- Home » Preventive Health Care » Why It’s Important to Keep Your Pancreas Healthy
- What Causes Pancreatitis?
- What Is The Difference Between Acute And Chronic Pancreatitis?
- Acute Pancreatitis Symptoms
- Chronic Pancreatitis Symptoms
- Pancreatitis Diet Guidelines
- Pancreatitis Diet – Foods To Eat
- Pancreatitis Diet – Foods To Avoid
- Pancreatitis Recovery Diet Chart
- Pancreatitis Recommended Lifestyle Changes
- Health Complications Of Pancreatitis
- Other Treatment Options For Pancreatitis
- What Is Pancreatitis?
- Pancreatitis Diet
- Lifestyle Changes to Prevent Pancreatitis Recurrence
- Pancreatitis Diet Key Points
- Top Natural Pancreatitis Treatments
- 5 Ways to Prevent Pancreatitis and Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency
- Understanding Pancreatitis
- Causes of Pancreatitis
- Preventing Pancreatitis
- Case study: Fatty liver and pancreatitis combined
- 11 Natural Ways to Prevent & Manage Pancreatitis Symptoms
- Case study: A fatty liver and a fatty pancreas
- Pancreatic Fat: Lifestyle Habits Count More Than Genetics
Home » Preventive Health Care » Why It’s Important to Keep Your Pancreas Healthy
Quit smoking – various research links smoking to chronic and acute pancreatitis. According to Medscape, there are two major studies that connect smoking numerous pancreatitis issues. And by quitting smoking, the risk of pancreatitis is drastically reduced.
Consume antioxidants – rendering to WebMD, consuming higher amounts of antioxidants may lower the risk of developing pancreatic cancer. Foods high in antioxidants are comprised of vitamin E, vitamin C, and selenium. Some of these antioxidant super foods include grapes, blueberries, red berries, nuts, dark green veggies, orange vegetables like sweet potatoes, whole grains, legumes, fish and green tea.
Johns Creek Family Medicine
If you suspect that there is a problem with your pancreas, seek specialized advice as soon as possible. At an expert facility like Johns Creek Family Medicine, you receive an in-depth look into all aspects of your needs including diagnostics, screening tests, prevention and personalized counseling on maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Johns Creek Family Practice is conveniently located close to Peachtree Parkway (Highway 141) and McGinnis Ferry Road intersections. It is right across from Emory Johns Creek Hospital on Hospital Parkway. Dr. Zack Charkawi MD is accepting new patients in Gwinnett, North Fulton, South Forsyth counties and the neighboring North Atlanta areas.
Pancreatitis Diet – Foods To Eat And Avoid And Lifestyle To Follow Charushila Biswas Hyderabd040-395603080 August 6, 2019
Globally, more than 100,000 people are affected by pancreatitis (1). Pancreatitis can be acute or chronic, depending on the severity of the condition. Andto speed up recovery and prevent complications like abnormal blood sugar levels, kidney problems, and recurring episodes of acute pancreatitis, you MUST be on a pancreatitis-friendly diet (2). Give this post a read to know what to eat and avoid, a pancreatitis diet plan, and lifestyle changes required. But first, let’s talk about pancreatitis in brief. Swipe up!
What Causes Pancreatitis?
Pancreatitis is caused due to inflammation of the pancreas, which is usually very painful and may need surgery (3). Pancreas, the elongated gland, is present in the visceral cavity and is almost covered by the stomach and duodenum. The main function of the pancreas is to secrete pancreatic enzymes and hormones. It secretes insulin and glucagon, hormones that help regulate blood sugar levels, and digestive enzymes like trypsin, amylase, and lipase that break down and metabolize proteins, carbs, and fats (4).
Usually, pancreatic enzymes are secreted in the upper part of the small intestine where the main breakdown of foods and absorption of nutrients occurs (5). But due to gallstones, excess alcohol, smoking, autoimmune disease, or faulty genes, the pancreatic enzymes are secreted in the pancreas itself instead of the small intestine. And this leads to inflammation and inability to digest and absorb food.
Pancreatitis is of two types – acute and chronic. Scroll down to find the difference between the two.
What Is The Difference Between Acute And Chronic Pancreatitis?
Here are the main differences between acute and chronic pancreatitis:
Acute pancreatitis involves active inflammation of the pancreas, causing sudden bouts of abdominal pain and an increase in the level of blood enzymes. The pain may increase after a meal and occurs in the upper middle or left part of the abdomen. In some cases, it may last for days. Severe cases of acute pancreatitis may need surgery.
Chronic pancreatitis is a condition in which the pain is not as severe as acute pancreatitis, but it causes damage to the pancreas by calcification, ductal inflammation, and fibrosis. And that’s bad news. Because it means that the pancreas has stopped working, and you may be prone to diabetes, liver problems, anemia, and malnutrition.
Now, let’s check out the symptoms of acute and chronic pancreatitis.
Acute Pancreatitis Symptoms
Around 30 out of 100,000 people suffer from acute pancreatitis (6). And the symptoms are usually as follows:
- Upper abdominal pain that may come and go or persist
- Inability to digest food
- Pain right after meals
- Tender abdomen
- Higher heart rate
- Back and shoulder pain
Chronic Pancreatitis Symptoms
Around 5-12 out of 100,000 people develop chronic pancreatitis (7). Not being on a pancreatitis diet, even after being diagnosed with acute pancreatitis, leads to it. And here are the symptoms of chronic pancreatitis:
- Drastic weight loss
- Steatorrhea – fatty stool with foul smell
- Difficulty in breathing
- In some cases, the pain may reduce, indicating that the pancreas is ceasing to work.
Remember, you might experience abdominal pain due to various reasons. Do not panic. Call for help, and seek immediate medical attention.
To reduce the chances of recurrence of bouts of pancreatitis pain, you must take care of what you eat. Here are a few guidelines for your pancreatitis diet. Take a look.
Pancreatitis Diet Guidelines
Here are a few acute and chronic pancreatitis diet guidelines:
- Focus on consuming healthy food, always.
- Be on a low-fat diet to prevent aggravating the inflammation.
- Stop drinking alcohol and smoking.
- Consume MCTs (medium-chain triglycerides) as these do not require pancreatic enzymes to be digested.
- Consult your doctor and get digestive enzyme supplements.
- Consult your doctor and take supplements for vitamins A, E, D, K, and B12.
- Consult your doctor and take minerals like calcium and iron.
- Have 6 to 7 small meals throughout the day.
- Do not consume too many high-fiber foods at one go.
- Consume boiled and mashed veggies to put less strain on your stomach.
Now, let me list out the foods you can consume and the foods you must avoid. Scroll down.
Pancreatitis Diet – Foods To Eat
Here are the foods you can consume if you are suffering from pancreatitis:
- Veggies – Spinach, cauliflower, sweet potato, scallions, carrot, beetroot, and cucumber.
- Fruits – Cherries, blueberries, peeled apple, and pineapple.
- MCTs – Coconut, coconut oil, yogurt, and milk.
- Protein – Lentils, beans, and lean meat.
- Whole grains – Barley, oats, and white rice.
- Beverages – Water, strained fruit juice, coconut water, and buttermilk.
- Condiments – Chickpea and green peas hummus.
Note: If you have chronic pancreatitis, you may not be allowed to consume beans and whole grains. Your doctor/dietitian will advise you on your food intake depending on the severity of the condition.
Now, let’s take a look at the foods you should avoid.
Pancreatitis Diet – Foods To Avoid
- High-sugar foods – These foods increase the triglyceride levels, which can further aggravate acute pancreatitis.
- Carbonated beverages
- High-fat foods like butter, avocado, dried coconut, nuts, seeds, nut butter, and lard.
- High-fiber fruits and fruits with the peel.
- High-sodium foods like wafers, cheese balls, and processed meat.
- High-fat meat like beef and pork.
- Beverages with added sugar like packaged juices and energy drinks.
- Full-fat dairy
- Hamburger, pizza, fries, and fried chicken.
- Cake, pastries, doughnuts, ice cream, and milkshakes.
It is clear that you must avoid foods that are unhealthy and make your digestive system work extra hard to help digest them. Using the diet guidelines and foods to eat and avoid list, I have created a sample pancreatitis diet. It will give you an idea of timing and portion of foods that you should consume. Make sure you consult your doctor if you decide to follow this diet plan.
Pancreatitis Recovery Diet Chart
When it comes to pancreatitis patients, nutrition is very crucial. To recover and avoid pancreatitis-triggered diseases like gallstones, pancreatic cancer, diabetes, and malnutrition, patients must follow a good diet. Here’s an acute pancreatitis diet chart – take a look.
