What Is Dumping Syndrome?

Why This Uncomfortable Condition Occurs

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Dumping syndrome, also known as rapid gastric emptying, is a condition in which you experience gastrointestinal or vasomotor symptoms because the food that you eat moves too quickly from your stomach into your ​small intestine. Symptoms begin when you eat a meal, particularly from a menu with a high glucose (sugar) content.​​​​

Dumping syndrome is most often seen in people who have had bariatric (weight loss), esophageal, or gastric surgery.

Woman suffering from abdominal pain
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Estimates of the number of people who experience dumping syndrome following gastric surgery range from 20% to 50%. Only 1% to 5% of patients experience more severe symptoms. The type of surgery you have also influences your risk of developing dumping syndrome.

How Long Dumping Syndrome Lasts

In general, the symptoms of dumping syndrome tend to improve over time. Approximately three-quarters of people who undergo gastric bypass will experience symptoms immediately following the procedure, but most people find that their symptoms disappear over the next 15 to 18 months.

Dumping syndrome is broken down into two types: early dumping syndrome and late dumping syndrome.

Early dumping syndrome is characterized by symptoms occurring within 10 to 30 minutes following a meal. People with late dumping syndrome experience symptoms two to three hours after eating.

Most people with dumping syndrome experience the early form, while only about a quarter experiences the late-type. A very small minority of people have both.

The sub-types also manifest with different types of symptoms, with early dumping symptoms being both gastrointestinal and vasomotor, while late dumping symptoms tend to be mostly vasomotor.

Why Dumping Happens 

In normal digestion, the stomach empties its contents into the duodenum, the upper part of the small intestine, in a controlled manner in which large food particles are screened out. For some people, changes in the anatomy of the GI tract as a side effect of surgery results in dysfunction of this system.

The stomach being smaller, or damage to the pylorus—the part of the body that is responsible for acting as a dam—results in large amounts of stomach contents and larger food particles being released rapidly into the duodenum.

This swift emptying results in pronounced changes in blood glucose levels and an increase in certain hormones, which then contribute to cardiovascular symptoms and symptoms associated with hypoglycemia.

Late dumping syndrome results more exclusively from changes in blood glucose and insulin levels. In late dumping syndrome, symptoms are triggered because too much sugar is released into the small intestine too quickly.

This spike results in an increase in blood glucose levels, which triggers the pancreas to ramp up the secretion of insulin. This insulin release then triggers a drop in blood glucose levels—resulting in symptoms of hypoglycemia.

Dumping Syndrome Symptoms

Early Dumping: In early dumping syndrome, symptoms typically start approximately 10 to 30 minutes after eating a meal:

  • Abdominal cramps
  • Nausea
  • Urgent diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Blushing of face or skin
  • Feeling light-headed or dizzy
  • Racing heart or irregular heartbeat
  • Sweating
  • Weakness

Late Dumping: Symptoms of late dumping syndrome generally occur one to three hours after eating a meal:

  • Trouble concentrating
  • Fainting
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling light-headed or dizzy
  • Hunger
  • Rapid heartbeat or palpitations
  • Sweating
  • Weakness

Self-Care Dos and Don'ts

Most of the self-care recommendations for dumping syndrome involve changes in the way you eat, although you also might find that you can reduce feeling light-headed or faint if you lie down, face up, for 30 minutes after meals.

  • Eat six small meals a day

  • Chew your food thoroughly

  • Choose to eat complex carbohydrates

  • Increase your protein intake

  • Choose to eat healthy fats

  • Drink fluids during meals

  • Drink fluids for 30 minutes after meals

  • Eat foods that contain sugar or refined carbohydrates​​

  • Consume dairy products

Dumping Syndrome Treatment

If your symptoms persist in spite of making dietary changes, speak with your healthcare provider. People who have more significant dumping syndrome symptoms are at risk for eating avoidance and nutritional deficiencies.

Your practitioner will evaluate you and advise you as to the best course of action. If you have late dumping syndrome, your medical professional might recommend you increase your fiber intake through food or a supplement, in order to slow down the absorption of glucose and reduce the chance of hypoglycemia.

Another option for either type is for your healthcare provider to prescribe one of the medications that are available for treating dumping syndrome.

In extremely severe cases, a surgical procedure might be considered. However, as most cases of dumping syndrome improve over time, surgery would most likely not even be considered for at least one year following the original gastric procedure.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Does dumping syndrome cause weight loss?

    No. Research shows that dumping syndrome after gastric bypass surgery does not increase weight loss.

    However, some people who experience dumping syndrome develop a fear of eating and begin to restrict food to avoid uncomfortable symptoms. These eating behaviors do contribute to weight loss and may cause nutritional deficiencies.

  • Will dumping syndrome go away?

    Most likely, yes. Dumping syndrome typically resolves without treatment within three months. Dietary changes should help reduce or eliminate dumping, and medications can help relieve uncomfortable symptoms. 

    If dumping syndrome does not go away on its own, talk to your bariatric team about other options. Dumping syndrome treatments include medications and possibly corrective surgery.

  • What medications are used to treat dumping syndrome?

    Prescription dumping syndrome treatments include Sandostatin (octreotide) and Prandase or Precose (acarbose). 

    Sandostatin is an injectable medicine that mimics the hormone somatostatin, which regulates the activity of the gastrointestinal tract. It comes in two forms, a short-acting shot taken before meals and a long-acting intramuscular injection administered weekly. 

    Late dumping syndrome is often treated with the diabetes drug Prandase/Precose. This medication is taken before meals and prompts the pancreas to produce more insulin, preventing blood sugar spikes and dips. 

  • What over-the-counter medicines help dumping syndrome?

    Imodium (loperamide) is commonly recommended to treat dumping syndrome-induced diarrhea.

    Some doctors also recommend taking a preventive dose of Imodium with meals, while others suggest taking it at bedtime. Talk to your doctor before taking Imodium to prevent dumping syndrome episodes.

18 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Barbara Bolen, PhD
Barbara Bolen, PhD, is a licensed clinical psychologist and health coach. She has written multiple books focused on living with irritable bowel syndrome.