Many different forms of disordered eating have the potential to affect a person’s quality of life and general health. Rumination disorder, also called rumination syndrome, is one example of a common eating disorder (ED). According to Frontline Gastroenterology, “[R]umination syndrome was found to have an overall worldwide prevalence of 2.8% with women having a slightly higher prevalence (3.1%) than men (2.5%).” Exclusive Hawaii Rehab uses evidence-based treatments to help clients manage EDs, including rumination disorder.

What Is Rumination Disorder?

Rumination syndrome is considered a functional gastrointestinal disorder affecting a person’s behavior after eating. People with the condition regurgitate undigested stomach contents for remastication, sometimes repeatedly. The disorder affects people of all ages and genders.

Some of the most common health side effects include:

  • Damage to the esophagus from acid during regurgitation
  • Noticeable weight loss
  • Increased risk of malnutrition
  • Chronic dehydration

The most significant side effects of ruminating syndrome are related to mental health. People may feel embarrassment, shame, guilt, or other negative emotions due to internalized stigmas about their disorder. Psychoeducation and other tools help clients find healthy ways to manage their condition. The experts at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab are certified to treat primary EDs, including rumination syndrome, using psychotherapy and other tools.

Risk Factors for Developing Rumination Disorder

Anyone can develop rumination disorder at any time. Gender, age, and socioeconomic status do not significantly affect who experiences the disorder. Rumination is a behavioral issue affecting how a person digests food. An unconscious or conscious increase in abdominal pressure causes physical symptoms. Often, people believe they are suffering from acid reflux or other gastrointestinal medical issues. However, in reality, abdominal pressure causes undigested food to be sent back up the esophagus.

Researchers are uncertain about what specifically causes the disorder. However, some known risk factors include:

  • Experiencing a severe illness
  • Undergoing major surgery
  • Severe mental health disorders
  • Family history of mental health disorders
  • Genetics may play a factor in some cases

According to Gastroenterology and Hepatology, “Rumination is commonly believed to be an unconscious learned disorder (ie, a behavioral issue) involving voluntary relaxation of the diaphragm.” Researchers report, “The belch reflex appears to become adapted.”

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Signs and Symptoms of Rumination Disorder

Everyone responds to disordered eating in different ways. For example, some people may only be mildly upset by their symptoms, while others may feel extreme and debilitating anxiety, depression, or panic. The symptoms and side effects depend on various factors, including a person’s age, gender, and any co-occurring disorders.

A few of the signs and symptoms of rumination syndrome include:

  • Regurgitating food within 10 to 15 minutes after eating
  • Stomach pressure or pain that is relieved by regurgitating food
  • Unusually bad breath
  • Frequent nausea, especially after eating
  • Unwanted or unintended weight loss

People with the disorder may avoid regurgitating and remasticating food around others. Most people eat food normally, making it more difficult to spot symptoms. The regurgitation generally happens within 15 minutes after eating. However, some people may regurgitate and remasticate the same food or drink multiple times over the course of an hour or two.

Treatment Options at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab

A proper diagnosis is essential to ensure clients receive the best care. Studies have shown that “Rumination disorder is often misdiagnosed as gastroesophageal reflux disease or vomiting, which results in unnecessary testing and treatments, leading to delay in therapies that will help alleviate the problem.” The clinicians at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab have decades of combined experience diagnosing and treating EDs like rumination syndrome. Clients can rely on the care team to provide effective, appropriate, and personalized treatments.

Some of the most common treatments for rumination syndrome include:

  • Teaching clients to eat and digest food properly
  • Ensuring clients understand their diagnosis and how the condition affects their health
  • Reducing maladaptive behaviors and encouraging healthy eating habits using psychotherapy

Personalized treatments provide clients with the best outcomes. The care team helps people learn to think about food and eating in a new way. In addition, clients are educated on nutrition and how healthy eating behaviors reduce the risk of malnutrition or other health issues.

Improving Self-Awareness and the Mind-Body Connection

Some people with rumination disorder are unaware of what causes them to regurgitate food. Increasing self-awareness and building a stronger mind-body connection help clients better control their behaviors and reduce the symptoms of rumination disorder.

A few of the treatments and services offered at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Biofeedback
  • Breathwork

Alternative holistic therapies, including yoga, acupuncture, and art therapy, also improve self-awareness and mindfulness. The care team works with clients to determine what treatments and services will help them create a stronger mind-body connection. Adolescents and young adults often respond best to breathwork. According to Frontiers in Pediatrics, “Diaphragmatic breathing has emerged as the mainstay of treatment” for rumination disorder.

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Our deeply-caring staff and the surrounding natural beauty offer an unparalleled healing experience.

How to Help a Loved One With Rumination Disorder

Rumination disorder may be difficult for friends or family to notice if the person attempts to hide their behavior. However, in many cases, friends and family are the ones who encourage people to get help for their disorder. The family and friends of individuals diagnosed with rumination disorder benefit from educating themselves about the condition. Clinicians at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab help clients and their loved ones better understand how the condition manifests and any health issues it may cause.