Rumination disorder

Rumination disorder, also known as rumination syndrome, is a type of behavioural addiction that causes the regurgitation of undigested food. While this condition is considered rare, it often goes undiagnosed and is sometimes mistaken for other medical conditions. While it’s difficult to determine exactly how many people are affected by rumination disorder in the UK, its effects can cause both physical and mental distress to those who experience its symptoms.

Rumination disorder

What is rumination disorder?

Rumination disorder is a type of eating disorder that affects both children and adults, however, it is most commonly seen in infants with developmental disabilities. The condition is characterised by the regurgitation of food. Once regurgitated, the food is either chewed and swallowed again, or the person may spit the food out.

The act of regurgitating is like an unconscious reflex, accompanied by the feeling of needing to belch. Experts believe that the act of relaxing the diaphragm and regurgitating eventually becomes a learned behaviour that is continually repeated.

Rumination disorder can often be mistaken for bulimia nervosa, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and gastroparesis. Those suffering may describe themselves as “vomiting” after food, which unfortunately can lead to a misdiagnosis. One key difference with rumination disorder is that the regurgitated food will taste normal as it will not have been digested or mixed with stomach acids. Regurgitating is not the same as vomiting, which is typically the forceful expulsion of digested food. Feelings of sickness or nausea are also not associated with this disorder.

What causes rumination disorder?

The exact cause of rumination disorder is not known, however, there are some risk factors that could lead to a higher possibility of developing the condition. Some of these risk factors include:

  • Childhood abuse or neglect
  • Lack of stimulation as a child
  • Exposure to high-stress situations
  • Experiencing a traumatic event
  • Suffering from mental health issues
  • Suffering from an illness or physical injury

For some, the re-chewing of food appears to have a calming and soothing effect, so it is thought that the condition develops as a result of psychological discomfort. No matter the cause, getting help for rumination disorder could turn your life around for the better.

Symptoms and side effects of rumination disorder

If you are suffering from rumination disorder, there are several symptoms and side effects that may present themselves. These include:

  • Regurgitating food straight after meal times
  • Abdominal pressure that is relieved by regurgitating
  • Re-chewing food
  • Weight loss
  • Nutrient deficiencies
  • Dehydration
  • Tooth decay and other oral health issues
  • Stomach aches and indigestion
  • Dry or chapped lips

These symptoms and side effects can be unpleasant, and it is possible that they may lead to further health complications over time.

Rumination disorder- weight loss

Rumination disorder and mental health

On top of any physical symptoms and side effects, the individual may feel embarrassed about their rumination disorder leading to self-isolation and worries about eating in front of people. You may try to hide the act of regurgitating by covering your mouth or coughing, avoid eating before or during social events or limit the amount of food you consume altogether.

Sadly mental health issues like anxiety and depression are also likely to co-occur with this condition and so it is vital that treatment encompasses both physical and mental aspects of the condition.

Food is an essential part of our daily lives and having to face these issues every single mealtime can cause a great deal of unnecessary stress. By allowing Banbury Lodge to help you conquer rumination disorder, you will be able to finally feel some relief.

Treatment for rumination disorder

Rumination disorder can affect your life in so many different ways, but the good news is, help is available. Banbury Lodge offers specialised rehab treatment for this condition, including behavioural therapies and diaphragmatic breathing techniques designed to help you overcome your symptoms.

Behavioural therapies

Rumination disorder is frequently triggered by stress or trauma and so these issues must be addressed in treatment. Banbury Lodge offers a range of therapies that work together to uncover the reasons for your rumination disorder and to help you adjust behavioural responses.

Some of the therapies Banbury Lodge offers include:

We provide a broad range of therapies so that each and every one of our clients is able to discover what works for them. By working with our skilled therapists, you too can find happiness around food again.

Rumination disorder - sound therapy

Diaphragmatic breathing techniques

The diaphragm is a large muscle located between the chest and abdomen – this is the muscle that contracts and causes you to regurgitate your food. Working on diaphragmatic breathing techniques can therefore help with rumination disorder. Your therapist at Banbury Lodge will teach you these breathing exercises and work with you to strengthen your diaphragm control.

Not only will diaphragmatic breathing exercises help you during rehab, but these are skills you can take forward into your everyday life as a way to combat rumination disorder.

What’s next?

Are you tired of constant worries surrounding meal times? If you are ready to put a stop to the symptoms of rumination disorder and get the help you need, it is important to speak to a medical professional and get appropriate treatment. Banbury Lodge offers proven and effective rehabilitation for anyone suffering from this syndrome. Our medical staff are here to support you, not only with the condition itself, but also with any co-occurring mental health issues you may be experiencing.

With our guidance, you can begin to foster a healthier relationship with food and prevent any unpleasant side effects associated with this disorder.

Frequently asked questions

Does rumination disorder go away?
Thankfully the prognosis for rumination disorder is extremely positive, with the majority of people making a full recovery via effective treatment. In some cases, rumination disorder may even go away on its own, with many children simply growing out of it as they grow older.
Does rumination syndrome develop at any specific age?
Rumination syndrome is not linked to a specific age and it can occur in infants, adolescents and adults alike. The disorder is most commonly seen in babies and young children, and in this case you may notice your child arching their back, abdominal muscles clenching, holding their head back and making a sucking motion with their mouth. The child may regurgitate food as a self-soothing behaviour, as chewing can be used as a way to find comfort.
How can I help a loved one with rumination syndrome?
If a loved one has been diagnosed with rumination syndrome, it is important to remain supportive and non-judgmental. They may feel embarrassed or ashamed of their condition, and so offering to be there for them throughout treatment could really mean a lot. Some ways you can support your loved one include helping to research treatment options, offering to take them to appointments and regularly checking in on how they are doing.
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