Dumping Syndrome Diet

Written by Ciara House, MS, RD, LDN and medically reviewed by Dr. Stephen Boyce, MD

Most of you know what dumping syndrome is – maybe you’ve even experienced it. You probably also know what types of foods typically cause it. We will touch on both of those here.

However, what I’d like to focus on is the importance of proper nutrition and behavior change. The two of these things not only prevent dumping syndrome but create life-long habits that lead to long-term weight loss success.

What we know is that dumping syndrome occurs due to poor food choices. The rapid emptying of food from the gastric pouch/stomach into the small intestines triggers a cascade of events and uncomfortable symptoms.

This complex syndrome induced by accelerated gastric emptying is termed dumping syndrome. Dumping syndrome is a great negative reinforcement to avoid the high-calorie, non-nutritious foods that typically cause it.

Food choices and dumping syndrome

Types of diet foods that cause dumping syndrome

The rapid movement of these foods from the stomach into the small intestines causes an osmotic shift and water floods into the small intestines.

Early dumping syndrome can occur within a few minutes to 45 minutes after intake.

These symptoms include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Weakness or fainting
  • Sweating
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Flushing
  • Dizziness or light headed-ness
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal cramping

There is also late dumping syndrome, which typically occurs 2-3 hours after consumption of high sugar foods and is a hypoglycemic episode.

Symptoms can include:

  • Sweating
  • Shakiness
  • Dizziness or light-headedness
  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Exhaustion
  • Feeling faint
Early dumping vs late dumping

In my 8 years working as a bariatric dietitian, I’ve come to realize it doesn’t matter what surgery type you have – you can experience dumping syndrome whether you’ve had a Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy, Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass, or Biliary Pancreatic Diversion with Duodenal Switch.

Everyone’s body adjusts and adapts to surgery differently and there’s no way to predict what your body will do. The hard part is not knowing how your body will react to certain foods. Furthermore, even if you experience dumping, it doesn’t mean you’ll have all of the symptoms listed above.

You may be more prone to sweating and feeling faint, while the next person may deal more with abdominal cramping and diarrhea.

everyone experiences dumping syndrome differently

It can be tricky to identify what foods cause dumping syndrome since it can vary from person to person. What’s just as challenging is making positive dietary changes to avoid it from happening.

It’s important to realize that even if you don’t experience dumping syndrome, it’s not a free pass to consistently consume high sugar/high carbohydrate foods if your ultimate goal is weight loss and keeping the weight off.

So what foods tend to be problematic and cause dumping syndrome?

Simple and complex carbohydrates cause dumping syndrome

It should be noted that the complex carbohydrate foods listed above are healthy food choices. As are the fruits and dairy products. It does not mean if you consume brown rice or fruit salad, you will experience dumping syndrome.

I’ve worked with patients who identified strawberries as a cause of their dumping syndrome, whereas the next patient could tolerate them.

Other patients experienced dumping syndrome when they consumed whole wheat bread, yet others could consume white bread with no issues.

Everyone is different.

Troubleshooting your dumping syndrome causes

When I work with patients dealing with dumping syndrome, the first step is to eliminate the trigger food. It may take a bit of troubleshooting to determine what food(s) are causing the symptoms, but anything with carbohydrates could be our problem.

We need to look at beverages and snacks, along with the composition of meals – always eat protein and carbohydrates together. When you eat carbohydrates by themselves, they are more likely to cause dumping syndrome and reactive hypoglycemia.

Keep in mind there are lots of general bariatric diet guidelines out there, but it’s not a one-size-fits-all. Even if you’re following the appropriate diet phase, we may need to make adjustments to your specific intake to prevent unpleasant symptoms and keep you on track to achieving your weight loss goals.

Let’s get an idea of what a food recall might look like that causes dumping syndrome (Remember: these foods may not cause dumping in everyone post-bariatric surgery. Also, notice the high calorie, non-nutritious foods choices that don’t help with weight loss):

Meal TimeBad Food
Breakfast:Frosted Flakes with skim milk + banana
Lunch:Peanut butter and jelly sandwich on white bread + chips
Dinner:Grilled chicken + baked potato and corn
Snacks:breakfast/snack bar + dried fruit
Beverages:water, coffee with sugar and creamer, Coca-Cola

Now, how could we make changes to eliminate the foods that can cause dumping syndrome, reduce caloric intake, and initiate weight loss?

Meal TimeGood Food
Breakfast:2 eggs + ½ banana
Lunch:Deli turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread + carrot and celery sticks
Dinner:Grilled chicken + ½ sweet potato and steamed broccoli
Snacks:protein bar/shake or light Greek yogurt
Beverages:water, coffee with Splenda and zero sugar creamer, Diet Coke

As you can see, a healthy bariatric diet consists of lean protein foods, whole grains, and non-starchy vegetables.

Which foods should you eat to PREVENT dumping syndrome?

Foods to eat to avoid dumping syndrome

Lean protein foods:

  • Poultry – Chicken and turkey
  • Lean beef and pork
  • Fish and shellfish
  • Low-fat cottage cheese
  • Light Greek yogurt
  • Low-fat cheese
  • Eggs and egg whites

Whole grains:

  • Brown rice
  • Quinoa
  • Oats
  • Whole grain, whole wheat pasta or bread

Non-starchy vegetables:

  • ANY vegetable that is not peas, potatoes, corn, or squash is considered a non-starchy vegetable!

So what’s the take-away about dumping syndrome?

Nutrition changes not only prevent complications such as dumping syndrome post-bariatric surgery, but they are also crucial to successful weight loss.

Reach out to your bariatric practice and have consistent follow up with your Registered Dietitian. Follow the bariatric diet provided by your surgeon and avoid the foods that are known to cause problems.

If you do experience dumping syndrome, start a symptoms log and food journal.

You may be able to pinpoint the problem food(s), but if you can’t, when you meet with your Registered Dietitian, those journals will be helpful in determining what’s going on and the best way to resolve the symptoms.

Remember that bariatric surgery is a tool – it takes commitment, behavior change, and diet changes to make it work and achieve your goals. But your multi-disciplinary team is there for you!

We want to support you, guide you, and make this process work for you! You’ve got this! You’re doing great!

Share

More Bariatric Articles

Gastric Bypass Reversal

Gastric bypass surgery is a great option when weight loss hasn’t occurred through traditional means, such as diet and exercise. But sometimes, even after following all your doctor’s recommendations, significant complications still arise after your gastric bypass surgery, leading to the consideration of alternative options. In some cases, gastric bypass reversal is considered. To fully […]


What are your tips and tricks to post-bariatric success?

Share your thoughts or questions in the comments below – we want to hear from you!

2 comments

  1. I have dumping syndrome that is not caused by bariatric surgery but is instead caused by functional dyspepsia. Your article on diet for dumping syndrome was very helpful. I hadn’t suspected that complex carbs like overdoing it with a sweet potato could be a cause, but had felt faint after eating them sometimes and wondered why. I am glad I found your website.

    1. Thanks for sharing, Cindy! That’s really interesting, I wasn’t aware of dumping syndrome outside of bariatrics so this is really helpful for us. I hope this article gives you some fruitful tips on keeping it under control! Let us know if we can help with anything!

      – Derek

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Share

×