An amalgamation of information from the National Institutes of Health (NIH),
the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), and other sources.
Rapid gastric emptying, or dumping syndrome, happens when the lower end of the small intestine (jejunum) fills too quickly with undigested food from the stomach.
"Early" dumping begins during or right after a meal. Symptoms of early dumping include nausea, vomiting, bloating, diarrhea, and shortness of breath.
After an esophagectomy, food passes quickly into the small bowel, mixed only with saliva and amylase from the mouth, but little or no stomach acid. The molecules (component parts) of the food remain fairly intact and therefore, large. The small bowel responds by diluting what we eat through a process of "water recruitment" into the bowel space. The "richer" the food, in terms of molecule size or sugar content, the more water will rush into the small bowel to dilute it. Suddenly, the heart will pound and beat rapidly; you may feel dizzy, and overwhelmingly tired. The bowels may gurgle and churn, and will feel bloated and gassy. This might be followed by loose stools and even vomiting. It is not dangerous, but it can be frightening to the uneducated patient.
"Late" dumping happens 1 to 3 hours after eating. Symptoms of late dumping include weakness, sweating, and dizziness.
Late dumping is caused by an insulin response to the ingested food. One might feel flushed, sweaty, fatigued, and experience all the signs of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).
You can avoid early and late dumping by avoiding the foods that cause dumping. In other words: sugars, starches, fried foods, fats, and high glycemic foods. The glycemic index refers to how swiftly the sugars from the food enter the bloodstream after eating. Each person has a different tolerance, and you will discover what your personal safe foods might be throughout your post-operative life.
Be aware that what affects you may change over time. What you tolerate in your early post-operative course you might not tolerate later, and vice versa. Every body and everybody is different!
Doctors diagnose dumping syndrome through blood tests. Treatment includes changes in eating habits and medication. People who have dumping syndrome need to eat several small meals a day that are low in carbohydrates and should drink liquids between meals, not with them. People with severe cases take medicine to slow their digestion.
Here are some additional tips from the UPMC:
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