Pancreatitis, in a nutshell, is inflammation of the pancreas. This vital organ produces enzymes that aid in the digestion of food, as well as insulin, which controls blood sugar levels. When the pancreas (the long gland located behind the stomach) becomes inflamed, the body is unable to absorb all the nutrients it needs.
Pancreatitis can be acute (sudden and severe) or chronic. Acute pancreatitis comes on suddenly and lasts for several days, while chronic pancreatitis recurs for many years. Both types of pancreatitis can cause bleeding and tissue death in or around the pancreas.
Mild attacks of acute pancreatitis can be treated on their own by switching to a pancreatic diet. In recurrent pancreatitis, damage to the pancreas is common, sometimes leading to malnutrition and diabetes. In both cases, a consultation with a gastroenterologist is required.
If you don't follow a diet for pancreatitis, the disease can become chronic and lead to further complications. Some of these complications include diabetes and a condition known as necrotizing pancreatitis, in which pancreatic tissue gradually dies.
In this condition, abscesses and cyst-like sacs develop and the inflammation spreads rapidly. Left untreated, toxins can seep through the abdomen, damage blood vessels, and cause internal bleeding. Therefore, if you have pancreatitis, it is necessary, as soon as possible, to start a diet. This will avoid complications, the development of chronic pancreatitis and provide pain relief.
What are the causes of pancreatitis?
Although there are many causes of pancreatitis, the most common are gallstones (acute pancreatitis) and excessive alcohol consumption (chronic pancreatitis).
Other reasons include:
- Injuries to the abdomen;
- Abdominal surgery;
- Certain medications;
- Cystic fibrosis;
- Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP), used to treat gallstones;
- Family history of pancreatitis;
- High levels of calcium in the blood (hypercalcemia);
- High levels of parathyroid hormone in the blood (hyperparathyroidism);
- High levels of triglycerides in the blood (hypertriglyceridaemia);
- Pancreatic cancer;
Once a tendency for pancreatic attacks has developed, further attacks can be triggered by eating high-fat foods, processed foods and alcohol. Planning your diet in advance can often be the best prevention against further attacks and further damage to the pancreas.
Signs and symptoms
- mild to severe pain in the upper abdomen;
- Pain in the abdomen that radiates to the back;
- Increased heart rate;
- Rapid breathing;
- Very strong odor during bowel movements (chronic pancreatitis);
- Stomach pain;
- Weight loss (not related to anything).
The danger of pancreatitis
If left untreated, pancreatitis can cause serious complications and even death. Seek medical attention if symptoms are present.
- Pseudocysts accumulate fluid. If they rupture, they cause infection and internal bleeding.
- Inflammation of the pancreas makes it vulnerable to bacteria and infections. In some cases, surgery may be required.
- Renal failure may occur, requiring dialysis.
- Breathing problems can develop as changes in the body can affect oxygen levels.
- Diabetes can occur when insulin-producing cells are damaged.
- Malnutrition is quite common as the pancreas produces fewer enzymes, making it difficult for the body to break down and process essential nutrients.
- Pancreatic cancer is associated with prolonged inflammation of the pancreas, often associated with chronic pancreatitis.
Why diet is important for pancreatitis
A proper diet is essential to avoid or lessen attacks of pancreatitis. Severe attacks can be fatal if left untreated. Since the pancreas plays a very important role in the digestion of food, it is directly related to food.
Numerous studies have shown that artificially processed foods and fats in daily meals cause pancreatic stress and inflammation and that low levels of antioxidants in the blood often lead to chronic pancreatitis due to the damaging effects of free radicals.
However, by increasing antioxidants in the diet, you control pancreatitis and prevent complications such as diabetes. Foods rich in antioxidants are an important part of the pancreatitis diet and should be included in the diet.
Some of these antioxidants include:
- Vitamin A,
- vitamin C,
- Vitamin E,
Most foods should focus on fruits, vegetables and whole grains with proteins and fats playing a supporting role.
The real goal here is to provide your body with foods that are easy to digest and don't spike blood sugar and saturate your body. It is important not to eat foods that can cause or worsen pancreatitis.
The 8 best fruits:
- Blackberries and blueberries:These berries are rich in resveratrol, manganese, fiber and vitamins C and K, which promote healthy digestion. Try a nutrient-rich lemon and blackberry salad that contains heart-healthy olive oil, sesame seeds and almonds.
- Cherries:Low in calories and high in essential nutrients, cherries are the perfect snack to promote weight loss, reduce inflammation and promote restful sleep.
- Watermelon:is an excellent source of vitamins A, B and C, as well as potassium, magnesium and manganese. Eat a watermelon smoothie for breakfast or afternoon tea;
- Black plums:with a low glycemic index, plums have also been shown to lower cholesterol levels and aid digestion. Plums are the ideal fruit for pancreatitis.
- Red Grapes:removes excess fluids and relieves inflammation. For a snack, try the hearty grape, chicken, and nut salad.
- Mango:Along with fiber and vitamin C, mango also contains essential minerals including iron, calcium, potassium and magnesium. This super fruit has been linked to improved blood glucose levels and glycemic control.
- Apples:high in fiber, reduces inflammation and aids digestion. It can be used both raw and as a side dish or dessert. For example, baked apple + cottage cheese (non-fat) provides healthy protein, calcium and fiber.
