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Simple Steps To Avoid ‘Dumping Syndrome’ After Bariatric Surgery

February 07, 2023

Online bariatric groups are abuzz with suggested remedies for so-called “dumping syndrome,” a bout of sweating, nausea and diarrhea that can happen after eating too much, or consuming food that’s wrong for you.

Stock up on papaya enzymes, fellow patients recommend, or fiber powder, antacids or even the prescription diabetes medication acarbose — then take if you feel ill.

But instead of treating dumping syndrome, you can eat correctly -- so it doesn’t happen at all.

Some trial and error is involved early on to see which foods your body accepts and rejects. Still, most bariatric patients can prevent dumping syndrome and other post-eating unpleasantness, such as sour stomach and food foamies – a mixture of mucus and broken-down foods that you bring up like vomit. The secret? Following specific food rules.

What Causes Dumping Syndrome

Dumping syndrome is generally caused by the stomach dumping food into the small intestine too quickly. In addition to stomach discomfort and perspiration, you might pass out or come close; that’s because the blood sugar condition hypoglycemia can kick in too.

Be extra careful the first few weeks after surgery. At that time, your diet will likely be restricted to liquids, and then soft foods. It’s crucial to stick to these guidelines because breaking them might not only cause nausea; you also might rupture the staple line. You’ll be back to regular foods, albeit in small portions, soon enough.

General Diet Rules To Avoid Dumping Syndrome

Once you can resume eating solid foods, start small. Eat a bit of one newly introduced food at a time; your body will let you know if it’s OK for you. Everyone is different, but three choices are most commonly troublesome.

  • Bread. As it goes through your system, bread gets doughy and can clump up in the stomach. To avoid that, toast the bread instead, or opt for crackers. The crunchier choices crumble as you digest them, so they proceed through you without trouble.
  • Meat. A slice of steak, or any meat with gristle, can be too dry and/or tough for you to digest easily. When you have a craving, opt for a soft form of meat, and have it with sauce, which makes it less dry.
  • Carbonated beverages. You’re done with these for life. Carbonated beverages expand when they reach the stomach. That will stretch the stomach opening and can eventually lead to weight gain. Don’t risk it.

Diet Rules for Specific Bariatric Surgeries

Each type of bariatric surgery is different, and your food limitations are therefore different, too. Be sure to tailor your diet to your procedure. 

  • Roux-en-Y gastric bypass. The bypass operation creates a small stomach pouch that holds only an ounce or two volume-wise. Therefore, you’ll need to chew your food thoroughly so it can pass through. It’s also crucial to stagger when you take your medications. If you swallow several pills at a time, they will sit on that opening for a while, which might lead to an ulcer in the future.

    If you get diarrhea after drinking milk or eating dairy products, you might have become lactose intolerant after gastric bypass surgery. Swap in lactose-free alternatives instead, or, before having dairy products, swallow an over-the-counter pill designed for lactose-intolerant people.

    Gastric bypass patients can experience two types of dumping. “Sugar dumping” can happen when you eat excessive amounts of sweets. The sugar can lead to hypoglycemia, causing you to feel ill or even pass out. “Fat dumping” leads you to the bathroom when you eat more fat than your body can absorb. The solution for both is prevention: Don’t eat sweets, and severely limit your fats.

  • Sleeve gastrectomy. Your stomach will be like normal, only smaller, after a sleeve procedure, so you are unlikely to experience dumping. In general, sleeve patients can digest all foods in small quantities — except, of course, carbonated beverages. Occasionally, excessive sugar will cause dumping for sleeve patients, such as after eating a large portion of ice cream. The effects are related to episodes of hypoglycemia after the fact; in those cases, the patient feels weak, sweaty and ready to pass out. To avoid that, eat only small amounts of sugary foods at a time.

  • Duodenal switch. The duodenal switch is two bariatric procedures at once: sleeve gastrectomy and bypass. Some patients experience fat dumping, diarrhea and malabsorption of nutrients. They also might emit a gas that smells especially offensive.

    To avoid the malodorous gas, choose cooked vegetables over raw ones. Minimize fat dumping by eating only good proteins. Plant proteins are best, such as beans and lentils. Fish is very important as it’s high in protein and low in fat; poultry is also a good choice.

Be Supplement Savvy

In addition to respecting food and beverage guidelines, take the supplements your doctor prescribes. The mix of vitamins and minerals required is different for each type of weight-loss surgery. Again, follow orders. Otherwise you might develop deficiencies, which can lead to anemia and osteoporosis, among other challenges.

Specifically, bypass and duodenal switch patients need to take supplements that have large amounts of vitamin B. Bypass patients also require iron, calcium, and vitamins D and B12. Switch patients need extra iron, calcium, and vitamins D, A and E.

As for those papaya enzymes? They sometimes work, but they should not be necessary. Your mouth secretes all the enzyme you need. Simply chew your food longer. That way the enzymes that exist naturally in your saliva will mix into your food.

Avoid discomfort by being a rule-follower. Then you can enjoy your journey to becoming a thinner, healthier you.

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