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The pancreas is a large gland located behind the stomach and near the small intestine. It produces enzymes that, combined with bile from the liver, digest food and releases the hormones insulin and glucagon into the blood stream. When inflamed, the enzymes inside the pancreas damage it. Complications include the development of gallstones that may need to be removed surgically. Acute pancreatitis happens suddenly and usually improves within a few days with proper treatment. This may require hospitalization to manage pain, administering intravenous hydration and antibiotics and meeting special nutritional needs.
Initial Recovery Diet
If ill enough to be hospitalized, be prepared to fast for at least several days to keep the pancreas inactive so it can recover. If vomiting occurs, a tube may be placed through the nose and into the stomach to remove fluid and air. Once it’s safe to resume eating, patients may need to be fed special liquid conveyed through a tube that is inserted through the nose and throat and into the stomach for several weeks while the pancreas heals.
Once patients can eat normal meals, they may need synthetic pancreatic enzymes, to be taken with every meal, to replace those the pancreas cannot produce yet. These synthetic enzymes help patients to digest food and gain lost weight, the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC) reports.
- If ill enough to be hospitalized, be prepared to fast for at least several days to keep the pancreas inactive so it can recover.
- Once patients can eat normal meals, they may need synthetic pancreatic enzymes, to be taken with every meal, to replace those the pancreas cannot produce yet.
Permanent Diet Plan
Glycerine Vs. Glycol
To prevent further pancreatic attacks, adopt a healthy low-fat diet and eat small meals several times a day. Patients should drink plenty of water; green tea, which is high in antioxidants, is also acceptable. Avoid all alcohol; alcohol can cause acute pancreatitis, in many cases. Caffeinated beverages cause dehydration and should be limited.
Eating antioxidant-rich foods such as berries, tomatoes and green vegetables can prevent attacks or reduce symptoms, the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) advises 1.
- To prevent further pancreatic attacks, adopt a healthy low-fat diet and eat small meals several times a day.
- Patients should drink plenty of water; green tea, which is high in antioxidants, is also acceptable.
Emphasize foods that are high in antioxidants and low in fat. Breakfast could consist of yogurt--which has enzymes that aid digestion and reduce inflammation, the Nutralife Web site explains--and blueberries or other fruit. You can add whole-grain toast with low-sugar blueberry jam.
For lunch, consider vegetable soup using either a chicken or tomato-based broth, to which you can add brown rice, quinoa or bulgur.
Whole grain carbohydrates, such as those mentioned above, could round out the meal. Patients whose pancreatitis is not related to alcohol use can drink red wine, which is rich in antioxdiants. Those who should avoid alcohol can eat red grapes.
- Emphasize foods that are high in antioxidants and low in fat.
- For lunch, consider vegetable soup using either a chicken or tomato-based broth, to which you can add brown rice, quinoa or bulgur.
Additional Nutrition Sources
Chocolate After a Pancreatitis Attack
Take multivitamins and, potentially, other supplements to address any nutritional deficiencies, especially after severe weight loss. Also consider taking omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil), which reduces inflammation and boosts immunity, the UMMC advises. Probiotic and alpha-lipoid acid supplements may also be helpful. This source also suggests adding supplements containing high-antioxidant herbs such as Holy basil, Cat's claw, Reishi mushrooms and Indian gooseberry.
- Take multivitamins and, potentially, other supplements to address any nutritional deficiencies, especially after severe weight loss.
- Also consider taking omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil), which reduces inflammation and boosts immunity, the UMMC advises.
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- University of Maryland Medical Center: Pancreatitis
- Nutra Legacy: 7 Best Foods for Pancreatitis
- Afghani E, Pandol SJ, Shimosegawa T, et al. Acute pancreatitis-progress and challenges: a report on an international symposium. Pancreas. 2015;44(8):1195-210. doi:10.1097/MPA.0000000000000500
- Yadav D, Lowenfels AB. The epidemiology of pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer. Gastroenterology. 2013;144(6):1252-61. doi:10.1053/j.gastro.2013.01.068
- Krishna SG, Kamboj AK, Hart PA, Hinton A, Conwell DL. The changing epidemiology of acute pancreatitis hospitalizations: a decade of trends and the impact of chronic pancreatitis. Pancreas. 2017;46(4):482-488. doi:10.1097/MPA.0000000000000783
- Yoshida S, Okada H, Nakano S, et al. Much caution does no harm! Organophosphate poisoning often causes pancreatitis. J Intensive Care. 2015;3(1):21. doi:10.1186/s40560-015-0088-1
- Afghani E, Pandol SJ, Shimosegawa T. Acute Pancreatitis-Progress and Challenges: A Report on an International Symposium. Pancreas. 2015;44(8):1195–1210. doi:10.1097/MPA.0000000000000500
- Huh JH, Jeon H, Park SM, et al. Diabetes mellitus is associated with mortality in acute pancreatitis. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2018;52(2):178-183. doi:10.1097/MCG.0000000000000783
- Chatila AT, Bilal M, Guturu P. Evaluation and management of acute pancreatitis. World J Clin Cases. 2019;7(9):1006-1020. doi:10.12998/wjcc.v7.i9.1006
- Shah AP, Mourad MM, Bramhall SR. Acute pancreatitis: current perspectives on diagnosis and management. J Inflamm Res. 2018;11:77–85. Published 2018 Mar 9. doi:10.2147/JIR.S135751
- National Pancreas Foundation. Acute pancreatitis causes and symptoms.
- Mandalia A, Wamsteker EJ, DiMagno MJ. Recent advances in understanding and managing acute pancreatitis. F1000Res. 2018;7:F1000 Faculty Rev-959. Published 2018 Jun 28. doi:10.12688/f1000research.14244.2
- Uc A, Andersen DK, Bellin MD. Chronic pancreatitis in the 21st century - research challenges and opportunities: summary of a National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases workshop. Pancreas. 2016;45(10):1365–1375. doi:10.1097/MPA.0000000000000713
- National Pancreas Foundation. Chronic pancreatitis causes and symptoms.
- Lew D, Afghani E, Pandol S. Chronic pancreatitis: current status and challenges for prevention and treatment. Dig Dis Sci. 2017;62(7):1702–1712. doi:10.1007/s10620-017-4602-2
Barbara Bryant has been writing professionally for 25 years. She has contributed to "The Military Engineer" and ASCE's "Civil Engineering" magazines as well as many other publications. Through newsletters and blogs, Bryant specializes in health and fitness topics, drawing on expertise from personal trainers and a naturopathic doctor.