Rumination Syndrome

What is Rumination Syndrome?

Rumination Syndrome is considered to be an eating disorder, where a person (usually an infant or young child) brings back up and re-chews partially digested food. In many instances, the re-chewed food is swallowed again; occasionally the child will spit it out.

For Rumination Syndrome to be diagnosed, These instances of food being brought back up must happen with children who were previously experiencing normal eating habits for at least a month.

What are the Symptoms of Rumination Syndrome?

The defining symptom with rumination syndrome is the regurgitation of recently eaten food. Some people with rumination can experience additional symptoms. Some of those other symptoms can include;

Rumination Syndrome Causes

The exact cause of rumination syndrome is not determined, but there are many theories among medical professionals. There have been many links created between known cases and these presumed causes in the patient’s past. Since rumination syndrome has historically been found in mostly young children and infants, one of the most prevalent causes is thought to be over-stimulation or under-stimulation from a parent or caregiver who is has been in charge of that child’s wellbeing. This might cause problems when there is no longer that stimulus, and the person will seek self-gratification through the manifestation of the symptoms. In the older group, there is the habit-induced subgroup which generally has a history of bulimia nervosa or intentional regurgitation, and then there is the trauma-induced subgroup which may manifest due to recent emotional or physical injury. Incidents such as a recent surgery, psychological distress, a death in the family, concussions, and similar traumas can all lead to cases of rumination in older individuals, especially at an interval of about a couple months.

How is Rumination Syndrome Treated?

Behavioral modification is the only treatment available for Rumination syndrome because it is considered a learned disorder. The current behavioral treatment for rumination syndrome will consist of diaphragmatic breathings techniques to compete against the urge to regurgitate food. Habit reversal techniques are used to target rumination syndrome are eliminated through consistent use of a competing behavioral action. Over time, the rumination syndrome habits are eliminated.  This is a result of the rumination and the competing habit not being able to be performed at the same time.

Rumination syndrome must be treated at the earliest possible opportunities.  Parents of young children with this disorder must immediately contact their doctor in order to start the process.  The longer a child continues to live with Rumination syndrome, the more difficult it can be to be treated in a quick period of time.

Rumination Syndrome Prevention

There is no cure for rumination syndrome. However, those who have experienced such a disorder as bulimia nervosa would be wise to take instruction and practice biofeedback and relaxation techniques which can help to strengthen the system and help to prevent regurgitation. These exercises are usually most effective if they are done after you finish eating. Diaphragmatic breathing is another good technique which can help to reverse the problem in people with rumination syndrome who are of normal intelligence. Most infants will grow out of the disorder, which is why they are generally left to their own devices since these prevention techniques would not likely be of value in such fragile persons anyway.

Last Reviewed:
October 09, 2016
Last Updated:
December 19, 2017