This diet chart may look very grim, but it is going help soothe your digestive system and reduce bouts of pain.
Apart from following a pancreatitis-friendly diet, you must lead a good lifestyle. Because, most of the times, your lifestyle determines if you are going to lead a disease-free life. So, don’t miss the following points.
Pancreatitis Recommended Lifestyle Changes
- Drink 3 liters of water every day.
- Quit smoking and drinking alcohol.
- Consume home-cooked food.
- Eat healthy and avoid foods that can cause inflammation of the pancreas.
- Practice meditation and yoga.
- Go on walks.
- Join a support group to talk it out and get the support of people who understand what you are going through.
- Do not miss your doctor’s appointments. Reschedule them if you do.
These lifestyle changes are mandatory so that you can prevent the following risks.
Health Complications Of Pancreatitis
- Further deterioration of pancreatitis
- Liver failure
- Pancreatic cancer
- Kidney damage
Along with diet and lifestyle changes, you must also be aware of other treatments available for pancreatitis. Take a look at the list below.
Other Treatment Options For Pancreatitis
- Fasting – Doctors recommend fasting for a few days to give your digestive system a break and help soothe the inflammation.
- Pain Medications – Acute pancreatitis pain is unbearable, which is why doctors often recommend pain medications.
- Intravenous Fluids – While recovering from pancreatitis, you may become dehydrated. So, fluid is pushed through your veins to keep you hydrated.
- Gallbladder Surgery – Since gallstones can also cause pancreatitis, you may have to undergo gallbladder surgery to remove the gallstones.
- Pancreas Surgery – Pancreas surgery helps remove excess fluid or the diseased part of the pancreas.
- Bile Duct Obstruction Removal – Pancreatitis can also be caused due to narrowing or obstruction of the bile duct. Therefore, your doctor may carry out procedures to widen the bile duct.
It is a no-brainer that you do not want to aggravate the condition. Follow the pancreatitis diet to soothe your pancreas and help it heal. Talk to a doctor immediately if you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed in the article. Take care!
Expert’s Answers for Readers Questions
Will I be able to do normal activities?
That depends on your condition. If your doctor recommends rest, you must avoid doing strenuous activities. You may do isometric exercises and stretching.
Will I be able to consume alcohol after my recovery?
No. It is not recommended to consume alcohol. It will only aggravate the condition and make you prone to another flare up.
Will smoking impact my disease?
Yes, it will. Hence, it is better to quit smoking.
- Soft Food Diet – What Is It, Foods To Eat, And Recipes
- Thyroid Diet Plan – What Foods To Eat And Avoid?
- The Best 7-Day Diet Plan And Tips To Get Rid Of Belly Fat
- The GM Diet Plan: How To Lose Weight In Just 7 Days
The following two tabs change content below.
- Latest Posts
Latest posts by Charushila Biswas (see all)
- Revealed! Miley Cyrus Diet And Exercise For A Healthy And Fit Body – December 31, 2019
- Intermittent Fasting For Weight Loss – How It Works And Benefits – December 24, 2019
- 15 Yummy Low-Carb Side Dishes To Make Your Diet Interesting – April 16, 2019
- Are You Losing Weight Due To Stress? Here’s What To Do – April 4, 2019
- 8 Best MCT Oils You Will Love When You Are On A Keto Diet – March 29, 2019
Charushila Biswas is a Senior Content Writer and an ISSA Certified Fitness Nutritionist. She is an alumni of VIT University, Vellore and has worked on transgenic wheat as a part of her Masters dissertation from NRCPB (IARI), New Delhi. After completing her Masters, she developed a passion for nutrition and fitness, which are closely related to human psychology. And that prompted her to author a review article in 2015. She has written over 200 articles on Fitness and Nutrition. In her leisure time, Charushila loves to cook and enjoys mobile photography.
Nearly 300,000 people are admitted to the hospital for pancreatitis each year in the United States. This is a very serious and painful condition that requires careful medical observation. In fact, during the first few days, no food or liquid is allowed; all fluids are administered through an IV.
As the pancreas begins to heal and function once again, first clear liquids are allowed and then bland, low-fat foods are added under the watchful eye of the health care team to make sure that food is well-tolerated. Acute pancreatitis can be life-threatening; seeking medical treatment is a must.
While the majority of people will recover well from acute pancreatitis, nearly 25 percent of those diagnosed will experience recurrent episodes, leading the disease to become chronic. Chronic pancreatitis puts you at a significantly increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer, diabetes, liver failure and other potentially life-threatening illnesses. (1)
Not only is following a diet for pancreatitis necessary to help recover, but it is essential to help prevent this disease from entering the chronic phase. There are some individuals who are more prone to developing pancreatitis, including those with a history of substance abuse, use of certain prescription drugs, unhealthy eating and genetics.
Light-to-moderate exercise, yoga and meditation can help manage the symptoms and avoiding alcohol and tobacco are absolutely necessary for recovery. Whether you’ve been recently diagnosed with acute pancreatitis or chronic pancreatitis, the first step is adopting a healthy diet focusing on fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins.
What Is Pancreatitis?
The pancreas is the central organ where the essential enzymes are produced for digestion and hormones are produced that help the body process sugar. The pancreas can malfunction, causing the digestive enzymes to activate while still in the pancreas instead of in the digestive tract. This can lead to inflammation and pancreatitis. In both acute and chronic patients, scar tissue may form, causing the pancreas to not perform optimally or even fail.
Acute pancreatitis is a sudden inflammation of the pancreas resulting in swelling, pain and poor digestion. Serious complications are possible, particularly if the pancreas becomes infected. (2)
Chronic pancreatitis is marked by persistent inflammation of the pancreas, causing permanent damage to this vital organ. Chronic pancreatitis is incurable, and certain life-threatening complications can occur including liver failure, diabetes and pancreatic cancer. (3)
When you have pancreatitis, you may experience any of the following symptoms. For some, symptoms may be mild. But for others, symptoms may be debilitating. (4)
Acute Pancreatitis Symptoms:
- Pain in the upper abdominal area
- Pain that radiates from the upper abdomen to the back or shoulders
- Pain that worsens after eating
- Abdomen is tender to the touch
- Elevated temperature or fever
- Rapid pulse
Chronic Pancreatitis Symptoms:
- Pain in the upper abdomen that persists, or may come and go
- Weight loss, often dramatic, without trying
- Stools that are oily and smelly
Pancreatitis Causes & Risk Factors
There are many possible causes for pancreatitis, many of which are linked to diet and overall wellness. However, there are times where pancreatitis is the result of a physical injury, surgery or other medical condition. Recognized risk factors include: (5)
- ERCP, a surgical procedure for gallstones
- Cigarette Smoking
- High calcium levels in the blood
- High triglyceride levels
- Injury to the abdomen
- Cystic Fibrosis
- Abdominal Surgery
- Certain medications
- Pancreatic cancer
- High-fat diet, particularly for those with Type 2 diabetes. (6, 7)
Dangers of Pancreatitis
Left untreated, pancreatitis can cause serious complications and even death. Seeking emergency medical intervention is necessary when symptoms present.
- Pseudocysts accumulate fluid and debris in pockets. If they rupture, they cause infection and internal bleeding.
- Inflammation in the pancreas makes it vulnerable to bacteria and infection. Surgery may be required in some cases.
- Kidney failure may arise, requiring dialysis.
- Breathing problems may develop as chemical changes in the body can affect oxygen levels.
- Diabetes may occur as insulin-producing cells are damaged.
- Malnutrition is fairly common as the pancreas produces fewer enzymes, making it difficult to break down and process essential nutrients.
- Pancreatic cancer is associated with long-term inflammation of the pancreas often due to chronic pancreatitis.
What to Do If You Suspect Pancreatitis
- If symptoms are severe, seek emergency medical attention immediately.
- If symptoms are mild or moderate, make an appointment with your physician.
- Eat small, light meals that are low in fat.
- Discount the symptoms as just discomfort.
- Consume a high-fat meal.
- Drink alcohol or smoke.
After a diagnosis of acute or chronic pancreatitis, nutrition must be the first priority. The goal with a pancreatitis diet is to prevent malnutrition, nutritional deficiencies and optimize blood sugar levels while protecting against kidney and liver problems, pancreatic cancer and worsening symptoms.
