If surgery has changed the structure of your stomach, partially digested food can go into the small bowel too quickly. This can especially be a problem with fluids containing high amounts of simple sugar, such as soft drinks, juices and cordial.
You may have cramps, nausea, racing heart, sweating, bloating, diarrhoea or dizziness. This combination of symptoms 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
- Have small meals throughout the day. Chew your food well.
- Eat slowly so your body can sense when it is full.
- Surgery may affect how you tolerate certain foods. Keep a record of foods that cause problems and talk to a dietitian for suggestions on what to eat to reduce the symptoms.
- Avoid eating highly processed foods and eat fresh, unprocessed foods.
- Avoid foods and drinks high in sugar (e.g. cordial, soft drinks, cakes and biscuits). 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 foods (e.g. pasta, rice or potato).
- Drink liquids between meals rather than at mealtimes.
- Symptoms usually improve over time. If they don’t, ask or advice about medicines that may help.
Podcast: Appetite Loss and Nausea
Download a PDF booklet on this topic.
Dr Spiro Raftopoulos, Gastroenterologist, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, WA; Peter Blyth, Consumer; Jeff Bull, Upper Gastrointestinal Cancer Nurse Consultant, Cancer Services, Southern Adelaide Local Health Network, SA; Mick Daws, Consumer; Dr Steven Leibman, Upper Gastrointestinal Surgeon, Royal North Shore Hospital, NSW; Prof Michael Michael, Medical Oncologist, Lower and Upper Gastrointestinal Oncology Service, and Co-Chair Neuroendocrine Unit, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Dr Andrew Oar, Radiation Oncologist, Icon Cancer Centre, Gold Coast University Hospital, QLD; Rose Rocca, Senior Clinical Dietitian: Upper Gastrointestinal, Nutrition and Speech Pathology Department, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Letchemi Valautha, Consumer; Lesley Woods, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA.
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