Pancreatitis Diet

What is Pancreatitis?

Pancreatitis, simply put, is the inflammation of the pancreas. Because the pancreas is responsible for digestion, a pancreatitis diet plays a major role in the frequency and severity of pancreatitis episodes. Pancreatitis may be either acute (sudden and severe) or chronic. Acute pancreatitis occurs suddenly and lasts for days while chronic pancreatitis reoccurs for many years. Both types of pancreatitis can cause bleeding and tissue death in or around the pancreas. This vital organ produces enzymes that aid in the digestion of food, as well as insulin, which controls your blood sugar. When the pancreas (a long gland located behind the stomach) is inflamed, the body is unable to absorb all the nutrients it needs.

Mild attacks of acute pancreatitis can get better on their own, or by changing to a pancreatitis diet. In the case of recurring pancreatitis, however, long-term damage to the pancreas is common, sometimes leading to malnutrition and diabetes.

If not kept under control with a well planned pancreatitis diet, chronic pancreatitis often leads to further complications. Some of these complications include diabetes and a condition known as necrotizing pancreatitis in which the pancreas tissue dies. With this condition, abscesses and cyst-like pockets develop and inflammation spreads quickly. If not treated toxins can leak through the abdomen cause damage to blood vessels and internal bleeding. It is therefore essential to incorporate a good pancreatitis diet as early as possible. This will prevent complications, development of chronic pancreatitis and give relief for your pain.

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What Causes Pancreatitis?

While there are many causes of pancreatitis, the most common are gallstones (acute pancreatitis) and excessive alcohol consumption (chronic pancreatitis). Other causes include:

  • Abdominal injuries
  • Abdominal surgery
  • Certain medications
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP), when used to treat gallstones
  • Family history of pancreatitis
  • High calcium levels in the blood (hypercalcemia)
  • High levels of parathyroid hormone in the blood (hyperparathyroidism)
  • High triglyceride levels in the blood (hypertriglyceridemia)
  • Infection
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Smoking
  • Ulcer

Once a tendency towards pancreatic attacks has been developed, further attacks can be brought on by eating foods that are high in fats, processed foods, and alcohol. Planning a good pancreatitis diet ahead of time can often be the best prevention of further attacks and further pancreatic damage.

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Signs and Symptoms

  • Mild to severe pain in the upper abdomen
  • Abdominal pain that radiates to the back or chest
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased breathing
  • Steatorrhea; Oily, foul-smelly stools (chronic pancreatitis)
  • Indigestion
  • Weight loss

Why Proper Pancreatitis Diet is Important

Proper pancreatitis diet is essential to avoiding pancreatitis attacks and making them less severe. Severe attacks can be lethal if left untreated. Because the pancreas plays such a major role in the digestion of food, it is directly linked to diet. Numerous studies have shown that processed products and fats in everyday foods cause stress and inflammation to the pancreas and that low antioxidants in the blood often leads to chronic pancreatitis due to the destructive effects of free radicals. On the other hand, by increasing the anti-oxidants in your diet controls pancreatitis and prevents complications such as diabetes. Foods high in anti-oxidants are an important part of a pancreatitis diet and should be incorporated into yours.

Some of these anti-oxidants include:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E
  • Carotenoids
  • Selenium

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