Like all the other gastrointestinal and hepatobiliary diseases, pancreatic diseases are also managed with diet therapies in conjunction with medicines. Pancreatitis Diet focuses on the intake of meals that put the least amount of stress on the pancreatic cells.
The importance of diet is very obvious in the treatment of various diseases. Diet can be a cure or it can be the offending agent in invoking the incidence of a disease.
Various risk factors that are related to diet are found in the casual lifestyle of many people.
Such risk factors become part of the daily habits and end up causing infection or damage to the organs and their capabilities to function.
Here we have a detailed explanation about pancreatitis which is the infection of the pancreas.
What Do We Know About The Pancreas?
The pancreas is an organ situated in the abdomen and has one of the most important functions in the body. It takes the responsibility of transforming the food we eat into the fuel that our body needs for its basic functioning.
It serves this function in two ways.
Its exocrine function is to help with digesting the food and its endocrine function is to help with regulating and maintaining the blood sugar level in the body.
Appearance-wise, there are four parts of the pancreas.
- The head
- The neck
- The body
- The tail
The initial wide portion is called the head and it is attached at the point where the stomach meets the starting point of the small intestine. This is where the stomach will empty its contents in the small intestine and the pancreas will release its enzymes.
In the central area of the pancreas, the neck and body are located.
The tail is located towards the narrow end that reaches out to the left side.
What is Pancreatitis?
It is the infection or inflammation of the pancreas. In this case, the enzymes present inside the pancreas begin to digest the organ themselves as they accumulate.
There are two types of pancreatitis.
Acute pancreatitis has a sudden onset and it can be a result of other disorders like gallstones. Full recovery is possible, however, it can be fatal if not treated on time. Another set of reasons that can cause its occurrence includes the reaction of drugs etc.
Chronic pancreatitis develops over a span of time and in this duration pancreas continue to lose their functioning ability.
Diet Therapy for Patients with Pancreatitis:
Following foods are allowed during the treatment of pancreatitis.
Whole grains are packed with fiber. In treating pancreatitis it is crucial to take care of fiber intake as it directly reduces the intake of cholesterol which can be the offending agent.
According to a study done in 2016, it was found that the risks for pancreatic cancer were reduced due to the intake of whole grains. [Ref]
Whole grains include:
The aim here is to avoid any consumption of fat but protein is a must in this case. Gaining protein from animal sources can be tricky if you go for red meat like mutton or beef.
Sources like chicken and fish are much preferable to red meat as they are lean.
Another source of protein is from plants. Protein that is plant-based does not have any fat content most of the time and in some cases it is negligible. These sources include beans, legumes, lentils, etc.
Nuts are also a part of plant-based protein, however, their high fat composition can be aggravating for pancreatitis, so they must be avoided.
Plenty of Fruits:
Essentially, go for fruits that have a prominent antioxidant composition. Antioxidants can do wonders for infections like pancreatitis.
These antioxidants can be beneficial as they can avert any undesired inflammatory response.
Fruits rich in antioxidants include:
- Rep grapes
Preferably vegetables that contain a good amount of fiber can help with pancreatitis. You can choose both canned or frozen vegetables if fresh ones are not available. It is advised to wash them before cooking or eating.
Such vegetables include:
- Leafy greens
- Sweet potatoes
Reduced-Fat Dairy Products:
The reason behind going for low-fat dairy or fat-free dairy products is to avoid any intake of fat. One can easily get access to fat-free options available in the market.
Such options include:
- Soy milk
- Oat milk
- Almond milk
- Coconut milk
Lower fat versions of cheeses and yogurts are also available.
Probably the most perfect option to choose would be a Mediterranean diet. This diet contains all the necessary servings of fruits and vegetables while keeping the fat intake to a minimum. It is very low in saturated fat which makes this very suitable.
Sticking to a healthy and organized eating routine can help you with crossing out the foods that may be aggravating.
A food diary can help you in this case if you keep nothing down the foods you eat, the time at which you eat, and how you feel afterward.
Small, frequent meals will do better than 2 to 3 large meals. Try to eat at one time and drink at another time.
Foods to Avoid with Pancreatitis:
Fat is the main offender here. Pancreatitis can be caused by the incidence of gallstones and gallstones are caused by excessive levels of cholesterol or triacylglycerols.
Such meat options include red meat like beef and mutton.
Fried foods are dipped in oil and full of saturated fatty acids making them repulsive for people with pancreatitis. These foods can exacerbate the symptoms of pancreatitis.
Such fried items include:
- Fried fish
- Fried chicken
- Junk foods
- French fries
Avoid Nuts and Avocado
Even though nuts are a healthy source of plant-based protein. However, they are known for their high-fat content which can be triggering and need to be avoided.
Avocado is a healthy fruit but it is very rich in fat which is the logic behind avoiding it.
Your healthcare provider may ask you to choose refined food items like white rice or white bread but unless it is advised, it is much better to avoid any such items as they contain low fiber.
Since the pancreas helps in the digestion of food items and reduces blood glucose by producing insulin, food that is hard to digest such as fats and foods with a high glycemic index may increase the inflammation in the pancreas. Thus, these food items may worsen pancreatitis.
In addition to high-fat meals and foods with a high glycemic index, pancreatitis may also occur as a result of high calcium in the body, excessive alcohol intake, and steroids use.
It is important to identify the cause and treat the cause. Reduce calcium supplements and dairy products, avoid alcohol intake, and steroids.
Certain medications may also cause pancreatitis importantly, DPP-IV Inhibitors like Januvia (Sitagliptin) and Galvus (Vildagliptin) and GLP-1 analogs like Ozempic & Rybelsus (Semaglutide), Trulicity (Dulaglutide), and Victoza (Liraglutide).