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Eating problems

You might have problems eating after stomach surgery. Find out what they are and how to manage them.

Stomach cancer can cause problems with eating. It’s important to eat and drink enough calories and protein to maintain your weight and strength.

Eating problems

Food moving too fast into the small bowel causes dumping syndrome. It can happen just after you’ve eaten or sometime after.

Dumping syndrome just after a meal means the food is more concentrated than the fluids in the gut. So the gut draws water in to dilute the food. This causes a sudden drop in your blood pressure and you can feel faint and dizzy.

Dumping syndrome that happens some time after you have eaten is due to a sudden rise in your blood sugar. Food passes into your small bowel and the bowel absorbs sugar. The body produces a sudden rush of the hormone, insulin. Insulin makes your blood sugar drop and you can feel very faint.

You can reduce dumping syndrome by:
  • eating slowly
  • reducing the amount of sugary foods you eat
  • increasing the fat content of your food to replace the calories from sugary foods
  • eating smaller meals more regularly (if possible)
  • avoiding soup and very liquid foods
  • having glucose sweets between meals to keep your blood sugar up

Talk to your dietitian if you are having problems with dumping syndrome.

Surgery to remove the tumour and lymph nodes affects the vagus nerve. During surgery, the surgeon divides the vagus nerve to remove the tumour and the lymph nodes. This nerve controls the:
  • movement of your food through the bowel
  • production of digestive juices

Diarrhoea happens occasionally and can last for about a day, sometimes longer. You might pass watery stools several times a day for several days out of each week. In a few people, this causes sudden and urgent attacks of diarrhoea. It can be difficult to treat. Sometimes taking anti diarrhoea medicine early in the morning can help.

This is when your stools float, look pale or have a bad smell. It is caused by undigested fat. You may need to take some tablets (digestive enzymes) to help digest the fat. Talk to your doctor if you see these changes to your stools.

You might vomit in the morning after removal of part of the stomach (partial gastrectomy). Bile and digestive juices can build up overnight in the small bowel. It can spill back into the remains of your stomach making you feel full and sick. Vomiting up the excess fluid relieves the discomfort.

Medicines such as aluminium hydroxide taken first thing in the morning can help. Or drugs which help the stomach to empty, such as domperidone or metoclopramide (Maxalon).

But they might not get rid of your symptoms altogether. Talk to your surgeon if these treatments aren't helping or if your symptoms are severe. Some people need surgery.

Wind and pain can be a problem after stomach surgery. A few drops of peppermint oil in hot water can help. Sip it slowly. It can relieve trapped wind and pain.

Foods that might cause indigestion include fizzy drinks, alcohol, spicy food, pickles and citrus fruits.

For many people, the side effects of cancer and treatment make it difficult to eat enough to stay at a healthy weight. This can be very upsetting and worrying. Speak to your clinical nurse specialist or dietitian about any eating problems. They will get you any help that you need.

Dietitians can help you cope with eating problems and suggest ways of dealing with diet difficulties. Ask your doctor or nurse to refer you.

Ask to see a dietitian to help you cope with any eating problems. They can support you with diet problems from diagnosis, through treatment and afterwards.

Eating problems can be difficult to cope with. They can cause tension within relationships or families. Events and eating out with friends can be much harder when you have a problem swallowing. Talking to your dietitian or a counsellor can help.

It is important to get help as soon as you start to have problems.

Information and help

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