pancreatitis and alcohol

Pancreatitis and Alcohol

Pancreatitis and alcohol have long been related. Pancreatitis is a condition in which the pancreas becomes inflamed. This condition often causes a great deal of pain for several days at a time. While most pancreatitis episodes can heal quickly, 20% are severe and require hospitalization.

The Pancreas

The pancreas is an organ, located in the lower stomach. The pancreas is primarily responsible for digestion of foods. It helps to digest food by releasing special enzymes (digestive juices) into the stomach and regulating blood sugar levels.

Link Between Pancreatitis and Alcohol

There is a strong link between pancreatitis and alcohol. Alcohol is the second leading cause of pancreatitis. The reason for the link was found in a study at the University of Liverpool. According to the study, alcohol stimulates the pancreas, causing it to produce fatty acids. The fatty acids impede the pancreas and destroy its cells. The result is inflammation, damage, pain, and a loss of digestive function.


The most common symptom of pancreatitis is a sharp, dull or growing pain in the upper to mid abdomen. After drinking alcohol, pancreatitis can set in a few hours to several days after consumption. Episodes may last several days. Other symptoms include nausea, vomiting, fever, back pain, and other symptoms.

Acute and Chronic Pancreatitis

Single isolated pancreatitis attacks is considered acute pancreatitis. Recovery typically takes a few days and the prognossis for full recovery is good if alcohol, and fatty and processed foods are abstained from. If the recovery takes weeks, there may be more long term damage. If the acute pancreatitis is severe or often enough, the pancreas can be peranently damaged. This is a condition called chronic pancreatitis. The symptoms of chronic pancreatitis are similar to acute but are unable to fully recover from or heal from them.


In some cases of pancreatitis and alcohol, the pancreas’ digestive juices (enzymes) are released into the blood. In these cases it is possible for other organs to be damaged. Damage can often be severe and leave kidneys or lungs without any ability to function. One person dies for every four that develop severe acute pancreatitis.

Other complications include diabetes, pseudocysts and pancreatic cancer.


For heavy drinkers, 80% develop pancreatitis after 10 or more years. Pancreatitis is more common among men than women, especially white males.


The most important thing that can be done is to avoid consuming anything that irritates the pancreas. Avoid drinking, processed foods (eat whole grain carbohydrates), fats and spicy foods. Eat only foods that do not put strain on your pancreas. In severe cases of acute pancreatitis hospitalization is necessary. The pancreas cannot handle food or water until it is healed and hospitals can provide nutrition through an IV.


Comments 3

  1. Ghubazter

    People complain about wait times, but fraklny I have never not seen a doctor when I needed one. I may have to go to a walk in clinic or I may have to go to the emergency ward, but I have always managed to get care. Really, a family doctor is best for chronic conditions, not emergencies like an ear infection or a cut. Any doctor at any hospital will do for a situation like that. People like to rant about how it is so much better in the USA and there are no wait times. This is simply wrong. First of all, there are the same numbers of doctors per capita in the USA as there are in Canada. If it is easy to get in to see a US doctor it is because you are lucky enough to have the insurance that pays for this type of service. Other people sit ant home dressing their own wounds or die. The people that belong to HMOs have a difficult time as well. For example, I have a friend who told me about waiting at the hospital for 12 hours and then only saw sometone she referred to as an assistant doctor. This is someone who is ranked slightly above a nurse, but still below a doctor. Incidently, this friend is a professor at a major American university. Few of us have jobs as grandiose as that and would fare far worse in an American system than we currently do in Canada.A two-tier system is worrysome as well. As the person from Greece suggests, those with money will pay for service, those who need to wait for the free service will have to …wait.I also like to shy away from the idea that Canadian doctors are underpaid. They are paid many more times the national average. Few people earn as much as doctors. It is not valid to say that a new specialist should be paid less than a specialist of 40 years. They each have the same qualifications and the new specialist may have better, up to date training. If there are doctors in Canada that can not live on their earnings, they need to see a financial counselor.

  2. Amit Gupta

    I suffered from acute alcoholic pancreatitis. Now I recovered fully after 6 months, and I can drink alcohol moderately.

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