If surgery has changed the normal structure of your stomach, partially digested food and/or fluid containing high amounts of simple sugar, such as cordial, can go into the small bowel too quickly. This may cause cramps, nausea, racing heart, sweating, bloating, diarrhoea or dizziness. This is called dumping syndrome. Symptoms usually begin 15–30 minutes after eating.
Sometimes symptoms occur 1–2 hours after a meal. These are called late symptoms, which tend to cause weakness, light-headedness and sweating, and are usually worse after eating foods high in sugar.
How to manage dumping syndrome
- Eat small meals throughout the day. Chew your food well.
- Eat slowly so your body can sense when it is full.
- Surgery may have affected your ability to tolerate certain foods. Keep a record of foods that cause problems and talk to a dietitian for help changing your meals to reduce the symptoms.
- Avoid eating highly processed food and eat plenty of fresh, unprocessed food.
- Avoid foods and drinks high in sugar, e.g. cordial, soft drinks, cakes and biscuits, as eating large amounts of these foods can lead to diarrhoea and pain.
- Eat meals high in protein, e.g. lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, milk, yoghurt, nuts, seeds, and legumes/beans.
- Eat starchy food, e.g. pasta, rice or potato.
- Drink liquids between meals rather than at mealtimes.
- Symptoms usually improve over time. If they don’t, ask your doctor for advice about medicines that may help.
Prof David Watson, Senior Consultant Surgeon, Oesophago-gastric Surgery Unit, Flinders Medical Centre, and Matthew Flinders Distinguished Professor of Surgery, Flinders University, SA; Kate Barber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Victoria; Katie Benton, Advanced Dietitian, Cancer Care, Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service, QLD; Alana Fitzgibbon, Clinical Nurse Consultant, Gastrointestinal Cancers, Royal Hobart Hospital, TAS; Christine Froude, Consumer; Dr Andrew Oar, Radiation Oncologist, Icon Cancer Centre, Gold Coast University Hospital, QLD; Dr Spiro Raftopoulos, Interventional Endoscopist and Consultant Gastroenterologist, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, WA; Grant Wilson, Consumer; Prof Desmond Yip, Clinical Director, Department of Medical Oncology, The Canberra Hospital, ACT. We also thank the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.
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