Rumination Syndrome

Rumination syndrome, or Merycism is an under-diagnosed chronic eating disorder, characterized by effortless regurgitation of most meals following consumption. There is no retching, nausea, heartburn, odours, or abdominal pains associated with the regurgitation, as there is with typical vomiting. The disorder has been historically documented as affecting only infants, young children, and people with cognitive disabilities (where the prevalence is as high as 10% in institutionalized patients with various mental disabilities). Today it is being diagnosed in increasing numbers of otherwise healthy adolescents and adults, though there is a lack of awareness of the condition by doctors, patients and the general public.

Rumination syndrome presents itself in a variety of ways, especially when comparing an adult without a mental disability to an infant or to a mentally impaired individual. Like most eating disorders, rumination can adversely affect normal functioning and the social lives of individuals. It has been linked with depression.

There is little comprehensive data regarding rumination syndrome in otherwise healthy individuals. Most people with the disorder are private about their illness, and are often misdiagnosed due to the number of symptoms, and the clinical similarities between rumination syndrome and other disorders of the stomach and esophogus, such as gastroparesis and bulimia nervosa. These include the acid-induced erosion of the esophagus and teeth (causing dental decay), halitosis, malnutrition, severe weight loss and an unquenchable appetite. Individuals may begin regurgitating within a minute following ingestion, and the full cycle of ingestion and regurgitation can mimic the binging and purging of bulimia.

Diagnosis of rumination syndrome is non-invasive, and based on a history of the individual. Treatment is promising, with upwards of 85% of individuals responding positively to treatment, including infants and the mentally handicapped.