In This Article
In This Article
The pancreas aids your body during digestion. It produces enzymes that break down sugar and fats in your foods. However, a malfunctioning pancreas can sometimes release too many digestive enzymes, potentially causing pancreatitis.
When this happens, the pancreas may become swollen or inflamed. Pancreatitis can disrupt the proper function of the organ.
“Pancreatitis can be acute or chronic. Acute pancreatitis is sudden and severe, while chronic pancreatitis is a condition where the signs and symptoms recur then remit,” says our in-house expert, Dr. Rizza Mira.
Your diet affects your pancreas since it's closely tied to the digestive process.
“The most common culprit for pancreatitis is alcohol intake. But certain foods add to this risk,” says Dr. Mira.
For instance, you may develop gallstones from too much fat intake, which often trigger acute pancreatitis.1 Heavy alcohol intake, on the other hand, often causes chronic pancreatitis.
Treatment focuses on nutritional management, as well as a pancreatitis recovery diet. The main goals of a chronic pancreatitis diet are:2
The healthier your digestive system, the smaller the chance of contracting acute and chronic pancreatitis.
When the pancreas malfunctions, it can result in acute or chronic pancreatitis, depending on the severity and the excess release of enzymes. Pancreatitis is primarily managed via diet and nutritional lifestyle changes, such as avoiding alcohol and abstaining from smoking.
Pancreatitis patients need to include protein-rich and nutrient-dense foods in their diet to achieve the above goals.
“Foods rich in vitamins A, D, E, and K, and low-fat milk and cheese also help towards recovery,” says Dr. Mira.
Some of the best food sources to help restore your pancreas’ health are:
Your pancreas may find it easy to process these foods, especially those low in animal fats and rich in antioxidants, as they can help prevent the pancreas from overworking.
Doctors recommend a low-fat diet, limiting daily fat intake to 50 grams or fewer. Spread them out in small meals throughout the day compared to bigger, less frequent meals.3 Aim to eat at least four to six times (in small amounts) to avoid additional burden to the pancreas.
Eating smaller, more frequent meals may not only keep hunger pangs and cravings at bay, but also help the body digest food more efficiently.
Doctors may also suggest fat-free alternatives like low-fat ice cream when you’re craving sweets, among other things, to avoid both acute and chronic pancreatitis.
Note that acute pancreatitis recovery may differ from chronic pancreatitis recovery, depending on severity and diet change. You may need additional medical intervention for chronic pancreatitis.
In order to manage/avoid pancreatitis, you need to focus on a nutrient-dense, low fat, and low calorie diet (alongside any medical intervention your healthcare professional may recommend).
Foods that are easy for the pancreas to process and are simultaneously beneficial to it are:
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You must avoid alcohol and fried or greasy foods on your journey to recovery. When you drink alcohol or eat oily foods, your pancreas creates more enzymes.4
Pancreatic attacks can occur when the swollen pancreas causes increased levels of digestive enzymes, leading to abdominal pain.
Any foods that would traditionally break a low fat diet should also be avoided.
You should avoid high-fat foods such as:
Again, remember that chronic or even severe chronic pancreatitis may involve more medical intervention beyond just dietary changes.
Avoid alcohol, high-fat, and overly greasy fried foods to manage your pancreatitis. These foods stimulate the pancreas to pump out more enzymes, which can lead to pain or discomfort.
A healthy diet plays an essential role in your recovery from pancreatitis. Your pancreas is more likely to recuperate if you also practice healthy habits.
Pancreatitis puts you at a higher risk for malnutrition, especially if it's persistent. The permanent damage from chronic pancreatitis may prevent the body from absorbing nutrients properly from foods.5
You may develop deficiencies from specific vitamins and minerals. Some of these deficiencies are:6
Your doctor may prescribe mineral and vitamin supplements. You must take them regularly to help bridge the gap of nutrient deficiencies.
The permanent damage from chronic pancreatitis can affect the different roles of the pancreas. Eventually, it may fail to perform its endocrine function, putting you at risk for type 1 diabetes.7
Aside from enzymes, the pancreas also makes and releases hormones, such as insulin and glucagon. Both are essential for regulating your blood sugar levels.
To prevent diabetes, doctors recommend that people with chronic pancreatitis limit their consumption of foods with refined carbohydrates, such as:
You should also avoid cakes, pastries, and cookies. The refined flour in them can be tough for the digestive system to process. They can also cause your insulin levels to rise.
Stick to what would constitute a low fat diet to be safe.
Smoking puts you at a higher risk of developing chronic pancreatitis. While it’s still not completely proven, studies often link regular smoking to alcohol abuse, which is a risk factor for pancreatitis.8
Research also shows that smoking increases your chance of developing gallstones, explaining the link between smoking and pancreatitis.
People with chronic pancreatitis should quit smoking since it also puts them at a higher risk of pancreatic cancer.
A damaged pancreas ceases to function properly, affecting its enzyme production. You may lack the essential enzymes to break down foods in the small intestine.
Your doctor may prescribe enzyme supplements you must regularly take to avoid flare-ups. Taking enzymes can help with your digestion and improve nutrient absorption.
Healthy habits contribute to pancreatic and overall health, not just diet. Recovering from pancreatitis means improving your lifestyle all around by upping vitamin intake, potentially taking enzyme supplements (if your healthcare professional recommends it), and steering clear of vices.
Testing for pancreatitis includes a lipase blood test. The pancreas produces lipase to assist fat digestion. A lipase test checks the lipase level in your blood.
Your doctor or healthcare provider may order it along with other imaging tests when you show symptoms of pancreatitis. They also use this test to determine if you have other health conditions affecting your pancreas.
Lipase testing requires a sample of your blood. Your doctor or a medical expert can collect yours via a syringe in a hospital, lab, or other medical setting.
Before your test, they’ll advise you to fast. You can’t consume anything except water for at least eight hours before they draw your blood.
You must also inform your doctor about prescribed or over-the-counter (OTC) drugs you’re taking or recently took. Some medications may affect the results of your lipase test.
People with chronic pancreatitis should seek further instructions from their healthcare professional as well.
Diagnosing pancreatitis involves a lipase blood test since the pancreas generates lipase when your body is digesting. Measuring how much lipase is in your blood can give your healthcare professional a better picture of your pancreatic health and whether or not they need to do further tests.
Remember to always inform your doctor of any medication you're taking or recently took.
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