  • Avoid foods and drink with lots of simple sugars. This includes candy, juices, soft drinks, pastries, cookies, and syrups. Alcohol and dairy products may also be an issue and may prevent dumping syndrome relief. 
  • Eat more foods high in protein, fiber, and complex carbohydrates. This means lean meats, vegetables, oatmeal, and rice. Fiber supplements are useful for gastric bypass dumping syndrome relief too.
  • Remain hydrated by increasing your water intake (though not at mealtimes). 

More serious cases may call for medical treatment:

  • Physicians will sometimes prescribe octreotide, an anti-diarrheal drug, which is administered by injection. There are both short and long-acting forms of this medication. 
  • In a few cases, treatment may involve surgery to rebuild the stomach’s opening to the small intestine (called the pylorus), or to reverse an earlier bariatric procedure. This is called a dumping syndrome surgical treatment or gastric bypass dumping syndrome treatment.
  • Physicians sometimes take the additional step of prescribing acarbose, an anti-diabetic drug, in treating late dumping syndrome. Acarbose has been successful in curbing late dumping syndrome symptoms, though sometimes with side effects, including bloating, flatulence, and diarrhea.

If You Think You May Have Dumping Syndrome, Get Help.

Though the prognosis for dumping syndrome is generally positive, there are medical risks associated with any condition that disrupts the body’s digestive process. If you have symptoms that indicate the possibility of dumping syndrome, contact your physician immediately. 

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