dumping syndrome
When it comes to weight loss surgery, there is something important that everyone should understand. You will not be successful if you do not change the way you eat.
Gastric sleeve, gastric bypass, and LAP-BAND can help set you up for successful weight loss, but then there’s more work to do.

It is absolutely a challenge though. You can expect to be on a liquid diet one to two weeks prior to weight loss surgery depending on your BMI, and then again, depending on the procedure you have, for a week or two after. When you’re re-introducing solid foods into your diet after about four weeks, there’s definitely a learning curve. 

Our goal is to provide as much education as possible, and this includes information about a condition we want to avoid: dumping syndrome.

What is dumping syndrome?

Dumping syndrome is a condition that can develop after having surgery to remove all or part of your stomach. It can also occur after surgery to bypass your stomach. You may hear this condition called “rapid gastric emptying,” which describes what can happen pretty well. Food, especially sugar, moves from your stomach into your small bowel too quickly.

Most people with dumping syndrome develop signs and symptoms, such as abdominal cramps and diarrhea, 10 to 30 minutes after eating. However, symptoms may occur one to three hours after eating, and some people have both early and late symptoms.

Signs and symptoms of dumping syndrome might include:

  • Feeling bloated or too full after eating
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Flushing
  • Dizziness/lightheadedness
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Weakness

Avoiding dumping syndrome

We can help prevent dumping syndrome by changing what you eat and how you eat after surgery, and this will be one of our main goals with your diet plan. Changes might include eating smaller meals and limiting high-sugar foods.

Everyone’s different, but after you have weight loss surgery, there are a few rules that will make things easier when it’s time to introduce soft and solid foods. Here are three main considerations that will make you much less likely to experience dumping syndrome or get sick from overeating:

  1. Expect to eat only three or four bites before you feel full. Patients are always very surprised that they feel full after just three or four bites. Eating even one bite too many may be too much, and you could feel sick after that extra bite. Remember that you can save your meal and come back to it when you get hungry later.
  2. Chew your food to an applesauce consistency before you swallow. After a while it will get much easier to eat and get things down without any issues, but in the beginning, chewing thoroughly and taking it slow is very important. It may sound silly and unnecessary, but it really matters when you’re eating solid food again for the first time in weeks. By chewing your food to an applesauce consistency, you’re ensuring that the food goes down more easily and doesn’t get stuck. 
  3. Don’t eat and drink at the same time. There are two reasons for this. First, as mentioned above, you can only eat three or four bites at a time. We want you to focus on these bites so you get the nutrients you need, especially protein. Protein really helps you heal after surgery. So if you’re only able to get in three bites, you don’t want to fill your now smaller stomach up with fluids. Plan on drinking about thirty minutes later, once your food is digested.

Not drinking when you eat is especially important in avoiding dumping syndrome. Why? You’re chewing your food to an applesauce consistency. Now imagine applesauce in your stomach. Then, let’s say you pour water on top of that applesauce. That’s going to thin the applesauce out and cause it to move through your body much more quickly. When this happens, it might make you a little bit nauseous, or you may have to run to the restroom all of a sudden. You’re not staying full as long because that water is just pushing all that food through, and it’s like you never even ate.

Following these three tips will help you avoid scenarios such as this. It may sound daunting, but you will learn how to eat enough food without feeling sick or experiencing dumping syndrome. It can be hard at first, but as time goes on, you’ll learn your body and know exactly what it takes to stay satisfied and healthy.