Columbia University’s Pancreas Center recommends focusing on a nutrient-dense diet high in lean proteins, whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products while avoiding greasy fried foods and alcohol. Their program recommends annual blood tests to determine any nutrient deficiencies and recommends supplementation as necessary. (8)
The diet recommended by Columbia University is very similar to the Mediterranean diet followed for generations throughout Greece, Italy and Spain. Countless studies have found that this way of eating helps to lower the risk of Type 2 diabetes; improves A1C levels; improves cognition and elevates mood; protects against Alzheimer’s disease and heart disease; protects against many gastrointestinal cancers and is associated with lower a lower risk of pancreatic cancer. (9, 10, 11, 12)
The traditional Mediterranean diet may be a touch too high in fats for some individuals with pancreatitis, but it is easily modified. Yes, even healthy fats like olive oil, coconut oil and those from wild-caught fish and grass-fed meats can be too intense for some with this condition. Like so many other diseases, the first step has to be listening to your body and recognizing the foods that make you feel at your best.
The majority of each meal should focus on fruits, vegetables and whole grains with proteins and fats playing a supporting role.
Many experts support the following daily servings as a target:
- 3 servings of whole grains
- 2 servings of fresh fruit
- 5–7 servings of vegetables
- 1 serving of nuts
- 1 serving of lean animal protein
- 1 serving of low-fat dairy
- 3 servings of wild-caught fish
- No more than 2 servings of beef or lamb
- 3 servings of eggs
- 3–4 servings of chicken or turkey
- 3–4 servings of nuts or seeds
- 1–2 servings of heart-healthy sweets
- 4–6 servings of legumes
The real goal here is to provide the body with foods that are easy to digest and that don’t cause the blood sugar to spike, while also keeping you satisfied. It is important to eat foods to address any nutritional deficiencies that pancreatitis may be causing. Remember, this is a guideline. If you have pancreatitis and there are foods on this list that you know you are allergic or sensitive to, please avoid them. (13)
Top 8 Fruits:
- Blackberries and blueberries: These berries are rich in resveratrol, manganese, fiber and vitamins C and K, which support healthy digestion while fighting cancer. Try this bright and nutrient-dense Blackberry Lemon Salad that features heart-healthy olive oil, sesame seeds and almonds.
- Cherries: Low in calories and high in essential nutrients, cherries are a perfect snack that supports weight loss, reduces inflammation and promotes restful sleep.
- Watermelon: Excellent source of vitamins A, B and C as well as potassium, magnesium and manganese. Have a watermelon smoothie for breakfast or an afternoon snack; the protein in this recipe comes from coconut yogurt and chia seeds.
- Black plums: With a low glycemic index, plus proven to lower cholesterol and aid in digestion, plums are a perfect fruit to eat on a pancreatitis diet.
- Red grapes: The polyphenols in grapes have been shown to help prevent obesity and Type 2 diabetes while lowering inflammation. To incorporate them into your diet, and reap the help benefits, have a handful as a snack or try this satisfying grape, chicken, and walnut salad. (14)
- Mangos: With healthy fiber and vitamin C, mangos also contain essential minerals, including iron, calcium, potassium and magnesium. This super fruit is associated with improved blood glucose levels and glycemic control. As an occasional sweet treat, try this amazing Mango Coconut Ice Cream, which gets its richness from egg yolks and coconut milk and its sweetness from raw honey and the mangos.
- Apples: Because they are naturally high in fiber, help lower inflammation and aid in digestion, apples make a quick, healthy snack. As a side dish or dessert, this Baked Quinoa and Apple dish is both warming and satisfying, while also supplying protein and healthy fiber.
- Pomegranate: Sweet and crunchy, this super fruit is loaded with fiber, potassium and vitamins C and K. Take a handful and toss them on top of protein-rich hummus as they do in many areas of the Middle East. (15)
Top 7 Vegetables:
- Beets: Packed with essential nutrients like iron, manganese, copper, potassium and the B vitamins, beets are known to improve heart health, brain health and support liver function. Try this family-friendly Roasted Beets with Balsamic Glaze alongside your favorite lean protein. (16)
- Broccoli: Just a cup of cooked broccoli contains more than 100 percent of one’s daily value of both vitamin K and vitamin C. Also rich with minerals, this vegetable fights cancer and promotes digestive health. For a satisfying meal, try my recipe for Alfredo Chicken and Broccoli Casserole, featuring whole grain pasta, lean chicken, kefir and aged cheese. (17)
- Spinach: Popeye wasn’t wrong; spinach is packed with nutrients that boost immunity, protect against diabetes and protect against certain types of cancer. Try this Mango Walnut Spinach Salad, which combines many foods on the pancreatitis diet list.
- Kale: A cruciferous vegetable that demonstrates anti-inflammatory properties, supports detoxification, eye health, and protects against cancer, kale is a nutrient-dense leafy green perfect for any diet for pancreatitis. Add a few leaves to a smoothie or replace some (or all!) lettuce in a salad with finely chopped kale. (18)
- Lettuce: Salads are a big part of a Mediterranean diet and an easy way to ensure you meet the recommended five to seven servings of vegetables each day. Choose darker leaf lettuces and mixed wild greens to enjoy the highest levels of vitamins and minerals.
- Sweet potatoes: Rich with beta carotene, vitamin C, copper, vitamin B6, and manganese, sweet potatoes are a healthy starch that tastes great. In the mornings, alongside a couple of cage-free eggs, this Sweet Potato Hash Brown recipe will leave you energized for the day.
- Carrots: Beta carotene is associated with immune system health and eye health, as well as healthy digestion, while being one of the most versatile vegetables on the planet. Enjoy carrots raw, cooked or juiced on your pancreatitis diet. (19)
Top 6 Whole Grains:
Research shows that whole grains in a pancreatic diet should be encouraged. (20)
- Brown rice: High in fiber and rich in manganese, replacing white rice with brown rice can lower your risk for Type 2 diabetes by 16 percent. As a side dish, this gluten-free grain is relatively high in calories, so sticking with a single serving size is recommended. (21)
- Buckwheat: High in protein and fiber, this gluten-free grain is rich in antioxidants and is highly digestible. Buckwheat flour can be used for making a healthy morning pancake, while buckwheat groats can be added to salads or made into a morning porridge. (22)
- Polenta: This rough grind of corn, similar to Southern grits, is used throughout the Mediterranean. Top it with mushrooms and legumes, a touch of feta cheese, and fresh herbs for a filling and satiating meal. Purchase organic, non-GMO polenta only.
- Millet: High in fiber, naturally gluten-free and easy to digest, millet is a seed, often misrepresented as a grain. This nutrient-dense seed is experiencing a renaissance because it is so very versatile. Explore millet recipes suitable for breakfast, lunch and dinner
- Teff: If you aren’t familiar with the Ethiopian grain teff, it’s time to introduce yourself. This grain promotes weight loss, boosts the immune system, supports bone health and aids in digestion. It’s available as a flour or grain, and you can use it to make porridges, pancakes and tortillas.
- Amaranth: Prized for thousands of years by the Aztecs, this grain is a great source of fiber, manganese and protein. This gluten-free whole grain aids in digestive health, reduces inflammation, fights the development of Type 2 diabetes and aids in weight loss. Use in place of oats, white rice or pasta, and as a thickener for soups. (23)
Top 5 Nuts and Seeds:
- Almonds: A distant relative of many stone fruits, the simple almond is packed with protein, fiber and a host of essential vitamins and minerals. Research shows they help to control blood sugar levels, help with weight loss and may increase nutrient absorption of fat-soluble nutrients. Because of their relatively high-fat content, limit yourself to a single serving. (24)
- Walnuts: A real nutrient powerhouse, walnuts provide omega-3s, supporting a healthy heart and brain while helping to control inflammation and blood sugar levels. For an occasional healthy sweet treat, try my recipe for Raw Brownie Bites, which features walnuts, almonds, cacao powder and dates.
- Sunflower seeds: Rich in the B vitamins and vitamin E as well as selenium and magnesium, sunflower seeds provide a healthy dose of essential fatty acids, amino acids and fiber. Eat in moderation, and stick to a half of a single serving as their fat content is relatively high. (25)
- Pumpkin seeds: Once only a fall snack, pumpkin seeds are now available year-round. With a satisfying crunch, and packed with healthy fats, protein and fiber, pumpkin seeds are tasty tossed on salads or enjoyed mixed into yogurt. As a snack, it’s hard to beat this recipe for Spicy Roasted Pumpkin Seeds.
