What is the Rumination Syndrome?

Whether it’s because of eating spoiled leftovers from the night before or having had way too much alcohol, we’ve all had to empty our stomach contents in a not-so-glamourous way – vomiting. But can you imagine having to vomit almost everything you eat for the rest of your life?

Believe it or not, this rare problem is a condition that some people actually have to deal with and usually has no cure. This condition is called Rumination Syndrome or Regurgitation Syndrome and is often misdiagnosed as a vomiting disorder.

Rumination syndrome is a rare behavioral disorder where the stomach pushes undigested food back up into the mouth. After the food has come back up his or her mouth, it can either be spit out or chewed and swallowed. When ruminating, there might be some abdominal pain or a burping or belching sensation, but usually not nausea, vomiting, or retching.

Because it hasn’t had time to combine with stomach acid and be digested fully, the food that is regurgitated during rumination usually doesn’t taste sour or bitter, and typically, rumination occurs just after every meal.

But don’t be mistaken; people with rumination syndrome do not regurgitate food because they feel sick or have a stomach ache. Rumination disorder tends to be a reflex, not a conscious action. Read ahead to understand Rumination Syndrome, along with its causes, symptoms, and treatment options.

What Causes Rumination Syndrome?

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Rumination syndrome doesn’t have any exact causes. However, doctors believe new symptoms can be due to emotional problems or stressful situations, which can cause an increase in abdominal pressure. It is similar to the typical belching reflex, but instead of burping gas, the actual food in itself is pushed back up.

Following are a few possible contributing elements:

  1. Muscle Memory: Repeated actions can develop into habits, and the regurgitation associated with rumination syndrome may be a learned behavior that eventually becomes automatic.
  2. Gastrointestinal Muscle Dysfunction: The process of regurgitation may be aided by the dysfunction of the muscles in the esophagus and upper gastrointestinal tract.
  3. Stress and psychological elements: Rumination episodes may be triggered or made worse by emotional stress, anxiety, or other psychological causes.
  4. Developmental Factors: Given the prevalence of the syndrome among babies and people with intellectual or developmental problems, developmental factors may be at play.

Although Rumination Syndrome falls under the category of a GI disease, i.e., functional gastrointestinal disorders (FGID). Many people with rumination disorder mistake it for bulimia nervosa, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and gastroparesis.

Who is more likely to develop Rumination Syndrome?

There is no specific criteria for rumination syndrome to occur, as infants, along with people who have developmental disabilities, have been observed to experience symptoms of this condition. This illness affects children, teenagers, and adults, thus proving that it is not age-related. Anxiety, depression, psychological disorders, or other psychiatric problems can increase the risk of developing rumination syndrome.

Automatic regurgitation of previously consumed food results from rumination syndrome. Your child will typically eat meals normally if they have this issue. Undigested food, however, eventually rises back up into the person’s mouth from the esophagus after about an hour or two.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Rumination Syndrome?

rumination Syndrome
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Food regurgitation usually occurs within 30 minutes of eating or swallowing food and is the main symptom of rumination syndrome. The regurgitated food or meal may be either partially digested or largely undisturbed.

Typical warning signs and symptoms of rumination syndrome include:

  1. Repetitive Regurgitation: Frequent and effortless regurgitation of food is the defining characteristic of rumination syndrome.
  2. Rechewing and Reswallowing: After regurgitating food, people may choose to chew and swallow it again, spit it out, or both.
  3. No Nausea or Retching: Unlike other gastrointestinal illnesses, rumination syndrome does not cause nausea or retching.
  4. Weight Loss: Rumination for an extended period might cause weight loss and nutritional problems as a result of insufficient meal intake.
  5. Impact on Social and Emotional Life: The disorder may significantly affect a person’s social life, self-esteem, and emotional health.

How is Rumination Syndrome diagnosed?

Due to the bad symptoms of rumination syndrome and its resemblance to other gastrointestinal illnesses, doctors may find it difficult to diagnose rumination syndrome.

To rule out other illnesses, a thorough evaluation is required, which may involve a review of medical history, physical examination, blood tests, and diagnostic procedures like esophageal monitoring.

Healthcare providers must ask the correct questions to identify ruminating. For instance, it’s crucial to inquire about the food’s flavor when it is mentioned.

