What is Rumination Eating Disorder?

Updated: Oct 8, 2020

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Rumination eating disorder is characterized as eating food, swallowing, regurgitating the food, chewing it again, then re-swallowing it or spitting it out. Food isn't involuntarily or forcefully expelled from the body like in vomiting. It is a rare but chronic condition affecting all ages.

Diagnosis Criteria

Credit to NEDA.

  • The action of regurgitation of food must occur for at least one month, and food may be re-swallowed, rechewed, or spit out.

  • Condition not a result of medication

  • Repeated regurgitation doesn't coincide with other eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, BED, or avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder.

  • May require independent clinical attention if transpires with another mental disorder.


Credit to Healthline.

  • bad breath

  • weight loss

  • stomach aches or indigestion

  • tooth decay

  • dry mouth or lips

Signs and symptoms are the same for children and adults. Children are more likely to rechew and reswallow the food while adults are more likely to spit out regurgitated food. The main symptom is repeated regurgitation of undigested food, typically a half hour to two hours after eating. Individuals with rumination eating disorder expel their stomach contents every day and after almost every meal.


Credit to Healthline.

The causes of rumination eating disorder are unknown. The dysfunction is speculated to be unintentional but requires learned actions to occur. For example, someone with a rumination disorder may unknowingly never have learned how to relax their abdominal muscles.

Risk factors:

  • Though it can affect anyone, rumination eating disorder is ordinarily observed in infants and children with intellectual disabilities.

  • Studies suggest that repeated regurgitation affects more females, but more research is needed.

Other factors that may increase the risk of rumination disorder in both children and adults include:

  • having an acute illness

  • having a mental illness

  • experiencing a psychiatric disturbance

  • undergoing major surgery

  • undergoing a stressful experience

More research is needed.


No Current Statistics on Rumination Eating Disorder

Health Consequences

Credit to NEDA.

Cardiovascular System

  • Vomiting or laxatives can deplete body electrolytes. Electrolytes are used to help the heartbeat and other neurological activities. Imbalances in these chemicals can lead to irregular heartbeats, heart failure, and possibly death.

Gastrointestinal System

Eating disorders can lead to slow digestion, known as gastroparesis. Food restriction interferes with regular stomach emptying and the digestion of nutrients, which can lead to:

  • Stomach pain and bloating

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Blood sugar fluctuations

  • Blocked intestines from solid masses of undigested food

  • Bacterial infections

  • Feeling full after eating only small amounts of food

A patient can develop constipation, from any of the following:

  • Inadequate nutritional intake means the intestines don't have enough material for work properly.

  • Long-term inadequate nutrition can weaken the intestines' muscles and leave them without the strength to propel digested food out of the body

Both malnutrition and purging can cause pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas. Symptoms include pain, nausea, and vomiting.

Frequent vomiting can degrade the esophagus and lead to bursting, which is fatal. It can also cause sore throats and a hoarse voice.

Persistent vomiting can lead to swelling of the salivary glands.


  • The brain consumes almost one-fifth of the body's daily calorie intake. Inadequate nutritional intake causes low energy availability for the brain.

  • Severe dehydration and malnutrition can lead to electrolyte imbalances. Electrolytes are used by neurons to send electrical and chemical signals in the body. These imbalances can lead to seizures and muscle cramps.

Other Health Consequences

  • Inadequate nutrition can decrease the number of certain types of blood cells.

  • Malnutrition can also decrease infection-fighting white blood cells.

Treatment Options.

Credit to NEDA.

If a physical ailment does not cause rumination eating disorder, it is treated through breathing exercises and habit reversal.

Book: Clinical Handbook of Complex and Atypical Eating Disorders

Author: Anderson, L.K.; Murray, S.B.; Kaye, W.H.

Publish Date: September 26, 2017

Price: $69 (Paperback)

Description: "Clinical Handbook of Complex and Atypical Eating Disorders brings together into one comprehensive resource what is known about an array of complicating factors for patients with ED, serving as an accessible introduction to each of the comorbidities and symptom presentations highlighted in the volume. The first section of the book focuses on the treatment of ED in the presence of various comorbidities, and the second section explores the treatment of ED with atypical symptom presentations. The third section focuses on how to adapt ED treatments for diverse populations typically neglected in controlled treatment trials: LGBT, pediatric, male, ethnically diverse, and older adult populations. Each chapter includes a review of clinical presentation, prevalence, treatment approaches, resources, conclusions, and future directions. Cutting edge and practical, Clinical Handbook of Complex and Atypical Eating Disorders will appeal to researchers and health professionals involved in treating ED."

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