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What is Dumping Syndrome?

Dumping syndrome is a relatively rare disorder in which the stomach's contents are delivered too quickly to the small intestine. Symptoms include abdominal pain, bloating, abdominal cramping, diarrhea, and dizziness. In addition, people with this syndrome often suffer from low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, because the rapid "dumping" of food triggers the pancreas to release excessive amounts of insulin into the bloodstream.

Dumping syndrome classically develops after gallbladder surgery, although it may also occur after other abdominal operations, such as ulcer surgery or surgery for severe reflux. Less frequently, it may be seen in people born with unusually small stomachs and, even more rarely, in those with no stomach abnormalities at all. In people with no obvious causes, doctors may diagnose dumping syndrome by having a patient eat food labeled with radioactive markers and then taking X-ray pictures of his or her stomach to see how quickly it empties. Treatment includes eating smaller, more frequent meals and limiting fluid intake.   Medicines such as Questran can also be very helpful to control the abdominal cramping and diarrhea which may result.

Dumping syndrome may also be confused with something called "gastrocolic reflex." This is a normal response in which the colon contracts after a meal, when the food passes from the stomach into the upper part of the small intestine. In some people, the whole colon is involved in this reflex, triggering cramping and/or diarrhea. In others, only the lower portion of the colon is affected, and a solid bowel movement occurs. There is no specific therapy for gastrocolic reflex . However, some people notice fewer and less severe symptoms if they eat smaller, more frequent meals.

Created: 12/23/2003  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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