Dumping syndrome can sometimes occur after surgery, especially after gastric bypass surgery. What is this complication, and can it be avoided?
Gastric bypass surgery is a procedure that removes part of the stomach and allows food to bypass part of the small intestine. The procedure is generally done for the goal of weight loss and is often called “weight loss surgery” or “bariatric surgery.” During bariatric surgery recovery, patients need to learn new ways of eating that won’t cause complications. One common (and temporary) complication is called “dumping syndrome.”
What Is Dumping Syndrome?
Dumping syndrome is also called rapid gastric emptying. What happens is that the food that you eat moves too quickly from your stomach to your small intestine. That leads to a variety of uncomfortable symptoms including:
- Stomach cramps
In some cases, people with dumping syndrome may faint or have heart palpitations. Most of the time, these symptoms occur within an hour of eating.
Other times, however, people have reactive dumping syndrome, which occurs a couple of hours after eating. Those symptoms include:
- Heart palpitations
This is caused by low blood sugar that is prompted by a large intake of sugar or starches. Your body processes the surge of sugar and then has a sudden drop in blood sugar. This is called reactive hypoglycemia.
The symptoms of each episode will pass fairly quickly, but they can recur. There are ways that you can avoid dumping syndrome from occurring.
How Can You Avoid Dumping Syndrome?
When you have your gastric bypass surgery, your doctor will give you a list of dos and don’ts so you will have a better chance of avoiding dumping syndrome. Every tip won’t work for every person, so some of your avoidance will involve a process of trial and error. In general, though, here are some ways you can potentially avoid this unpleasant complication:
- Eat small amounts of food at each meal. This will likely require you to eat quite a few small meals throughout the day. Aim for six mini-meals and adjust from there.
- Eat slowly and chew your food well. Don’t gulp your food and don’t hurry. Take small bites and chew more than you might have chewed before your surgery.
- Don’t drink liquids with your meals. Instead, get your hydration in between eating solid food. After you eat, you’ll want to wait at least a half-hour before drinking anything.
- Avoid simple carbs and dairy products, as these can cause dumping syndrome. This means no milk, no ice cream, no sugary desserts, and no white bread and pasta.
- Instead, focus on eating more proteins and complex carbohydrates. Try eating whole-grain pasta, fruits and vegetables, fish, lean poultry, and other lean protein sources.
- If you have reactive dumping syndrome that occurs an hour or more after eating, talk to your doctor about adding more fiber to your meals. You might need a fiber supplement or you might need to get more dietary fiber into your diet. Some foods with high levels of fiber include beans, berries, dried fruits, and whole grains.
If these measures don’t help, it is possible that you will need follow-up surgery. There could be a blockage or some other issue causing your symptoms. So if your symptoms are severe, if they get worse, or if they don’t improve with diet and lifestyle changes, then please contact your surgeon for an assessment.
More Tips for Recovery After Gastric Bypass Surgery
After your gastric bypass surgery, it’s normal to have some discomfort and perhaps some pain. You might not want to get up and walk around much, but you will need to in order to help your digestive system get back on track as well as to avoid complications like blood clots.
In the first several days after your surgery, you may need to stick to a liquid diet. You can drink water, broth, decaffeinated tea or coffee, and other unsweetened, caffeine-free beverages. You can also eat popsicles and sugar-free gelatin.
As long as you are tolerating liquids for several days to a week, you’ll be allowed to add purees into your diet. For this part of the recovery process, you’ll need to puree high-nutrition soft foods with water, broth, or skim milk to make a puree. You’ll want to eat about five tablespoons of the puree very slowly, taking up to 30 minutes each time, and you should do this five or six times per day.
After a few weeks of tolerating the pureed foods, your doctor will have you switch to soft foods and then gradually to a regular diet, avoiding certain foods that might give you excess gas or other trouble, such as nuts, raw vegetables, red meat, carbonated drinks, and so on.
You will also need to drink liquids throughout the day (always at least a half-hour before or after a meal) to stay hydrated. In addition, you will need to gradually increase your physical activity so you can stay healthy, gain muscle, and lose weight.
Visiting a Recovery Center After Surgery
All of this can seem like a lot to manage, but your doctor and the staff at the bariatric surgery center will be there to guide you and help you along the way. Another great way to enhance your healing is to come to Pearl Recovery Retreat to spend some of your recovery time.
At Pearl, we have the staff on hand to assess you for any complications that could result from your weight loss surgery. We have a chef on staff to prepare your food, and you will be given the proper amount of nutritious food in the correct consistency at the right times to help you avoid dumping syndrome and to promote healing. You’ll be encouraged to get out of bed and move around enough to help prevent complications and to get you on the road to better health, and you’ll have a well-appointed, relaxing room to spend your time in.
If you are having bariatric surgery, contact Pearl Recovery Retreat to learn more about how we can help you recover and avoid complications such as dumping syndrome.