Rumination Syndrome Symptoms: Causes And How To Deal With It?

Rumination syndrome is a process by which small amount of food from stomach is brought back into the mouth. Some of the food is chewed and swallowed back or it is spitted out. The process is repeated time and again, especially after meals. This digestive disorder is rare and it is found both in children and adults.

It is an effortless, semi involuntary action.

The exact etiology of rumination is not known. Variety of factors has been implicated in its occurrence. The word rumination implies to the way cattle bring back their food from stomach to the mouth to chew it at when they are resting. It is normal physiological function for cattle but in humans it is not.

Apart from erosion of tooth enamel and bad breath, this condition can also lead to nutritional deficiencies and weight loss. Psychological support and physical training eventually helps a person to overcome the problem.

Causes Of Rumination Syndrome

Experts still are unable to reason out specific cause of rumination syndrome. In fact the disorder is often confused with other digestive disorders until thorough questioning and medical history confirms the condition.

There is effortless involuntary contraction of abdominal muscles with simultaneous relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter. The disorder is equally proportional in males and females.

  • Rumination syndrome is often observed in mentally challenged children. But children with good intelligence are also found to regurgitate food from stomach. Inquiring medical history in depth, a psychological element seems to be underlying. It may be a sort of neglect by the parents or over attentiveness. This abnormal behavior of parents sometimes makes the child vulnerable and he seeks ways for self satisfaction. One of the ways he does it is by rumination of food.
  • Adults too can suffer from rumination. It can be a habit among people who have past history of another digestive disorder called bulimia nervosa.
  • Rumination syndrome is also seen among certain professions such as magicians. Many magicians do the act of bringing back the contents of stomach back into the mouth. Repeatedly performing such acts in their shows can develop into a subconscious habit of involuntary rumination over a period of time.
  • Rumination syndrome in adults can have psychological influence. Depression, anxiety, worries for a prolonged period of time can affect an individual in many ways. Rumination syndrome can be an outcome of this mental state.
  • Rumination syndrome is also observed in people after gastric surgery or a traumatic injury to brain.

Symptoms Of Rumination Syndrome

The symptoms of rumination begin soon after eating food, especially after meals in adults and after a feed in an infant above the age of 3 months.

  • A small amount of food is regurgitated in the mouth. The taste of food does not alter most of the time because the food which has gone down in the stomach is yet to be mixed with the acid. Some portion of food is swallowed back and a part of it may be driven out.
  • It is an involuntary act and patient may not realize it. The person starts to chew the food soon after it is brought back into the mouth. Children often move their tongue up and down when the food is regurgitated.
  • Regurgitation in rumination syndrome is effortless process. It is not like vomiting where the food is brought out with force.
  • Some of the consequences of rumination are weight loss, symptoms of nutritional deficiency, decayed tooth, bad breath, social withdrawal, etc.
  • Rumination stops soon after the ruminated food becomes acidic. The phenomenon occurs again after another meal. An adult suffering from this condition is often found to be depressed or worried.

How To Stop Rumination Syndrome?

Rumination syndrome cannot be cured by any drug. However, proton pump inhibitors are often prescribed by the physician to prevent damage to the lining of esophagus. Reassurance and psychological support from family members is the key in resolving the condition.

Depending on the intelligence and age, patient needs to be taught behavioral techniques. He has to be taught and explained when rumination occurs and the measures that he should take to prevent it. He should be taught to breathe with the help of diaphragm muscles before eating food. Breathing in and out involving these muscles helps to prevent contraction of abdominal muscles. Thus it averts the food to regurgitate in the mouth.

Specialist consultation may be needed for children who are mentally disabled. Parents of such children also need a session of psychotherapy and approach about dealing with their children.

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