Pancreatitis is a medical condition that is the result of the presence of active digestive enzymes inside pancreas. The pancreas produces enzymes as part of the body’s natural digestive process, but they are not supposed to become active while inside the pancreas. This is when chronic inflammation of the pancreas can occur, which can be extremely painful.
It is estimated that approximately 80,000 cases of pancreatitis are reported every year. The good news is that there are a number of treatment options. For those with chronic pancreatitis, nutrition plays a big part in treatment. Through proper diet and nutrition, patients with pancreatitis can maintain normal blood sugar levels, prevent malnutrition, and also help prevent (or manage) other conditions associated with pancreatitis, such as diabetes and complications with the kidney.
Foods to Avoid, Limit, or Eleminate
Patients with chronic pancreatitis should avoid, limit, and/or eliminate the following:
• Red meat (and meats with a lot of animal fat) and organ meats
• Greasy, deep-fried foods
• Processed snack foods (like potato chips)
• Fatty additives (like mayonnaise, margarine, butter)
• Refined and processed sugars, including beverages (like sodas) and desserts
• Alcohol (with complete abstinence if the pancreatitis is the result of alcohol consumption)
It is important to avoid the above foods, as they can often times cause pancreatitis flare-ups. Additionally, they force the body to work overtime to process these types of foods. It is not uncommon for pancreatitis patients to also develop diabetes, since diabetes has to do with pancreas function. By regulating the amount of refined sugars in the diet, you will help prevent major spikes in the blood sugar levels.
In addition to the above foods to avoid and/or eliminate, it is highly recommended that pancreatitis patients avoid smoking any kind of tobacco products.
Foods to Eat
The diet for a pancreatitis patient ideally should consist of the following:
• Foods that are rich in protein (particularly lean, low-fat protein), such as chicken, fish, turkey, beans, and lentils.
• Nutrient-dense unprocessed foods, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Spinach, blueberries, and cherries can help to protect your organs from damage.
• Low-fat dairy or dairy alternatives (such as almond milk)
By sticking to these foods, you help your pancreas and kidneys from having to work so hard to digest and process the substances within your body. Additionally, you will help to naturally regular the amount of vitamins your body is receiving, since a number of necessary vitamins and nutrients will be naturally found in these types of foods. It is not uncommon for pancreatitis patients to experience vitamin deficiencies if they are not eating the right foods and testing vitamin levels and regulating certain vitamin deficiencies with vitamin supplements.
Tips for Pancreatitis Patients
Below are some helpful tips for pancreatitis patients, while adjusting to their dietary changes:
• First, and foremost, you should always check with your physician before changing your eating habits. Your physician should be able to provide you a suggested list of foods to stick with and answer any questions that you may have about what you specifically should (or should not) eat.
• Try to eat more frequently, but with smaller portions. It is easier on the body’s digestive system and the digestion process to handle a more frequent intake of food, than two or three large meals per day. You may also benefit from not feeling extremely hungry or full!
• Avoid eating too much fiber, as too much fiber can slow down digestion and can reduce the effectiveness of the digestive enzymes you have to break down your food.
• Regular monitor your vitamin levels through regular blood tests. By doing this, your doctor can help advise you about where you may be deficient and require supplements. Taking a daily multivitamin supplement can help to replenish your body of vitamins it may be lacking.
Gastroenterologist in Los Angeles
If you or someone you know suffers from pancreatitis, there are pancreatitis treatment options available. Call the offices of Dr. Siamak Tabib today at (310)-652-4472 to schedule a free consultation. Dr. Tabib is an experienced gastroenterologist in Los Angeles. He and his team have helped patients with both acute and chronic pancreatitis. Contact us today!