- Pistachios: Grown throughout the Mediterranean, it is no surprise that pistachios make this list. They are known to help lower cholesterol and help with weight loss. Stick with one-half of an ounce as a serving due to the fat content. While they are great in pilafs and salads, it’s hard to beat a handful of pistachios for a quick burst of energy. (26)
Top 4 Lean Protein Sources:
- Wild-caught fish: The typical Mediterranean diets feature a wild-caught fish or seafood at least twice each week. Wild-caught salmon is associated with healthy cognitive function, heart health and cancer protection. (27)
- Poultry: Lean cuts of chicken and turkey are a great source of protein. Stick with grilling, baking or poaching – avoid frying to keep the fat content within healthy levels. And to help with digestion, consume chicken bone broth that is naturally rich with collagen and L-glutamine, which is shown to preserve gut integrity while altering gut microbiota (flora) to improve digestive functioning. (28, 29)
- Eggs: Cage-free eggs are high in protein, rich in amino acids and have less saturated fat than their counterparts. Eggs, a typical breakfast staple, are also great for quick lunches and dinners. Pancakes for dinner? Sure, when they are Banana Egg Paleo Pancakes, why not! (30)
- Legumes: High in protein, low in fat and high in fiber, legumes are an essential part of a healthy pancreatitis diet as they help to stabilize blood sugar levels and aid in weight loss. Specific beans including lentils, mung beans and garbanzo beans contain lipase, a digestive enzyme released by the pancreas. Try adding a variety of beans to your diet with hummus for lunch or a bowl of stick-to-your-ribs, Turkey Chili with Adzuki Beans. (31, 32)
Top 3 Low-Fat Dairy:
- Greek yogurt: Choose fat-free or low-fat Greek yogurt without added sugar or sweeteners while following a pancreatitis diet. High in probiotics for gut health and protein, this dairy product is perfect for breakfast when partnered with a whole grain toast and berries.
- Cottage cheese: Rich in vitamin B12 and high in calcium, cottage cheese is a great snack, particularly when partnered with other foods from the pancreatitis diet list like nuts, seeds and fruit. (33)
- Kefir: Known for its immunity-boosting powers and healthy bacteria, which aids in digestion, this cultured dairy product provides protein, calcium and vitamin D. Enjoy kefir as a mid-morning snack, or use it in place of another dairy in your favorite smoothie. (34)
Foods to Avoid: (35)
- Alcohol, tobacco and caffeine
- Known or suspected allergens like wheat, soy, dairy, corn and artificial sweeteners
- Fried foods
- White flour products like pasta and white bread
- Trans-fatty acids in commercially-prepared foods
Lifestyle Changes to Prevent Pancreatitis Recurrence
- If you smoke cigarettes or use other tobacco products, stop.
- Eat three to four small meals each day.
- Stay hydrated; drink at least 8 ounces of water per 10 pounds of body weight each day.
- Meditate and practice relaxation to ease stress and pain.
- Practice yoga twice each week. According to a study published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology, yoga improves overall quality of life for those with chronic pancreatitis. (36)
Pancreatitis Diet Key Points
- 300,000 people are admitted to U.S. hospitals each year with pancreatitis.
- Possible complications include diabetes, malnutrition, infection, kidney failure and internal bleeding.
- Chronic pancreatitis is associated with a higher risk for pancreatic cancer.
- Diet plays a major role in the development and treatment of pancreatitis.
- A pancreatitis diet features small, low-fat, nutrient-dense meals.
- Normalizing blood sugar levels is key to recovery.
Top Natural Pancreatitis Treatments
- Following a Mediterranean diet is beneficial for glucose management and is associated with a lower risk of pancreatic cancer.
- Lean proteins, whole grains, nuts, fruits, vegetables and moderate amounts of dairy provide necessary energy and keep you satisfied.
- Practicing yoga twice each week is shown to improve the overall quality of life for those with chronic pancreatitis.
Read Next: How to Improve Liver Function in 6 Steps
5 Ways to Prevent Pancreatitis and Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency
Not smoking, limiting alcohol, and living a healthier lifestyle can help prevent pancreatitis and EPI. iStock
Sign up for more FREE Everyday Health newsletters.
There are many things in life you can live without, but your pancreas isn’t one of them.
The pancreas is an oddly shaped organ that has been described as resembling everything from a pear to a fish or a tadpole. It’s buried deep inside the abdomen — behind the stomach and nestled among the liver, spleen, and gallbladder — so you may not have seen a picture of it or even be entirely sure what it does.
It is an essential organ that produces a number of enzymes necessary to digest food and makes insulin, the hormone needed to keep blood sugar levels in check.
Given its importance, the health of your pancreas shouldn’t be ignored. According to The National Pancreas Foundation, every year in the United States, more than 300,000 people are treated in the hospital for acute pancreatitis, a serious and painful inflammation of the pancreas that, left untreated, can worsen and even become life threatening.
Fortunately, there are preventive steps you can take to reduce your risk for pancreatitis and other related health problems, such as exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI). But first it’s important to understand what pancreatitis is, what causes it, and how it’s linked to EPI.
Pancreatitis occurs when the pancreas becomes inflamed and the digestive enzymes that should only be active inside the intestines start “digesting” the pancreas itself. This condition can not only be painful but also interfere with your digestion and prevent food from being properly absorbed, which can lead to nausea, vomiting, bloating, fever, and diarrhea.
As a result of pancreatitis, you can develop serious nutritional deficiencies and lose weight.
Pancreatitis can be acute (meaning it occurs suddenly) or chronic (i.e., long term). In most cases, acute pancreatitis goes away in a few days with specific dietary changes or treatments, which may include fluids, antibiotics, or pain medication. Inflammation of the pancreas that gets worse over time is considered chronic pancreatitis. Persistent or chronic pancreatitis can damage the pancreas and lead to other problems, such as EPI, which develops when the pancreas isn’t able to produce the digestive enzymes needed to digest food.
Causes of Pancreatitis
When the pancreas suddenly becomes inflamed, there are two common causes: gallstones and chronic alcohol consumption.
Gallstones, or pebbles made of hardened bile, can trigger acute pancreatitis if they leave the gallbladder and pass through or get lodged in the common bile duct, which is the tube that connects the liver, gallbladder, and pancreas to the small intestine.
Acute pancreatitis can develop within hours or up to two days after heavy drinking. Other causes include:
- High levels of fat in the blood
- High levels of calcium in the blood
- Abdominal injury that damages the pancreas
- Hormonal abnormalities
- Certain medications, such as steroids and estrogen
- Viral infection
- Genetic abnormalities of the pancreas
Research also shows that years of excessive drinking is a major risk factor for chronic pancreatitis. A study published in October 2019 in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism noted that those who developed chronic pancreatitis as a result of alcohol consumption were diagnosed at an earlier age than those whose condition was linked to other causes.
There are ways you can protect your pancreas and reduce your risk for pancreatitis and other serious health problems such as EPI.
1. Limit alcohol consumption. By drinking less (or not at all), you can help protect your pancreas from the toxic effects of alcohol and reduce your risk for pancreatitis.
2. Eat a low-fat diet. Gallstones, a leading cause of acute pancreatitis, can develop when too much cholesterol accumulates in your bile, a fluid that helps break down fats. To reduce your risk for gallstones, eat a low-fat diet that includes whole grains and a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. To help prevent pancreatitis, avoid fatty or fried foods and full-fat dairy products.
If you have high levels of triglycerides — fat that is carried in your blood — you can also have an increased risk for acute pancreatitis. To lower your levels, limit foods that are high in simple sugars, such as sweets and high-calorie beverages.
3. Exercise regularly and lose excess weight. People who are overweight are more likely to develop gallstones, which leads to a greater risk for acute pancreatitis. Losing extra pounds gradually and maintaining a healthy weight by eating a balanced diet and engaging in regular physical activity can help prevent gallstones from forming.
4. Skip crash diets. The caveat to losing weight is to do it gradually. When you go into crash-diet mode, prompting quick weight loss, your liver ramps up cholesterol production in response, which increases your risk for gallstones.
5. Don’t smoke. A review of existing studies published in the September 2019 issue of the journal Pancreatology found that adults who smoked were 1.5 times more likely to develop acute or chronic pancreatitis than nonsmokers.
Pancreatitis can be a serious condition and, if left unmanaged, may progress to EPI. If you have risk factors for pancreatitis or have experienced symptoms before, make the appropriate lifestyle changes to prevent it from occurring in the future.
Vomiting is one of the most common conditions for which patients are sent to me for evaluation. It also is one of the most frustrating to figure out as there are so many diseases that cause dogs and cats to vomit.
Pancreatitis is one of those potential causes that I (Perry Jameson) have to rule in or out as the cause. The pancreas is an important organ as it produces insulin to control glucose levels and enzymes that help digest food. It sits adjacent to the stomach and duodenum. When inflamed, pancreatitis, it results in vomiting as the stomach and upper intestines become inflamed as well.
What causes pancreatitis to develop in dogs is often unknown. Many theories have been speculated over the years, such as steroid administration to organophosphate pesticide exposure. Most of these, however, have never been substantiated. The most likely cause is a genetic predisposition and increased fat in the diet. Especially a sudden increase in fat consumption, the probable reason we see an increase in pancreatitis around Thanksgiving.