If the food tastes good, it is not well-digested. This indicates that rumination syndrome is likely. Food that has been vomited out has been digested and isn’t retained in the mouth.

How is Rumination Syndrome treated?

There isn’t any new medicine on the market right now that can effectively treat rumination syndrome. Relearning how to eat and digest food properly is one method to put an end to it. This requires diaphragmatic breathing training. A behavioral psychologist typically teaches this, and it’s simple to learn.

Your healthcare professional will choose a course of treatment for rumination syndrome based on the following criteria – how old you are, your current and previous health, your capacity to handle a particular medication, operation, or therapy, and the expected duration of the condition.

There are different approaches frequently used in the treatment of rumination syndrome, including:

  1. Behavioral Therapy: Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and other behavioral interventions can assist people in being more conscious of their regurgitation tendencies and in learning strategies to halt the rumination process.
  2. Relaxation techniques: Rumination bouts can be made worse by stress and worry. It can be helpful to learn relaxation techniques like diaphragmatic breathing training and mindfulness.

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  3. Dietary Modifications: Reducing the frequency of rumination episodes may be achieved by altering eating patterns, such as eating smaller, more often meals and avoiding trigger foods.
  4. Medication: In some circumstances, your healthcare provider may prescribe drugs that lessen the production of stomach acid or relieve gastrointestinal symptoms.
  5. Biofeedback Therapy: By giving real-time input, the biofeedback therapy technique aids people in taking control of physiological processes like muscular contractions.

Challenges of Rumination Syndrome

Rumination syndrome can result in a number of consequences if left untreated, including:

  1. Malnutrition: Malnutrition can be caused by frequent regurgitation, insufficient food absorption, and a lack of certain vitamins and minerals.
  2. Weight Loss and Growth Problems: Malnutrition can cause children and adolescents to experience growth problems as well as severe weight loss in adults.
  3. Dental issues: Constant contact with stomach acid can cause enamel degradation and tooth decay.
  4. Esophagitis and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD): Prolonged regurgitation can aggravate the esophagus, which can result in esophagitis and raise the chance of GERD.
  5. Emotional Discomfort and Social Isolation: The enduring symptoms and effects on day-to-day functioning may result in emotional discomfort and social isolation.

Can Rumination Syndrome be Prevented?

Rumination syndrome doesn’t appear to cause much physical damage, which is good news. Experts aren’t sure why rumination syndrome starts, but there are rare instances where acid reflux might cause issues with the esophagus. It has resulted in a slight weight loss in some adults and teenagers.

Here are some key points that might be useful:

  1. Healthy Eating Patterns: Rumination syndrome can be avoided with appropriate eating habits. Consume regular, balanced meals, and try to limit how quickly you consume. Chewing food completely helps improve digestion and lessen the chance of regurgitation.
  2. Stress Management: Rumination syndrome may develop or worsen as a result of stress and anxiety. Utilizing stress-reduction strategies like mindfulness, deep breathing exercises, meditation, or yoga may help lower stress levels and possibly prevent symptoms.
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  1. Steer clear of trigger foods: Try to avoid or limit the consumption of any particular foods that you notice seem to cause regurgitation episodes. Keeping a food diary can help you find potential triggers.
  2. Stay Hydrated: To stay hydrated during the day, make sure to consume enough water. Sometimes, digestive problems are made worse by dehydration.
  3. Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle: Maintaining a regular exercise routine, obtaining sufficient rest, and eating a balanced diet can all improve general well-being and perhaps lower the risk of gastrointestinal issues.
  4. Seek Psychological Support: If you discover that stress, worry, or emotional problems are hurting your eating patterns or digestive health, think about getting help from a mental health expert. Early psychological intervention may aid in preventing or controlling rumination syndrome.

Bottom Line

Rumination syndrome is a challenging gastrointestinal condition that needs to be identified right away and treated appropriately. Due to the relative rarity of rumination syndrome, little is known about its causes, prevalence, and available treatments. However, current developments in psychological research and investigations of gastrointestinal motility are providing greater clarity on this illness.

It’s critical to speak with a healthcare provider for a thorough assessment and individualized treatment plan if you or someone you know exhibits symptoms of rumination syndrome. With the right support, treatment, and coping strategies, individuals can effectively manage the symptoms of this disorder and improve their quality of life.

Last Updated on December 27, 2023 by