Pancreatitis is a serious disorder that develops when the pancreas becomes inflamed. The pancreas is a long, flat gland that is situated behind the stomach in the upper abdomen. It plays a significant role in producing enzymes that helps with digestion and hormone insulin that regulate the way your body process glucose.
When the pancreas is inflamed, it cannot perform its normal functions and it becomes difficult for the system to break down fat and effectively absorb nutrients. Pancreatitis can develop as acute that last for a few days or chronic that occurs over many years. The common cause of chronic pancreatitis is excessive alcohol abuse, while acute pancreatitis is triggered due to gallstones or blocked bile duct.
In patient suffering from chronic pancreatitis, flare-ups relapse over a time and certain foods may cause abdominal cramps and worsen the condition. A pancreatitis diet takes all this into consideration, limiting certain foods and promotes healthier food choices that are nutrient dense which help to manage symptoms, avert attacks and also maintain good health status.
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What To Eat And Avoid With Pancreatitis?
The pancreatitis diet emphasises people on choosing foods packed with nutrients, so, that it reduces the possibility of malnourishment. A high protein, low-fat diet loaded with antioxidants is recommended which lessens the amount of work the pancreas needs to do to support digestion.
Foods To Be Included
Beans and lentils
Plant-based foods that are not fried
Fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils and whole grains are valuable as they are abundant in dietary fibre. Consuming fibre-rich foods lower the risk of gallstones, lowers triglycerides and cholesterol levels. As both of these conditions are known causes of acute pancreatitis.
Adding food such as spinach, berries and whole grain cereals which are a powerhouse of antioxidants can combat free radicals damage and may help reduce inflammation.
Lean meat can help people meet their protein needs and also speed up the recovery process. Try to include beans, lentils and dairy alternatives such as almond milk, rice milk, and soy milk.
Evidence has revealed that some people with pancreatitis can effectively tolerate 30-40% of calories from fat when it is from medium-chain triglycerides or plant foods. While it is also believed that adding MCT oil can improve the absorption of nutrients. MCT oil supplements are also available.
Go for fruit or dry fruits if you crave for something sweet, as refined carbohydrates and simple sugars elevates the risk for diabetes in people with pancreatitis.
Prefer cucumbers, carrots, cherry tomatoes and fruits as your go-to have snacks.
Foods To Be Avoided
Some of the foods to be limited include:
Fries and potato chips
Margarine and butter
Pastries and desserts with added sugars
Beverages with added sugars
Avoid all foods containing saturated fat and trans-fatty acids.
Cut down the intake of refined carbohydrates such as white bread, sugar-laden foods, cakes, cookies and pastries, as these foods can make it hard for the digestive system to process and also increase attack of acute pancreatitis.
Drinking alcohol during an acute episode of pancreatitis can aggravate the condition. Excessive alcohol intake can lead to high triglycerides levels, which is a major risk factor for pancreatitis. Moreover, in people with chronic pancreatitis drinking alcohol may lead to serious health problems and can even be fatal.
Pancreatitis Recovery Diet
Patients recovering from acute or chronic pancreatitis should refrain from drinking alcohol. Quit smoking, if they smoke. Also, focus on eating a low-fat diet that mitigates pancreatic inflammation. Furthermore, it is also important to stay well hydrated and maintain fluid and electrolyte balance. Complementing the diet with foods rich in vitamins A, D, E and K can be beneficial to correct nutritional deficiency and malnutrition.
Regularize the meal pattern and have small frequent meals (6-8meals) throughout the day to speed up the recovery. Having small frequent meals makes it easier for the digestive system to function well than having 2-3 large meals.
Choose MCTs as the main source of fat, since this type of fat does not need pancreatic enzymes to be digested. Some of the good sources of MCT oils include coconut, olive, gingely and mustard oil.
Limit the intake of high fibre foods at once, as this may slow the digestion process and limit the absorption of vital nutrients from the food.
Stay well hydrated.A multivitamin supplement may help the patient to replenish vitamins A, D, E, K, B, zinc and folate. However, always seek advice from your healthcare provider before taking any supplements.