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Summer is a time to celebrate warm weather, sunshine, good friends, and good times, often with food and drink. But for people with weight-loss surgeries, the celebrations carry the possibility of a dietary crisis called dumping syndrome that has the potential to ruin a day of old-fashioned summer fun.

Gastric emptying syndrome, or rapid gastric emptying, is a condition in which partially digested food bypasses the stomach too quickly and enters the small intestine. This causes the pancreas to release excessive amounts of insulin into the bloodstream, causing symptoms of hypoglycemia. Dumping syndrome is most commonly associated with gastric malabsorption surgery, specifically gastric bypass surgery. Patients will experience the symptoms of dumping syndrome immediately after eating or within three hours after eating. Symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, bloating, cramps, diarrhea, profuse sweating followed by chills, dizziness, and fatigue. When insulin levels return to normal, the symptoms disappear. Many patients who experience dumping syndrome find comfort by lying down or drinking fortified water or energy drinks served at a warm temperature.

Clearly, an episode of dumping syndrome will interrupt any celebration and most weight loss surgery patients will benefit from taking precautions to avoid it. Here are four basic diet and lifestyle guidelines to follow that will help prevent a dumping episode from ruining your summer celebration:

  • Hydration. Drinking lots of water is the second holy rule of weight loss surgery. This is of great importance during the hot summer months, when bodies release more fluid through perspiration and thus become susceptible to dehydration. On hot days filled with outdoor activity, be careful to drink water throughout the day. As a guideline, drink one ounce of water for every two pounds of body weight to ensure adequate hydration. You can also enjoy vitamin-fortified water or calorie-free sports drinks fortified to balance electrolytes to prevent hydration. Symptoms of dehydration often resemble mild dumping syndrome, and some weight loss surgery patients report an increased likelihood of dumping syndrome when they are not adequately hydrated.
  • Protein first. It is particularly important to follow the first rule of weight loss surgery, “Protein First” when enjoying a variety of party foods, such as barbecues, salads and picnic sides and hearty desserts. Eating protein first will buffer foods that can potentially cause a dumping episode. Be wary of barbecue sauces that may be high in sugar or breaded and fried protein, which are also known to cause dumping. If fried chicken is the only protein offered, remove and discard the skin and breading and enjoy the meat without it. Remember to eat two protein bites for every complex carbohydrate bite. When taking small bites of protein, three forks will measure about one ounce of protein. The feeling of tightness in the gastric surgical bag is a sign of satiety and the signal to stop eating. Avoid discomfort by following this sign and stop eating.
  • Try wisely. Celebrations are often a showcase for friends and relatives to share their best dishes, including high-calorie and high-fat desserts. Who hasn’t been tempted by the outrageous dessert display at the annual family reunion? For the weight loss surgery patient, uncontrolled enjoyment of such foods is likely to cause short-term dumping syndrome and, at worst, long-term weight gain. Patients can find a safe haven simply by tasting a select dessert or two without imminent fear of waste if they have stayed hydrated throughout the day and eaten a reasonable amount of lean protein before the sweet indulgence. A bite or two of a sweet dessert should satisfy the palate and the nagging requests of a beloved relative urging, “Come on, a little piece of my fancy super duper chocolate won’t hurt you.”
  • Contribute with good food. When the occasion allows, take the opportunity to offer a suitable side dish or dessert for weight loss surgery that you can safely enjoy and that others will enjoy as well. It is a good time to show that healthy can be delicious and attractive. Top salads or side dishes with fresh seasonal ingredients and homemade dressings made from pure ingredients low in fat and sugar. Prepare sugar-free desserts or snacks by following recipes that use popular sugar substitutes that, when enjoyed in moderation, do not cause dumping syndrome. Sugar-free pudding and gelatin dishes also look great at any summer celebration. When a weight loss surgery patient provides safe food for a potluck, the temptation to eat foods that are likely to cause dumping syndrome and ruin a fabulous summer celebration is lessened.

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