The cause for pancreatitis in cats is even more poorly understood. Pedigree, concurrent disorders (inflammatory bowel disease, hepatitis), certain infections and pancreatic neoplasia appear to be associated with an increased risk.
In both species we see occasional cases following abdominal surgery. When handled during surgery, the pancreas may become inflamed, resulting in pancreatitis several days later.
Symptoms for dogs and cats with pancreatitis can vary greatly between species and even from dog to dog and cat to cat. For dogs, vomiting is the major symptom and can be mild and intermittent to intractable. In mild cases, they may otherwise feel fine; when severe, they can be in life-threatening shock. Many dogs will have a painful abdomen and fever.
Interestingly for cats, less than 50 percent will be vomiting. Their most common clinical symptoms are poor to no appetite and lethargy.
For some patients the inflammation of the pancreas can be so severe that it may even begin to affect other organs. For both dogs and cats, fluid may accumulate within the abdominal cavity, giving them a bloated appearance. If severe enough, the pancreatic inflammation can even cause fluid to accumulate within the chest cavity of some cats. The primary symptom in these cats may be labored breathing.
The gall bladder empties into the intestine through the bile duct. The bile duct has to travel through the pancreas to reach the intestine. If the pancreas is inflamed enough, the bile duct may be blocked, resulting in a backup of bile. These patients may have a yellow tinge to their skin, eyes and mucous membranes as a result of this obstruction.
The diagnosis of pancreatitis is not as easy as you would think. It involves eliminating other causes for symptoms as well as tests that support the pancreas as the cause.
For a long time, we used blood levels of the two pancreatic enzymes, amylase and lipase, as a means of diagnosing pancreatitis. The thought was that when inflamed, the pancreas would release these enzymes into the bloodstream at increased levels. Over the past few decades, however, we have learned that these values are not reliable. They may be elevated and your pet does not have pancreatitis or they may be normal in the face of severe pancreatitis.
Recently, more specific testing has been developed. While still not 100 percent, testing the serum pancreas-specific lipase is a major improvement. This is a blood test that is not found on most routine profiles so it has to be specifically requested. In my experience, if this test is negative, the patient probably does not have pancreatitis. Even with this test false positives are still possible.
Get a weekly recap of South Carolina opinion and analysis from The Post and Courier in your inbox on Monday evenings.
Abdominal ultrasound is one of the best methods of diagnosing pancreatitis in both dogs and cats. A trained ultrasonographer may be able to identify pancreatic changes even when blood tests are inconclusive.
Another long-term practice with pancreatitis therapy was not feeding the patient. By withholding food, the thought was we would decrease the stimulus for the pancreas to work and produce enzymes, which would result in further inflammation of the pancreas.
Now we feel it is better to withhold food only when it cannot be tolerated due to the vomiting. Once they can and want to eat again, feeding should be started with the fat content greatly restricted. In patients with severe disease, we may surgically place a tube into their jejunum, a section of the small intestine, to allow the administration of a liquid diet that enters the GI tract past the point where vomiting can occur.
In some dogs and cats, the inflammation is so severe that a sterile abscess will form. These may have to be surgically drained or removed for the condition to resolve.
The main therapy is to control vomiting, keep the patient well-hydrated and treat for pain. Even with aggressive therapy, some of my patients still die from pancreatitis.
As for every disease, the best therapy is prevention. Avoid sudden changes in your pet’s diet, especially offering anything with fat. Also, once a pet has pancreatitis, they are more likely to develop it again, so be extra careful with their diet.
Have you thought about your pancreas today? You may have carefully studied your face, felt the beat of your heart, and heard the rumblings of your stomach, but most people give little consideration to the pancreas. It sits near the bottom of the stomach and the duodenum, which is the first section of the small intestine, unobtrusively performing its functions when healthy. But if it were suddenly injured or impaired—boy, would you know it! The pancreas produces enzymes to break down fats, proteins and carbohydrates, plus it secretes homones such as insulin that specifically affect carbohydrate metabolism. Therefore, the pancreas is either directly or indirectly connected to all other systems of the body, and it is in your best interest to take very good care of it. So what does that include?
Protect and Prevent
Provide your body with key nutrients to ease excess stress on the pancreas and also to offer antioxidant support as a defense against rogue molecules. Below are 6 supplements that are highly beneficial to the health of your pancreas:
- Chromium picolinate—This mineral helps maintain stable blood sugar levels so the pancreas doesn’t have to work overtime secreting insulin to move sugar out of the blood into cells.
- Calcium & Magnesium—They work hand in hand to promote the health of all glands. Be sure to get 1000 mg of calcium per day in food or supplemental form and 400 mg of magnesium.
- Pancreatin—By occasionally using a pancreatin supplement that supplies protease, amylase and lipase before a meal, you actually provide a break for the pancreas. It’s kind of like giving it the night off.
- Vitamin B Complex—The entire complex helps relieve stress on the pancreas, and vitamins B-3 and B-5 in particular are important for fat and carbohydrate metabolism.
- Vitamin C—Free radical scavenger; best to use a buffered form of vitamin C.
- Lecithin—A fat emulsifier that aids in digestion.
Alcohol & Tobacco
When it comes to the health of the pancreas, studies reveal that alcohol and tobacco are Public Enemy #1. If you are concerned about your pancreas, avoid the use of alcohol entirely. Even though red wine does offer antioxidant benefits, you can obtain the same healthy compounds from pomegranate juice with no risk whatsoever to your pancreas. And stay as far away as possible from tobacco—even second-hand smoke!
Case study: Fatty liver and pancreatitis combined
Brian was a 43 year old man who came to see me for help with his liver and pancreas. A month before seeing me he had been diagnosed with acute pancreatitis.
One evening after dinner he experienced excruciating pain, nausea and sweating. He was rushed to hospital and diagnosed with pancreatitis. At the same time, Brian discovered he also has a fatty liver and sludge in his gallbladder.
He came to see me because he wanted to overcome the fatty liver, but he was even more concerned about his pancreas. I don’t blame him; acute pancreatitis is a very serious condition and can be fatal.
Brian was ready to make several changes to his diet. He had felt unwell for many years and he’d had enough. Brian suffered with terrible digestive problems; he was on two different acid blocking drugs to control the dreadful heartburn he experienced. These drugs did not completely resolve his symptoms. He also felt terribly bloated and nauseous for most of the day.
Brian had read my book Fatty Liver: You Can Reverse It before coming to see me, so he had already reduced the amount of grains and sugar he was eating. However, he wanted to know which specific foods he should eat to help his pancreas.
Brian was only around 20 pounds overweight but the weight was held across his upper abdomen, which is the most dangerous area to carry excess fat. I refer to this as a “liver roll”. The sonogram report described his liver condition as “early fatty infiltration of the liver”. This was a good sign and meant it probably won’t take many months to reverse the fatty liver.
I was not surprised to discover there is sludge in Brian’s gallbladder. This means the bile in his gallbladder has become excessively thick and concentrated and is a precursor to gallstones. Many people with a fatty liver go on to develop gallbladder disease.
Brian loves beer and the doctor at the hospital thought his acute episode of pancreatitis was probably due to excessive alcohol intake, combined with chronic inflammation of his liver. The pancreas lies very close to many other abdominal organs and pancreatitis can be triggered by inflammation in nearly any nearby organ. Brian also loved all sorts of high carbohydrate foods – bread, pizza and mashed potatoes were his favorites, but he realized they would have to go if he wanted to get well.
The carbohydrate rich foods were a problem because they were rapidly digested into sugar, which his liver promptly converted into fat; creating fatty liver disease. The second problem with them is the gluten content. Removing gluten from the diet is a very reliable way to significantly reduce or completely eliminate digestive problems such as bloating, reflux and indigestion. Brian also suffered with joint pain, particularly in his knees, which is another typical symptom of gluten intolerance.
My recommendations for Brian
- I asked Brian to follow the eating plan in my book Fatty Liver: You Can Reverse It. This meant he needed to avoid grains, sugar and starches. Instead he would have to base his diet on vegetables, protein and good fats. Suitable types of protein include poultry, seafood, eggs and meat (preferably pastured). Suitable good fats include extra virgin olive oil, macadamia nut oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, pastured butter or ghee and animal fats such as lard.
- Brian had stopped drinking beer completely for a month after the episode of acute pancreatitis because he was terrified of experiencing a recurrence. He asked me if he was able to reintroduce some beer into his diet. Most beer is very much like soda and really doesn’t do your body any favors. He would get faster results from my treatment plan if he avoided all beer, but some people feel they cannot avoid all alcohol, so I left the decision up to him.
