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What is Rumination Syndrome?

written by: Brandy A Burgess • edited by: jen2008 • updated: 8/20/2010

Rumination syndrome is a serious disorder that can affect one's health. Although sometimes difficult to diagosis, this disorder requires a proper behavioral training plan and a diagnosis by a health professional.

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    The Basics of Rumination Syndrome

    Rumination Syndrome is the voluntary or involuntary re-chewing or regurgitation of food that is partially digested. During this practice,Eating Disorder: Rumination Syndrome  the food is either expelled or re-swallowed. Several episodes of this regurgitation process may be repeated several times within an hour or throughout the day. For those who have rumination syndrome, the regurgitated food does not taste bitter and the entire process appears effortless. Once regurgitation has taken place, many patients proceed with belching due to a build up of gas in the stomach.

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    Causes of Rumination Syndrome

    The exact cause of rumination syndrome is unknown. However, studies have shown that the disorder is attributed to various factors. Infants with rumination syndrome has been linked with over or under-stimulation from their caregivers. When this occurs, the child seeks self-gratification due to a lack of stimuli. The eating disorder has also been linked to a patient’s medical history, changes in medication, illnesses and stress levels.

    In adolescents and adults, rumination syndrome is typically trauma induced or habit induced. Trauma induced patients will begin to practice rumination after a recent surgery, concussion, emotional or psychological distress or after the death of a loved one. Habit induced individuals may have a past of medical disorders, such as bulimia nervosa, and will form a subconscious habit that becomes out of control.

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    Symptoms of Rumination Syndrome

    The severity of symptoms for patients with rumination syndrome can greatly vary. However, the repetitive re-chewing and regurgitation of partially digested food will always be a present symptom. The episodes can be short in duration or last long-term. The amount of food that is regurgitated can also vary. Symptoms of the disorder can began anytime; starting from the point of ingestion to two hours after the meal is finished. Typically, the process occurs 30 minutes to one hour after eating.

    Common symptoms of patients with rumination syndrome include:

    • Abdominal pain
    • Constipation
    • Lack of fecal production
    • Nausea
    • Diarrhea
    • Bloating
    • Dental decay
    • Nutritional deficiencies
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    Treatment of Rumination Syndrome

    Presently, there is no cure for rumination syndrome. Behavioral aversive training is typically used as a treatment with good results. This type of training involves linking the ruminating behavior with bad consequences or results. Good swallowing and eating behaviors lead to positive results. (Example: Placing a sour taste on the tongue when the patient begins breathing patterns that initiate their rumination syndrome.

    In over half of rumination syndrome cases, diaphragmatic breathing has caused improvement. Patients who are successful with this type of treatment typically see immediate positive changes in their disorder. Most infants and small children with rumination syndrome will grow out of it with the help of aversive training. Alongside reassurance and the proper knowledge of how this disorder can affect one’s health, rumination syndrome can be controlled.

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    Prognosis of Rumination Syndrome

    Rumination syndrome is relatively common in those with mental handicaps and infants. However, the disorder can also present itself in children, adolescents and adults of normal intelligence. Rumination disorder is not well-known and is commonly confused with similar disorders and disease, resulting in a pro-longed need of a diagnosis. Receiving treatment early in the disorder can allow a health professional to prepare a focused treatment plan.