While a topic like dumping syndrome may be new to some, it may be all to familiar to others.

As dietitians who work in bariatric surgery, we often hear the term misused and misinterpreted.

Dumping syndrome is a phenomenon that 70% of gastric bypass patients sadly know too well. Although it primarily happens to gastric bypass patients, it isn’t completely unheard of in those who have had a sleeve gastrectomy, it’s just very, very uncommon.

Shaky hands, sudden sweating and rapid heartbeats are a few of the terrible symptoms. It can happen right after eating or even up to a couple of hours after a meal.

The effects can be pretty intense, significantly interrupting a patient’s day-to-day activities, even requiring a nap to regain composure.

Although it sounds scary and completely out of your control, don’t panic!

Dumping syndrome can be easily avoided it you know what to watch out for.

Early vs Late Dumping Syndrome

Although occurring at different times, the symptoms of early and late dumping syndromes are very similar.

Symptoms of dumping syndrome include::

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Sweatiness
  • Dizziness
  • Irregular heartbeats

The main difference between the two, is that late dumping syndrome can also lead to low blood sugar which is of more concern.

Early dumping syndrome shows up 15-30 minutes after a meal. 

Early dumping syndrome occurs when food flushes too quickly through the gut. This is often triggered when patients eat too fast, don’t chew well enough, or drink while eating.

Late dumping syndrome, on the other hand, happens several hours after eating.

Late dumping syndrome is triggered when a patient eats a lot of refined sugars or extremely sweet foods. These concentrated sugars absorb water from the body as they pass through the intestines (which is why diarrhea is a common sign!). There is also a spike in hormones and a drop in blood sugar, making you feel dizzy and shaky.

What types of sweet foods trigger late dumping syndrome?

Here is a common list:

  • Cookies
  • Candy
  • Cakes
  • Ice-cream
  • Fruit juices
  • Soda drinks
  • Sweetened breads

If you experience late dumping syndrome frequently, speak with your registered dietitian to discuss what to eat after an episode and to learn how to recover quickly.

How to Avoid Dumping Syndrome

Here are some tips to lower your risk of experiencing dumping syndrome:

  • Distribute your meals and snacks evenly throughout the day.
  • Don’t drink and eat at the same time. Stop drinking 15 minutes before meals/snacks and wait 30 minutes after eating to begin drinking again to prevent the ‘flushing’ effect.
  • Choose foods with less than 25 grams of total carbohydrates and less than 10 grams of added sugar. These numbers are found on the nutrition facts tables of all food packages!
  • Make sure to have a protein source at every meal and snack. Protein slows digestion and therefore prevents sugars from passing too quickly through the gut.
  • Be mindful of the amount of sweet foods and refined sugars you eat in a day. An entire box of cookies is different from 1 or 2 homemade cookies. A glass of juice from concentrate is far different from a homemade fruit smoothie made with milk and yogurt.

Dumping syndrome can seem like an inevitable evil, but in reality the majority of our patients are able to successfully avoid it.

Well distributed meals and snacks made from wholesome, protein-rich foods is the way to go!

Written by: Nadeen Mekhael (McGill Dietetic Intern)


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– Lisa & Monica, your bariatric dietitians


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