Rumination syndrome, also known as Rumination disorder is a rare or chronic condition where people spit out food repeatedly but unintentionally. This regurgitation usually occurs with undigested or partially digested food that is taken in recently. This food then suddenly rises into the esophagus, throat, and mouth which is then either spit out or rechewed or reswallowed. Those diagnosed with this symptom chiefly experiences this after every meal, right after eating. Since the food is still in the partially digested state, it reportedly tastes normal and isn't acidic in nature like vomit. This rare condition is often linked to developmental issues and is more likely witnessed in people suffering from anxiety, depression or other psychiatric disorders.
Although the absolute cause of rumination syndrome isn’t clear by scientists and researchers, certain studies reveal that it may occur due to an increase in abdominal pressure. With the common symptoms being similar to some G.I disorders, Rumination syndrome is often confused with bulimia nervosa, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and gastroparesis. It is often linked to rectal evacuation disorder, a condition marked with poor coordination of pelvic floor muscles leading to chronic constipation.
Certain causative factors that increase the risk of Rumination syndrome includes:
Age: Although, this condition can affect anyone, it is more commonly seen in infants and children with intellectual disabilities.
Surgical Procedure: People undergoing surgery may often experience this condition.
Health Condition: People suffering from any acute illness or any mental disturbance may notice this chronic condition more often. People suffering from psychiatric conditions or intense stressful experiences are more at risk of having rumination syndrome than healthy individuals.
The most primary symptom of rumination syndrome is repeated regurgitation of undigested food within half hour to two hours after eating. Other common signs and symptoms include:
- Abdominal pain
- A feeling of fullness
- Bad breath
- Tooth decay
- Dry mouth or lips
- Unintentional weight loss
If the condition is not treated on time, it can cause a certain degree of damage to the esophagus (i.e., the tube between your mouth and stomach). But it can also lead to:
- Dental erosion
- Social isolation
Diagnosis And Treatment
If you notice your child or anyone close to you having this rare syndrome unintentionally, do consult a doctor at the earliest to avoid complications. The doctor usually acknowledges the patient's past medical history, does a thorough physical checkup and observes the behaviour. The doctor may also conduct a few diagnostics:
- Blood tests and Imaging techniques to rule out gastrointestinal disorders
- Esophagogastroduodenoscopy to inspect the esophagus, stomach and duodenum to rule out any obstruction
- Gastric emptying process to know how long it takes for the food to empty your stomach
- High-resolution esophageal manometry and impedance measurement are conducted to confirm rumination syndrome
The treatment options usually depend upon the age and cognitive abilities of the individual. It chiefly focuses on changing the learned behavior responsible for regurgitation. It primarily involves:
- Behavioural therapy to recognize when rumination occurs and to breathe in and out using the abdominal muscles during those times.
- Habit reversal therapy is used to treat people without developmental disabilities who have rumination syndrome.
- Medications are prescribed to inhibit damage of esophagus due to repeated rumination.