- I asked Brian to take my liver tonic Livatone Plus. This is a powerful formula that helps to reduce inflammation in the liver and can even help to repair damaged liver cells. This formula would also help to make his bile more fluid, thereby reducing the sludge in his gallbladder.
- I asked Brian to include apple cider vinegar in his diet. The natural acids in the vinegar would help to thin the bile in his gallbladder, thus helping to prevent stones. Apple cider vinegar also improves nutrient absorption and reduces bloating after meals. I asked him to dissolve one tablespoon of vinegar in ¼ cup of warm water and drink it 5 minutes before lunch and dinner.
- I gave Brian an MSM (methyl sulfonyl methane) supplement to support detoxification in his liver and reduce the joint pain he experienced in his knees. I asked him to take ½ teaspoon twice daily with meals.
- We needed to clean up the toxins in Brian’s bowel. He had an overgrowth of bad microorganisms in his intestines, which were making him bloated and uncomfortable after eating, and aggravating the reflux. I gave him Intestinal Parasite Cleanse capsules.
- Brian also needed glutamine to soothe and heal the inflamed tissue of his esophagus and entire digestive tract, from years of suffering with reflux. Glutamine provides nourishment to the cells lining our entire digestive tract and helps to repair inflammatory damage. You can find Glutamine in my Ultimate Gut Health powder.
I have been seeing Brian every 4 weeks for the past 3 months and he has made remarkable progress. The health scare he received really motivated him to make significant changes to his diet and lifestyle. He has lost 14 pounds, sleeps much better and has so much more energy each day. This has inspired him to take up bike riding on weekends. Brian has 3 very young children and he is determined to set a good example for them, and more importantly he wants to be around to see them grow up.
The above statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease.
Every year in the United States 210,000 people are admitted to hospitals with acute pancreatitis and 56,000 people are hospitalized each year due to chronic pancreatitis. This is a serious condition that can result in death if not treated properly and promptly. (1, 2)
The symptoms of pancreatitis depend on whether it is an acute or chronic case. Acute cases come on rapidly and can be the result of heavy drinking, gallstones or even blunt force trauma from an accident. Acute pancreatitis can be life-threatening, but with proper medical intervention and treatment the majority of people recover. However, recurrences can happen and it is possible for acute pancreatitis to become chronic.
Chronic cases develop more slowly and last a lifetime. This type can be the result of alcohol abuse, hereditary, certain prescription medications and even a deficiency in key nutrients. With chronic pancreatitis, there is physical scarring of the pancreas that can put you at a greater risk for developing diabetes, digestive disorders and even pancreatic cancer.
Diagnosing this condition requires a thorough examination and often multiple tests. The severity and the type will determine the course of action. For acute cases, a few days on clear liquids may resolve the problem, while more severe cases may require surgical intervention. For chronic pancreatitis, adjusting the diet and finding ways to manage the pain and discomfort is typical. However, antibiotics, IV hydration and nutritional support may be required.
Natural treatments can help with pancreatitis symptoms and may help prevent future episodes. And there are even some natural treatments that may help protect against pancreatic cancer.
Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas, which is a small organ tucked in the upper abdomen behind the stomach and in front of the spine. The pancreas is responsible for converting food to fuel, aiding in digestion by producing essential enzymes to break down fats and carbohydrates and creating two vital hormones, insulin and glucagon. (3)
There are two main types of pancreatitis: acute and chronic.
Acute: Acute pancreatitis symptoms come on suddenly and may last only a few days. The enzymes that are normally released remain in the pancreas, causing it to become inflamed and swollen. This slows digestion, causes pain and is associated with some severe complications that can become life-threatening. (4)
Chronic: This form is incurable. The severity and frequency of chronic pancreatitis symptoms vary from person to person. Worsening symptoms are often linked to eating a large high-fat meal or drinking alcohol. As the disease continues to create scar tissue and damage the pancreas, the risk for certain conditions like diabetes and pancreatic cancer increases. In addition, the body can start to have a difficult time processing and absorbing nutrients causing vitamin deficiencies.
More rare forms of this disease include childhood pancreatitis and autoimmune pancreatitis.
Childhood Pancreatitis: This condition is considered fairly rare and is most often found in children with cystic fibrosis or after a physical trauma. In some cases, the anatomy of the ducts in the liver or pancreas may cause this disease in children. Anti-seizure medications, certain antibiotics and chemotherapy may also cause childhood pancreatitis. However, in nearly one-third of cases a cause will not be identified. (6)
Autoimmune Pancreatitis: Sharing many of the same symptoms as both chronic and acute, here the inflammation is caused by the body’s immune system attacking the pancreas directly. This condition is broken into two types, Type 1 can affect multiple organs while Type 2 affects only the pancreas. Autoimmune pancreatitis is rare and newly-recognized disease that can be misdiagnosed as pancreatic cancer. (7)
A Note About Pancreatic Cancer
Because of the location of the pancreas, pancreatic cancer is often not diagnosed until late stages when it begins to spread to other organs. If you have been diagnosed with any form of pancreatitis and experience any of the symptoms below, please consult with your doctor immediately about your concerns. Chronic pancreatitis is considered a risk factor for this cancer. (8)
- New diagnosis of diabetes
- Unintended weight loss
- Weight loss and diabetes co-occurring
- Pain in the upper abdomen
- Loss of appetite
- Blood clots
Pancreatitis Signs & Symptoms
Pancreatitis symptoms vary from person to person, and whether it is acute or chronic.
Acute Pancreatitis Symptoms: (9, 10)
- Swollen and tender abdomen
- Upper abdominal pain
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Rapid pulse
- Pain that worsens after a high-fat meal
- Pain may be worse when lying flat on the back
- Difficulty breathing
Chronic Pancreatitis Symptoms: (11, 12)
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Weight loss
- Digestive upset
- Oily or fatty foul-smelling stools that float
- Clay-colored or pale stools
- Deep abdominal pain and tenderness that radiates to the back
- Glucose intolerance
Causes & Risk Factors
Pancreatitis occurs when digestive enzymes become activated while in the pancreas, irritating the cells, causing inflammation and scarring. There are a number recognized causes for pancreatitis including: (13)
- Alcohol use and abuse. Long-term or a single binge can inflame the pancreas.
- Surgery of the abdomen, heart or lungs where the blood supply to the pancreas is temporarily cut off.
- Certain medications including azathioprine, sulfonamides, corticosteroids, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), antibiotics
- Cigarette smoking.
- Cystic Fibrosis
- Family history of pancreatitis
- High levels of calcium in the blood
- High triglyceride levels in the blood
- Infection like the mumps, hepatitis, rubella, Epstein Barr or cytomegalovirus
- Blunt force trauma to the abdomen
- Pancreatic cancer
- Deficiency in nutrients, including A, C, E, selenium and carotenoids
The following conditions indicate a higher risk for developing pancreatitis symptoms:
- Biliary tract disease
- Binge alcohol use
- Chronic alcohol abuse
- Recent surgery
- Family history of high triglycerides
- Being 35 to 64 years old
- Being African-American
There is no single test that can detect pancreatitis. When symptoms arise, you doctor will order a variety of tests that may include:
- Blood tests to check for elevated levels of pancreatic enzymes.
- Stool tests to measure levels of fat that may suggest the digestive system isn’t absorbing fats as needed.
- CT scan to look for the level of inflammation and to identify gallstones.
- Abdominal ultrasound to look at the inflammation in the pancreas and gallstones.
- Endoscopic ultrasound to look for blockages in pancreatic or bile ducts and surrounding inflammation.
- MRI to identify abnormalities in the pancreas, ducts and gallbladder.
Once diagnosed, treating pancreatitis requires medical intervention as complications can occur. Mild cases of acute pancreatitis may go away without treatment, but severe acute cases can cause life-threatening complications and require hospitalization. (14)
Treatment protocols will be determined based on the type, the symptoms that are presenting, and the severity of symptoms. For acute cases, once hospitalized, fasting will provide the pancreas the opportunity to recover. Once the inflammation is under control, clear liquids and bland foods will be introduced. If inflammation persists, a feeding tube may be required to ensure that the patient is receiving adequate nutrition.
Pain, sometimes severe, is common and treatment for both acute and chronic forms often includes prescription pain medications.
- To prevent dehydration, patients are often provided fluids through an IV.
- If necessary, a surgical procedure may be required to remove obstructions.
- Enzymes may be prescribed to improve digestion and nutrient absorption.
- Ongoing treatment will include recommendations for small low-fat meals that are nutrient-dense.
