A diet for pancreatitis is one that is high in carbohydrates and low in fat. A pancreatitis diet should also include smaller, more frequent meals and no alcohol.
A doctor may prescribe pancreatic enzymes to take with meals if the pancreas does not secrete enough of its own. The enzymes should be taken with every meal to help the body digest food and regain some weight.
Pancreatic enzymes contain the ingredients pancreatin and pancrelipase, both of which contain the enzymes lipase, protease, and amylase. These enzymes break down fats (lipase), proteins (protease), and complex carbohydrates (amylase) to allow absorption of these nutrients into the body.
Gallstones can cause pancreatitis, and they usually require surgical removal. Ultrasound or a CAT scan can detect gallstones and can sometimes give an idea as to the severity of the pancreatitis. When gallstone surgery can be scheduled depends on the severity of the pancreatitis. If the pancreatitis is mild, gallstone surgery may proceed within about a week. More severe cases may mean gallstone surgery is delayed for a month or more.
After the gallstones are removed and inflammation goes away, the pancreas usually returns to normal.
(Click Gallstones for more information on gallstones.)
Remember these important facts about pancreatitis:
- Pancreatitis begins when the digestive enzymes become active inside the pancreas and start "digesting" it.
- Pancreatitis has two forms: acute and chronic.
- Common causes are gallstones or alcohol abuse. Sometimes no cause for pancreatitis can be found.
- Symptoms of acute pancreatitis include abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, fever, and a rapid pulse.
- Treatment for acute pancreatitis can include intravenous fluids, oxygen, antibiotics, or surgery.
- Acute pancreatitis becomes chronic when pancreatic tissue is destroyed and scarring develops.
- Treatment for chronic pancreatitis includes easing the pain, eating a high-carbohydrate and low-fat diet, and taking enzyme supplements. Surgery is sometimes needed as well.