Published on April 11, 2016

Dumping syndrome after gastric bypass surgery

Dumping syndrome may occur for people after gastric bypass surgery.

Women cookingIt happens when the solid parts of a meal get “dumped” directly from your stomach into your small intestine without being digested. This can feel uncomfortable and may even lead to malnutrition if not treated.

Two Types to Know

Dumping syndrome is split into two types—early and late dumping. Early dumping usually occurs 10 to 30 minutes after a meal. Late dumping happens about one to three hours after eating.

The symptoms of dumping syndrome are different, depending on which type you have. Most people with dumping syndrome have early dumping symptoms. About 25 percent have late dumping symptoms.

What to Watch for

With early dumping syndrome, a dense mass of food gets dumped into your small intestine at an earlier stage of digestion. Typical early dumping symptoms include:

  • Bloating and cramps
  • Nausea
  • Facial flushing
  • Dizziness 
  • Diarrhea

You are more likely to have dumping syndrome if you eat a meal heavy in starches or sugars. Symptoms of late dumping happen because of reactive hypoglycemia. Reactive hypoglycemia is low blood sugar caused by a large surge of insulin one to three hours before.

Additional symptoms of late dumping syndrome include:

  • Confusion
  • Fatigue
  • Aggression
  • Tremors

Both types of dumping syndrome can cause sweating, heart palpitations, feelings of hunger, and fainting.

Treatment Options 

The main treatment for dumping syndrome is to change what you eat. For instance, you should choose complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, instead of simple carbs like white breads and sugary sweets. Try adding more protein and fat to help meet your energy needs. You should also wait to drink liquids until 30 minutes after a meal.

There are some prescription medications available, but they aren’t always effective. In severe cases, when diet and medicines have failed, your doctor may suggest tube feeding or corrective surgery.

If you have a small stomach capacity from gastric bypass surgery, it’s important to eat small portions. Overeating can cause problems in the future. Experts recommend dividing your daily calories into six different meals.