What Is Rumination Syndrome and Can It Cause Health Problems?

An eating disorder can cause considerable problems in a person’s daily life, affecting his or her physical health and emotional well-being. While most forms of eating disorder center around issues involving body image, rumination syndrome works differently.

As one of the less well known eating disorders, rumination syndrome affects children, teenagers and adults alike. Not unlike other eating disorder conditions, the main symptoms of rumination entail frequent regurgitation though the underlying causes differ considerably.

In effect, rumination syndrome is a behavioral problem that’s often carried over from childhood. When left untreated, symptoms of this disorder leave a person open to developing serious health problems.

Call our toll-free helpline at 888-647-0051 (Who Answers?) to ask about rumination syndrome treatment options.

Rumination Syndrome

Rumination Syndrome

Stress and anxiety can intensify rumination behaviors.

According to Pennsylvania State University, someone affected by rumination syndrome repeatedly regurgitates small amounts of food materials after eating a meal. Once regurgitated, some of the food is rechewed and swallowed and some is spit out. This routine can run for as long as four to five hours after eating and causes the person no pain or abdominal discomfort.

Rumination syndrome can vary in severity with some people experiencing relatively harmless symptoms for the short-term while others may live with more severe forms that can actually be life-threatening. Overall, in order for rumination syndrome to be present a person must show symptoms on a daily basis for a minimum of one month.


Considering how most eating disorders center around issues involving body image, one might expect the cause of rumination syndrome to develop in the same way. Instead, the repeated regurgitation practices of rumination serve as a form of self-stimulation much like nail-biting and gum-chewing do, according to the University of Missouri School of Medicine.

Consequently, rumination behaviors tend to intensify under certain conditions, such as:

  • When a person feels stressed
  • When feeling anxious or worried
  • Boredom
  • Physical illness


Symptoms of rumination syndrome can interfere with a person’s overall quality of life over time. In most instances, symptoms experienced typically take the form of:

  • Frequent stomachaches
  • Indigestion
  • Bad breath
  • Tooth decay
  • Raw or chapped lips

These types of behaviors can most definitely hamper a person’s social life when it comes to eating meals with friends, family as well as when attending work functions.

Factors That Increase the Risk of Developing Health Problems

Typically, people affected by rumination syndrome experience symptoms after eating a meal. Someone living with a severe form of the disorder may regurgitate food that wasn’t recently ingested. In effect, severe forms of rumination can cause regurgitation behaviors to persist for as long as a person is awake.

With mild or moderate forms of rumination syndrome, episodes of regurgitation tend to stop once regurgitated materials start to become acidic. When episodes continue on past this point, the risk of developing health problems increases considerably.

Potential Health Complications

According to Medscape, health problems commonly brought on by rumination syndrome include:

  • Malnutrition
  • Digestive disorders
  • Electrolyte imbalances
  • Choking
  • Pneumonia
  • Abnormal weight loss
  • Dehydration
  • Death
  • Upper respiratory tract problems

If you or someone you know suffer from rumination syndrome and need help finding treatment that’s right for you, call our helpline at 888-647-0051 (Who Answers?) to discuss treatment options with one of our phone counselors.


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