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Recovery Diet For Pancreatitis
Updated on December 27, 2022
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Diet / Weight Loss
Recovery Diet For Pancreatitis

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 of them. 

When this happens, the pancreas may become swollen or inflamed—a condition called pancreatitis. This disease 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 remit then recur,” 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 

Recovery Diet For Pancreatitis 2
All the colours of the vitamin rainbow

The treatment for people diagnosed with pancreatitis focuses on nutritional management. The main goals of a chronic pancreatitis diet are:2

  • Avoiding malnutrition and dietary deficiencies
  • Regulating your blood sugar levels to prevent both hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
  • Managing other health conditions linked to chronic pancreatitis, such as diabetes and kidney problems
  • Avoiding alcohol intake
  • Quitting smoking

Best Foods To Eat For Pancreatitis Recovery

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:

  • Lean meats and other lean protein sources
  • Fruits — blueberries, cherries, tomatoes
  • Vegetables — spinach, cucumber, hummus
  • Whole grains — brown rice, brown bread, whole-grain pasta, hot cereals
  • Beans and lentils 
  • Clear soups 
  • Low-fat milk and other substitutes, such as flax milk and almond milk

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 aiming for a low-fat diet. Limit fats to fewer than 50 grams daily, and pan 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.”

Doctors may suggest fat-free alternatives like low-fat ice cream when you’re craving sweets, among other things.

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Worst Foods To Eat For Pancreatitis Recovery

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, causing abdominal pain. 

You should avoid high-fat foods such as: 

  • Cream sauces like mayonnaise
  • Cream soups
  • Fast food
  • Processed foods
  • Full-fat meat such as red and organ meats
  • Full-fat dairy, margarine, and butter
  • Fried foods like fries
  • Prepared snack foods such as potato chips

More Healthy Habits If You Have Pancreatitis

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. 

Take Vitamin & Mineral Supplements

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

  • Fat-soluble vitamins — A, D, E, and K
  • Vitamin B12
  • Iron
  • Magnesium

Your doctor may prescribe mineral and vitamin supplements. You must take them regularly to help bridge the gap of nutrient deficiencies. 

Avoid Simple Sugars & Carbs

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 in regulating your sugar levels. 

To prevent diabetes, doctors recommend that people with chronic pancreatitis limit their consumption of foods with refined carbohydrates, such as:

  • White bread
  • Sugar
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages 
  • Regular ice cream

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.

Quit Smoking

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 pancreatitis should quit smoking since it also puts them at a higher risk of pancreatic cancer.

Take Pancreatic Enzyme Supplements As Prescribed

A damaged pancreas ceases to function properly, affecting its enzyme production. You may lack the essential enzymes to break down foods once they reach 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.

How To Test For Pancreatitis

Testing for pancreatitis includes a blood test for an enzyme called lipase. The pancreas produces it to help with 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 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.

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Updated on December 27, 2022
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8 sources cited
Updated on December 27, 2022
  1. Pancreatitis.” Penn Medicine.
  2. Pancreatitis Diet.” Columbia Surgery — The Pancreas Center.
  3. Nutrition Advice & Recipes.” The National Pancreas Foundation.
  4. Help take pain out of pancreatitis with your diet.” Columbia Surgery — The Pancreas Center.
  5. Nutrition in chronic pancreatitis.” National Center for Biotechnology Information.
  6. Chronic pancreatitis and your diet.” Nutrition Interest Group of the Pancreatic Society (NIGPS).
  7. Type 1 diabetes mellitus in patients with recurrent acute and chronic pancreatitis: A case series.” Science Direct.
  8. Alcohol Consumption, Cigarette Smoking, and the Risk of Recurrent Acute and Chronic Pancreatitis.” JAMA Internal Medicine.
Dr. Rizza Mira
Dr. Rizza Mira
Medical Reviewer
Dr. Rizza Mira is a medical doctor and a general practitioner who specializes in pediatrics, nutrition, dietetics, and public health.

As a pediatrician, she is dedicated to the general health and well-being of children and expecting parents. She believes that good nutrition, a healthy lifestyle, and prevention of illness are key to ensuring the health of children and their families.

When she’s not in the hospital, Rizza advocates and mobilizes causes like breastfeeding, vaccination drives, and initiatives to prevent illness in the community.
Cristine Santander
Cristine Santander
Content Contributor
Cristine Santander is a content writer for KnowYourDNA. She has a B.S. in Psychology and enjoys writing about health and wellness.
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