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Rumination Disorder


Evelyn Attia

, MD, Columbia University Medical Center, New York State Psychiatric Institute;

B. Timothy Walsh

, MD, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University

Last full review/revision Jun 2020| Content last modified Jun 2020

Rumination is an eating disorder characterized by regurgitation of food after eating. Regurgitation may be voluntary.

  • Some people with rumination disorder are aware that the behavior is socially unacceptable and try to disguise or hide it.
  • If people limit how much they eat (to prevent others from seeing them regurgitate), they may lose weight or develop nutritional deficiencies.
  • Doctors diagnose rumination disorder in people who report repeatedly regurgitating food for a month or longer.
  • Behavioral modification techniques may help.

People with this disorder repeatedly regurgitate food after eating, typically every day. They have no nausea and do not retch involuntarily. People may rechew the regurgitated food and then spit it out or swallow it again.

Rumination disorder may occur in infants, children, adolescents, or adults.

Unlike vomiting, which is forceful and typically caused by a disorder, regurgitation is not forceful and may be voluntary. However, people may report that they cannot stop themselves from doing it.

Some people are aware that the behavior is socially unacceptable and try to disguise it by putting their hand over their mouth or coughing. Some avoid eating with other people and do not eat before a social activity or work so that they do not regurgitate in public.

Some people limit how much they eat. People who spit out the regurgitated material or who greatly limit how much they eat may lose weight or develop nutritional deficiencies.


  • A doctor's evaluation

Doctors usually diagnose rumination disorder when

  • People repeatedly regurgitate food over a period of ≥ 1 month.
  • Gastrointestinal disorders that can cause regurgitation (such as gastroesophageal reflux [GERD] and Zenker diverticulum) and other eating disorders (such as anorexia nervosa) have been ruled out.

Doctors may observe the person regurgitating food, or the person may report it.

If rumination disorder is suspected or diagnosed, doctors evaluate nutritional status to check for weight loss and nutritional deficiencies.


  • Behavioral modification

Behavioral modification techniques, including treatments that use cognitive-behavioral strategies, may be helpful. Behavioral modification techniques help people unlearn undesirable behaviors while learning desirable behaviors.

More Information

The following are some English-language resources that may be useful. Please note that THE MANUAL is not responsible for the content of these resources.

  • National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA): Large nonprofit organization that provides access to online screening tools, a helpline, forums, and a variety of support groups (some virtual)
  • National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD): Provides access to curricula and training for medical and health care professionals, as well as peer-to-peer support groups, self-help, and other services to people with eating disorders and their families

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