- Pomegranate:sweet and crunchy, this super fruit is rich in fiber, potassium and vitamins C and K.
The 5 best vegetables:
- Beetroot: Rich in essential nutrients such as iron, manganese, copper, potassium and B vitamins. Beets are known to improve heart health, brain health and supportliver function.
- Broccoli:Just one cup of cooked broccoli contains over 100 percent of the daily value of vitamin K and vitamin C. Also, rich in minerals, this vegetable fights cancer and aids digestion.
- Spinach:Spinach is famous for its immunostimulating and diabetes protective nutrients.
- Potatoes:rich in beta-carotene, vitamin C, copper, vitamin B 6 and manganese. Potatoes are a healthy starch that tastes great.
- Carrots:Beta carotene is great for the immune system and eye health, as well as for healthy digestion, being one of the most versatile vegetables on the planet.
First 6 whole grains:
Research suggests that whole grains should be consumed in the pancreatitis diet.
- Brown rice:rich in fiber and rich in manganese An excellent substitute for white rice. Brown rice can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by 16%. As a side dish, this gluten-free cereal is relatively high in calories, so sticking to a single serving is recommended.
- Buckwheat:High in protein and fiber, this gluten-free cereal is rich in antioxidants and is well absorbed by the body. Buckwheat flour can be used to make healthy morning pancakes, and buckwheat can be added to salads or morning porridge.
- Polenta:This coarse corn, similar to southern grit, is used throughout the Mediterranean. Buy only organic and non-GMO polenta.
- Millet:is rich in fiber. This dense, nutritious seed is experiencing a renaissance because it is so versatile. You can use millet for breakfast, lunch and dinner
- Teff:If you're not familiar with Ethiopian teff grain, it's time to learn it. This cereal promotes weight loss, boosts immunity, maintains bone health, and aids digestion. It is available in flour or grains and you can use it to make cereals, pancakes or tortillas.
- Amaranth:Appreciated by the Aztecs for thousands of years, this cereal is an excellent source of fiber, manganese and protein. These gluten-free whole grains aid digestion, reduce inflammation, fight the development of type 2 diabetes, and help you lose weight. Use in place of oats, white rice or pasta and as a thickener for soups.
The 5 best nuts and seeds:
- Almonds:distant relatives of many stone fruits, simple almonds are rich in protein, fiber and many essential vitamins and minerals. Research shows that almonds can help control blood sugar levels and help you lose weight. Due to their relatively high fat content, limit yourself to one serving.
- Walnuts:A true powerhouse of nutrition, walnuts provide omega-3s to support a healthy heart and brain, helping to reduce inflammation and blood sugar.
- Sunflower Seeds:Rich in B vitamins and vitamin E, as well as selenium and magnesium, sunflower seeds provide a healthy dose of essential fatty acids, amino acids and fiber. Eat in moderation and keep half of a serving, as they are relatively high in fat.
- Pumpkin Seeds:are high in healthy fats, protein and fiber. Pumpkin seeds can be eaten separately or added to salads or yogurt.
- Pistachios:Grown throughout the Mediterranean, it's no wonder pistachios make up this list. They are known to help lower cholesterol levels and help with weight loss. Limited to half a serving due to the fat content.
The 4 main sources of lean protein:
- Fish:diets usually include fish or seafood at least twice a week. Salmon has been associated with healthy cognitive function, heart health, and cancer protection.
- Poultry:Lean chicken and turkey are excellent sources of protein. Stick to cooking: Avoid deep frying to keep fat content within healthy limits. And to aid digestion, consuming chicken bone broth, which is naturally rich in collagen and L-glutamine, maintains gut integrity by altering gut microbiota (flora) to improve digestive function.
- Eggs:Eggs are high in protein, rich in amino acids, and have less saturated fat than their counterparts. Eggs, a typical breakfast food, are also excellent for a quick lunch and dinner.
- Legumes:High in protein, low in fat and high in fiber, legumes are an important part of a healthy diet for pancreatitis as they help stabilize sugar levels in theblood and help lose weight. Specific beans, including lentils, contain lipase, a digestive enzyme.
Top 3 Low Fat Dairy Products:
- Yogurt:Choose low-fat or low-fat yogurt with no added sugar or sweeteners when dieting for pancreatitis. High in probiotics for gut health and protein, this dairy product is ideal for breakfast.
- Cottage Cheese:Rich in vitamin B12 and high in calcium, cottage cheese is a great snack, especially when combined with other foods in the pancreatitis diet, such as nuts, seeds and fruit.
- Kefir:Known for its immune-boosting properties and healthy bacteria that aid digestion, this fermented milk product contains protein, calcium and vitamin D.
Foods to avoid:
- Alcohol, tobacco and caffeine;
- Allergens known as soy, dairy, corn and artificial sweeteners;
- Fried foods;
- White flour products such as pasta and white bread;
- Trans fatty acids in industrially prepared food;
- lifestyle changes to prevent recurrence of pancreatitis;
- If you smoke cigarettes or use other tobacco products, stop doing it;
- Eat small meals 4-5 times a day;
- Drink at least 2 liters of water per day;
- Practice relaxation to relieve stress and pain.