Research shows that treatment plans differ depending on many factors, including whether pancreatitis is hereditary or acquired. (15)
11 Natural Ways to Prevent & Manage Pancreatitis Symptoms
A severe pancreatitis attack can be life-threatening; seek emergency medical attention as quickly as possible. Chronic pancreatitis symptoms often can be managed through diet and lifestyle changes. Also, if you’re at-risk for pancreatitis, making some of these changes may help prevent the development of pancreatitis.
- Improve your diet.
- Try alternative therapies for pain.
- Address nutrient deficiencies.
- Supplement with vitamins A, C, D, E and K.
- Boost omega-3 fatty acids.
- Add a probiotic supplement to your diet.
- Drink green tea.
- Add a rhodiola supplement to your diet.
- Try a reishi mushroom supplement.
- Try grape seed extract.
- Include foods high in glutamine in your diet.
1. Improve Your Diet. Diet plays a huge role in the development of pancreatitis, as well as the severity of symptoms and recovery. Follow the food recommendations below to help prevent pancreatitis. (16)
Foods to Avoid:
- Eliminate all suspected food allergens including dairy, soy, wheat, corn, food preservatives and chemical food additives.
- Eliminate all stimulants including caffeine, alcohol and tobacco.
- Dramatically reduce or eliminate all trans-fatty acids in the diet.
Foods to Enjoy:
- Focus on small, low-fat meals that emphasize fresh fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains, avoiding any foods that cause sensitivities or allergies.
- Add healthy oils like olive oil and coconut oil.
- Enjoy lean meats including grass-fed beef, organic poultry and cold-water fish.
- Enjoy foods high in iron like spirulina, organic grass-fed beef liver, lentils and even dark chocolate.
- Add more antioxidant-rich foods like cherries, blueberries, tomatoes and bell peppers to the diet.
2. Alternative Therapies for Pain. Pain, often severe, is common for both types of pancreatitis. The Mayo Clinic recommends the following alternative therapies to help ease the pain and discomfort. (17)
- Meditation. In addition to easing pain, meditation fights depression and anxiety, lowers cortisol levels, improves mental performance and aids in recovery from chronic illnesses. (18)
- Relaxation. The symptoms of pancreatitis cause discomfort, pain and often anxiety. Incorporating effective relaxation techniques like breathing exercises can help with the symptoms.
- Acupuncture. Used for thousands of years for a wide array of physical and mental ailments, acupuncture is a safe and effective way to reduce chronic pain.
- Yoga. In addition to pain, a recent study focusing on patients with chronic pancreatitis found that biweekly yoga for 12 weeks significantly improved stress, mood, appetite, overall feelings of well-being and alcohol dependence. (19)
3. Address Nutrient Deficiencies. According to research, there is a causal link between certain nutrient deficiencies and the development of pancreatitis. A simple blood test to determine if you are deficient in vitamins A, C or E as well as selenium and carotenoids can help you make wise dietary choices.
4. Vitamin Supplements: In a review of clinical trials published in the journal Advances in Nutrition, researchers found that bioactive vitamins A, C, D, E and K all show promise for pancreatic cancer intervention. (20)
- Vitamin A. Aids in pancreatic cancer prevention and is an essential nutrient for strong bones and immune function. Incorporate plenty of vitamin A-rich foods like beef liver, carrots and sweet potatoes into your diet.
- Vitamin C. Slows tumor growth. Take 1–6 milligrams daily, but never take a vitamin C supplement and vitamin B12 supplement together as they affect each other’s absorption. If diarrhea occurs, back off until tolerated. Include vitamin C-rich foods that you tolerate well like red bell peppers, black currants, guava, and even broccoli in your diet.
- Vitamin D. Shows anti-proliferative effects and repression of cancer cells in the pancreas and, more importantly, a study has found that it reduces inflammation and fibrosis in pancreatitis. (21) With pancreatitis, try to get 15–30 minutes each day of sunshine, without sunscreen, to increase vitamin D levels in your body. In addition, focus on cold-water fish like halibut, mackerel and salmon in your diet.
- Vitamin E. Shown to inhibit tumor cell growth and helps protect against heart disease. A high-quality vitamin E or, even better, foods like sunflower seeds, almonds and hazelnuts are recommended.
- Vitamin K. Shown to inhibit pancreatic tumor cells, which is imperative for those with chronic pancreatitis. If well-tolerated, aim for 300 micrograms of vitamin K through organic foods like dandelion greens, mustard greens or Swiss chard.
5. Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Adding 1 to 2 tablespoons each day of a high-quality omega-3 fatty acid supplement is shown to reduce inflammation and improve immunity. In a meta-analysis published in the journal Nutrients, supplementation reduced the risk of mortality, infectious complications, and reduced the length of hospital stays for pancreatic patients. Authors encouraged large-scale multi-center randomized clinical trials. (22)
6. Probiotics. Adding a high-quality probiotic supplement for those with acute pancreatitis is shown to reduce intestinal inflammation, organ dysfunction and pancreatitis symptoms. Take 50 billion CFUs of probiotics daily while symptoms persist for best results. The introduction of probiotics will also help rebuild health gut function during and after a round of antibiotics. (23, 24)
7. Green Tea. According to a recent study, regular consumption of green tea inhibits the development and the progression of pancreatic cancer. Researchers note that for women this results in a 32 percent reduction in pancreatic cancer risk, and they also note that a lower temperature of the tea is linked to its benefits. (25)
8. Rhodiola. This powerful adaptogen herb that has been shown to enhance energy and boost brain power has also been shown to improve kidney and pancreas function in rats. Take 350 milligrams to 500 milligrams of rhodiola twice a day for immune system support and to help with symptoms of pancreatitis. (26)
9. Reishi Mushroom. Used in holistic medicine practices, a recent study on chronic pancreatitis found that Ganoderma lucidum (the scientific name for reishi mushroom) increased the abundance of beneficial bacteria. And researchers noted this study shows potential for use of this mushroom as a possible therapy for chronic pancreatitis. Take 150 milligrams to 300 milligrams twice a day to help relieve inflammation while boosting immune system response. (27)
10. Grape Seed Extract. There are over 30 studies on grape seed extract and pancreatitis. Many of these studies cite its protective nature, particularly against cancer cells. Also noted is its anti-inflammatory effect and ability to fight against oxidative stress. Take 100 milligrams to 300 milligrams daily of a high-quality supplement. (28)
11. Glutamine. According to a study published in the journal Pancreatology, glutamine is associated with a significant reduction in the length of hospital stays and a decrease in complications for patients with acute pancreatitis. Add three servings of foods rich in L-glutamine like bone broth, grass-fed beef and cottage cheese, aiming for a total of 8–12 grams each day. (29)
A special note on Ghrelin, Leptin and Melatonin. These three hormones are noted in research to significantly reduce the severity of pancreatitis symptoms and protect pancreatic tissue from inflammatory damage. Learning how to improve your levels of ghrelin and leptin can be helpful. Resist restricting calories, get plenty of sleep and manage stress, avoid processed foods and eat plenty of protein to optimize your levels. (30)
- Acute pancreatitis can be life-threatening. Seek medical attention when symptoms present.
- Chronic pancreatitis is associated with an increased risk for developing diabetes and pancreatic cancer.
- Malnutrition is possible with both acute and chronic forms.
- A damaged pancreas is vulnerable to bacteria and infection; antibiotics and surgery may be required.
- Acute pancreatitis can cause fluid and debris to develop pockets in the pancreas causing internal bleeding and infection.
- Repeated episodes of acute pancreatitis can lead to chronic pancreatitis.
- Chronic pancreatitis is incurable; managing pancreatitis symptoms, including pain, through diet and natural treatments is recommended.
- Acute pancreatitis may come on suddenly. While it can resolve in a few days, it can also cause complications that are life-threatening.
- Recognized causes of pancreatitis include: heavy alcohol use, gallstones, genetics, smoking, blunt force trauma or injury to the abdomen, and certain nutrient deficiencies.
- Symptoms of acute pancreatitis include: nausea and/or vomiting, abdominal pain that radiates to the back, fever and an elevated pulse rate.
- Symptoms of chronic pancreatitis include: unintended weight loss, new diagnosis of diabetes, diarrhea, oily foul-smelling stools and abdominal pain.
- Diagnosis often requires multiple laboratory and imaging tests; a delayed diagnosis complicates treatment and therapy.
- Chronic pancreatitis increases the risk for pancreatic cancer and diabetes.
- IV fluids, pain medications, antibiotics, enzyme supplements and surgery may be required.
11 Natural Ways to Prevent & Manage Pancreatitis Symptoms
- Improve your diet.
- Try alternative therapies for pain, such as yoga and acupuncture.
- Address nutrient deficiencies.
- Supplement with vitamins A, C, D, E and K.
- Boost omega-3 fatty acids.
- Add a probiotic supplement to your diet.
