What is dumping syndrome?

Dumping syndrome is one of the effects that may appear after digestive surgery. It is also known as rapid emptying syndrome. Virtually all patients who undergo this procedure have any symptoms of this syndrome at some point in the postoperative period.

There are references to dumping syndrome since gastric surgeries began. In 1881, Theodor Billroth made an initial description of it. For his part, Hertz referred to the "rapid emptying" of a patient who underwent partial gastectomy in 1913.

However, it was not until 1922 when the presence of rapid emptying was observed in patients by radiological studies. It was given the name of dumping syndrome, since this last word means ‘empty, pour or throw’.

What is dumping syndrome?

Dumping syndrome is a complication that appears after surgery on the digestive system. It consists of the stomach contents passing too quickly to the small intestine, before the food is completely digested by the stomach.

This condition is called "fast emptying." This triggers a series of symptoms that include gastrointestinal and other problems. The affected person feels nauseous, colic, cramps or diarrhea, among others. You may also experience hypoglycemia, weakness, dizziness and / or sweating.

The possibility of dumping syndrome and its severity depends greatly on the type of gastric surgery That has been practiced. In total, it can last up to one year. In most cases, symptoms gradually disappear spontaneously.

Digestive process

The stomach is a kind of food store. There acids and enzymes are produced to make an initial breakdown of these foods and produce a substance called ‘quimo’. In other words, the stomach converts food into a substance easier to assimilate by other organs.

Afterwards, food goes to the small intestine, whose main function is to absorb digested food. Between the stomach and the intestine there is a kind of valve that regulates the passage of the chyme from the stomach to the upper part of the small intestine. That valve is called ‘pyloric sphincter’.

Under normal conditions, the chyme passes slowly from one organ to the other. However, when a gastric surgery is performed and it somehow compromises the pylorus, or pyloric sphincter, it may happen that food moves too quickly to the duodenum, the upper part of the small intestine. There are also cases in which this takes place even if the pylorus is intact.

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Types of dumping syndrome

There are two types of dumping syndrome. The two are characterized by the expulsion of a large volume of content from the stomach to the small intestine quickly. What differentiates them is the moment of their beginning, the characteristics of the process and their effects:

  • Precocious or osmotic. In this modality of dumping syndrome, stomach emptying occurs between 30 and 45 minutes after food intake. It is the most frequent. It causes:
    • Feeling of heaviness.
    • Sickness.
    • Vomiting.
    • Diarrhea.
    • Colic.
    • Hypotension
    • Tachycardia.
    • Sweats
    • Weakness.
  • Late or hypoglycemic. It takes place between two and four hours after eating. The sudden release of sugars in the small intestine in turn causes a disproportionate release of insulin. This leads to hypoglycemia.

Read also: Treatment of hypoglycemia: causes and dangers

Additional Information

To reduce the risk of dumping syndrome, it is best to take five or six small portions of food a day. and do not drink any liquids while food is ingested. Drinks should only be consumed between half an hour and one hour after eating.

Likewise, it is advisable to limit the consumption of carbohydrates or foods rich in sugar and always eat them with vegetables, meat or fish. It is also convenient to eat slowly and be careful with the ingestion of lactose and its derivatives. These measures are usually effective in preventing and also treating the syndrome.

If the syndrome develops, it is necessary to receive medical guidance. Some medications may be ordered to reduce symptoms. If none of these measures work, it is most likely necessary to have surgery to correct the problem.