- Drink green tea.
- Add a rhodiola supplement to your diet.
- Try a reishi mushroom supplement.
- Try grape seed extract.
- Include foods high in glutamine in your diet.
Two weeks of exercise training improves beta cell function and reduces pancreatic fat in adults with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes, research suggests.
Finland scientists found that this short-term training particularly reduced ectopic fat (fat that accumulates in abnormal parts of the body) in the pancreas, and could be a valuable method of reducing type 2 diabetes risk.
The researchers assessed 54 adults with either prediabetes ortype 2 diabetes aged between 40-55 years, and randomised them to either two weeks of sprinting or continuous medium-intensity training.
The primary outcome being assessed was pancreatic fat, with excess fat known to increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, while researchers also monitored beta cell function and insulin sensitivity.
Before the study bega, the men involved had higher amounts of pancreatic fat and impaired beta cell function compared to healthy men.
Both exercise types were shown to decrease pancreatic fat similarly in healthy men and those with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes. Men and women experienced similar improvement in beta cell function as a result of exercise.
“This study shows for the first time that exercise training decreases pancreatic fat content regardless of baseline glucose tolerance,” said the authors.
“In particular, individuals with fatty pancreas benefited from exercise training. As an accumulation of ectopic fat in the internal organs, including the pancreas, is a key factor in obesity and the development of type 2 diabetes, this study shows that exercise training is an effective way to decrease ectopic fat accumulation and hence reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.”
The findings were published in Diabetologia.
Editor’s note: Exercise is important in improving health, but diet is the fundamental variable in helping to prevent and treat prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. For more information on how eating healthy, real food can improve your health, mood and energy levels, visit our award-winning Low Carb Program.
Case study: A fatty liver and a fatty pancreas
I am seeing an increasing number of patients at my clinic with a fatty pancreas and would like to describe one case study to you.
Shae was a 45 year old lady who came to see me for a number of reasons, but a desire to lose weight was at the top of her list. She was a type 2 diabetic, diagnosed only eight months ago. She brought along her most recent blood test results and also her sonogram (ultrasound) report of her liver and pancreas.
Shae has a fatty liver, and this is almost expected in type 2 diabetics, so I was not surprised to see it. Interestingly Shae also has a fatty pancreas. This does occur in diabetics and people with syndrome X, but it is less common.
Fatty pancreas is not something you hear about often but it is a warning sign of future health problems.
Shae is at risk of developing a severe form of type 2 diabetes that requires the use of insulin injections. She is also at risk of developing pancreatic cancer at some stage in the future. Pancreatic cancer is becoming increasingly common, and it is a notoriously difficult cancer to treat. Diabetics are at higher risk of this cancer.
Fatty liver disease is incredibly common; approximately one in five overweight individuals have one. What you may not realise is that people with a fatty liver are also likely to develop excess fatty deposits in their arteries, around their heart, within the kidneys, or inside the pancreas. Fatty accumulation inside any organ can cause oxidative damage and organ dysfunction.
Shae is a police officer. Five years ago she suffered a back injury that left her with permanent damage, leaving her unable to exercise. Her injury meant that she was stuck at her desk doing paperwork all day; thus she engaged in very little movement.
She was not very overweight; she only needed to lose approximately 20 pounds. However, all her weight sits around her abdominal area and she has high levels of visceral fat (meaning fat within her abdominal cavity, as opposed to subcutaneous fat which lies just under the skin). I explained to Shae that in order for her to lose weight, we would have to improve the health of her liver and pancreas, as well as improve her blood sugar control.
My recommendations for my patient
- I put Shae on the eating plan in my book, “I can’t lose weight and I don’t know why”. I explained the importance of reducing her carbohydrate intake and eating protein at each meal. Fortunately Shae didn’t eat toast or breakfast cereal in the mornings, which are typically extremely high in carbohydrate and not conducive to weight loss. Working as a police officer meant working nights and odd hours; therefore Shae regularly ate leftover soup or an omelette at 8am in the morning. I went through the meal ideas and recipes in my book, helping her to choose low carbohydrate lunch and dinner options.
- Shae admitted to eating very large meals. She knew that she ate too much and too quickly, but she didn’t feel able to reduce her portion sizes because she regularly felt very hungry. This is common in type 2 diabetics who have elevated blood insulin levels. Insulin promotes appetite. I asked her to take one Glicemic Balance capsule with each meal. This is a combination of herbs and nutrients that helps to reduce insulin levels and balance blood sugar, making it much easier to stick to a healthy eating plan.
- I asked Shae to take Livatone Plus to help make her liver more efficient at burning fat. This, along with the diet changes should help her lose fat from her internal organs, where it is most needed. Diabetics are more prone to developing a fatty liver, and also just a sluggish poorly functioning liver. This can make weight loss more difficult and also reduce energy levels.
- I asked Shae to look into attending a local yoga class or pilates class. Her back injury meant that she was not able to run, yet there were still many exercises she could safely perform. Yoga and pilates don’t burn as many calories as high intensity exercise, yet they greatly improve strength and muscle tone. Doing some kind of regular exercise also helps improve self esteem and motivation to stick with a healthy eating plan.
- Shae experienced terrible cravings for sweets around 4pm each afternoon. Some days she avoided temptation, but more often than not she grabbed several cookies from the kitchen at work. I suggested she make a protein powder smoothie at that time instead. Whey protein is an excellent source of first class protein that helps to keep you feeling full and satisfied.
I saw Shae three weeks ago and am due to see her in another week. Since she has not been a type 2 diabetic for long, I expect she will be able to return her blood sugar level to normal and no longer be considered a diabetic. In the majority of cases it is also possible to completely reverse a fatty liver and fatty pancreas. Fortunately Shae has taken action before it’s too late.
The above statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease.
Pancreatic Fat: Lifestyle Habits Count More Than Genetics
Twin study finds the amount of fat in the pancreas depends more on environmental factors than genetics; suggesting weight loss can help lower that fat—and diabetes risk.
Obesity and overweight can raise the risk of type 2 diabetes, as experts have known for years. Research has also found that a high amount of fat in the pancreas, known as intrapancreatic fat, is linked with poor functioning of the beta cells, which store and release insulin so sugar can get to your cells.
Now, a new study finds that lifestyle habits, not genetics, is the bigger driver affecting how much intrapancreatic fat you may have—and that can affect diabetes risk. Losing weight can help reduce pancreatic fat, other research shows.
The new study suggests that lifestyle intervention should be encouraged to minimize the accumulation of pancreatic fat, said lead author Gyorgy Jermendy, MD, a researcher at Semmelweis University, Budapest, Hungary. He presented the findings at the World Congress on Insulin Resistance Diabetes & Cardiovascular Disease in Universal City, CA.
His team recruited 77 pairs of twins, 47 identical pairs and 30 not. Their average age was mid-50s.
Studying both identical and fraternal twins allowed the researchers to assess with more certainty how much of an effect environment played and how much was attributable to genetics. The twins were all healthy and diabetes-free.
The researchers evaluated the amount of fat within the pancreas with a contrast computed tomography or CT scan. ”The more density, the more fat,” Dr. Germendy said.
The researchers also had information on the twins’ fasting blood glucose tests, hemoglobin A1C, cholesterol levels (HDL, LDL) and triglycerides. Dr. Germendy found that environmental factors (such as being overweight) accounted for 59% of the effect, while genetics accounted for 41%. “The environmental effects are much stronger,” Dr. Germendy told EndocrineWeb. The effect of genetics was moderate, he said.
Perspective: Pancreatic Fat
The new study provides some valuable new information, said Selcuk Dagdelen, MD, professor of endocrinology and diabetes at Hacettepe University in Ankara, Turkey. He attended the Congress and reviewed the study. “We tend to blame genetics,” he said.
“Twin studies are always valuable,” he said. They can help separate out and clarify how much of an effect environment plays and how much genetics does, he said.
In 2015, a team of UK researchers showed that reducing pancreatic fat could bring insulin secretion function back to normal. In that study of 18 people with type 2 diabetes and nine without, who all had bariatric surgery, the weight loss reduced the pool of fat in the pancreas only in those with diabetes.
The researchers conclude that the reduction in pancreatic fat is associated with having the diabetes, not with decreased total body fat. In that study, participants had to lose a gram of fat in the pancreas to see insulin function return to normal. To lose that amount, the researchers said, a person usually must shed about 15% of their body weight.
Last updated on 12/06/2016 Continue Reading Red Wine with Dinner? A New Study Says Yes, You Can View Sources
1. Presentation, World Congress on Insulin Resistance Diabetes & Cardiovascular Disease, Dec. 1-3, 2016, Universal City, Ca.