Pancreatitis is a severe condition characterized by pancreas inflammation. It is the pancreas that makes insulin, which is needed for the utilization of blood sugar. Your pancreas is also responsible for producing digestive enzymes that are needed for the breakdown of food and absorption of nutrients. Certain foods can worsen abdominal pain due to pancreatitis, so it is important to choose the proper diet for pancreatitis symptoms to help you recover from this painful condition.
When you have chronic pancreatitis, it is difficult to make digestive enzymes, and this leads to pancreatic dysfunction and nutrient malabsorption.
Most people with chronic or acute pancreatitis experience upper left abdominal pain as their main symptom. Other symptoms will include a fever, indigestion, hiccups, bloating with a swollen abdomen, unintentional weight loss, a rapid pulse, abdominal tenderness, and nausea or vomiting.
What should you eat to prevent pancreas inflammation? Read on as we discuss foods to eat and foods to avoid on a pancreas-friendly diet. We will also include a recommended menu for a pancreatitis diet, and other diet tips and lifestyle changes to prevent pancreas inflammation. Let’s get started…
Foods to Eat with Pancreatitis to Avoid Inflammation
What should you do after a diagnosis of acute or chronic pancreatitis? Initially, your doctor will recommend avoiding food and liquid consumption for several hours or days.
When your doctor allows you to eat again, the goal for a proper diet for pancreatitis is to prevent nutritional deficiencies and malnutrition, and regulate blood sugar levels while protecting against pancreatic cancer, liver and kidney problems, and aggravated pancreatitis symptoms.
As a result, a healthy, nutrient-dense diet for pancreatitis will include:
- Vegetables like beets, broccoli, lettuce, kale, sweet potatoes, carrots, and spinach
- Fruit like blueberries, cherries, watermelon, red grapes, mangos, apples, pomegranate, and black plums
- Gluten-free grains like brown rice, buckwheat, polenta, millet, teff, and amaranth
- Nuts like almonds, walnuts, and pistachios
- Seeds like sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds
- Lean protein sources like wild-caught fish, grass-fed poultry, organic eggs, and legumes (chickpeas, lentils, mung beans)
- Low-fat dairy sources (if not allergic) like kefir, cottage cheese, goat milk, and Greek yogurt
- Probiotic foods like kombucha, kimchi, and sauerkraut
Other Foods to Help Lower Inflammation of the Pancreas
What else should you eat to reduce pancreas inflammation? Many of the foods in the pancreatitis diet are very similar to those found in the Mediterranean diet, including salads, polenta, nuts and seeds, wild-caught fish like salmon, and healthy, plant-based fats like olive oil and coconut oil.
Research also suggests that some people with pancreatitis can handle getting up to 30% to 40% of their calories from fat when it comes from whole-food, plant-based sources or medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) like MCT oil. MCTs may help with nutrient absorption. Consider limiting your fat consumption to around 30 g to 50 g or less of fat per day.
Pancreas Inflammation: Foods to Avoid
What are foods to avoid for reducing pancreas inflammation? There are some factors to consider when it comes to establishing a diet for pancreatitis. For instance, refined carbohydrates can lead to larger amounts of insulin being released by the pancreas.
Foods high in sugar also increase triglycerides, and this is a risk factor for acute pancreatitis.
The following is a good guide to foods to avoid for better pancreas health:
- Known or suspected allergens like corn, dairy, soy, wheat, and artificial sweeteners
- Known stimulants like alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco
- Fried foods like potato chips, fries, fritters, and anything deep-fried
- Sugary foods like soda, candy, and other beverages with added sugar
- White flour products like white bread, pasta, pastries, crackers, cookies, muffins, and other desserts with added sugar
- Processed meats like hot dogs, canned meat, ham, corned beef, beef jerky, and sausages
- Trans-fatty and fatty foods like donuts, margarine, butter, full-fat dairy, mayonnaise, shortening, and partially-hydrogenated vegetable oils
Other Foods that Cause Pancreatitis
What other foods should you avoid to reduce pancreas inflammation? In general, avoid processed foods and high-fat foods like fast food hamburgers, pizza, and French fries. These foods are notoriously problematic for pancreatitis sufferers. The pancreas is needed for fat digestion, and therefore, foods high in fat will make the pancreas work much harder.
Although healthy fats like olive oil are better, you should still listen to your body and recognize what foods make you feel healthy and free you from your painful pancreatitis symptoms.
Diet Tips for Recovering from an Inflamed Pancreas
In the best diet for pancreatitis, there a few key points to keep in mind. The following diet tips will help you recover from an inflamed pancreas:
- Consume smaller, more frequent meals. Eating six times daily may work better than eating three meals each day.
- Consume a moderate-fat diet. While some tolerate 30% to 40% of their calories from fat, others do better with 25% of their calories from fat. About 30 g of fat per day is recommended, although some people can go as high as 50 g daily.
- Avoid excessive consumption of fiber at one time. Too much fiber can slow digestion and impair nutrient absorption.
- Take a high-potency multivitamin to make sure you are getting the nutrients the body needs. Look for a multivitamin with vitamin A, vitamin B12, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin K, folate, and zinc.
Sample Menu for a Pancreas-Friendly Diet
What is the best menu for a pancreatitis diet? Your daily diet should aim to include three servings of gluten-free whole grains, five to seven servings of vegetables, two to three servings of fruit, one to two servings of nuts and seeds, and one to two servings of lean animal protein.
The following is an example of a sample menu for a pancreas-friendly diet:
- Breakfast: A morning smoothie with three cups of spinach, one cup of blueberries, two tablespoons of ground flaxseed, one cup of gluten-free oats, and two cups of water.
- Mid-morning snack: One apple with almond butter. A glass of water or herbal tea.
- Lunch: A romaine lettuce salad with a quarter-cup of black beans, one hard-boiled organic egg, a quarter-cup of quinoa, sweet potato, shredded carrots, and green onion. A glass of water.
- Mid-afternoon snack: A quarter-cup of pumpkin seeds.
- Dinner: One chicken breast, a cup of brown rice, and a cup of steamed carrots. One glass of water.
- Evening snack: A cup of kefir with a quarter-cup of grapes. One cup of lemon balm or chamomile herbal tea to help you sleep.
Lifestyle Changes to Prevent Pancreas Inflammation
There are lifestyle changes that can also help prevent pancreas inflammation. The following are key lifestyle changes for you to consider:
- Avoid alcohol: Some people with chronic pancreatitis depend on alcohol. Alcohol also is known to increase the damage and pain associated with pancreatitis.
- Quit smoking: If you smoke, quitting will help a lot. Mind-body practices can help you quit smoking, including acupuncture, tai chi, and hypnosis. Lime juice and black pepper essential oil can also help.
- Stay hydrated: Drink at least 8 oz. of filtered water per 10 pounds of body weight on a daily basis.
- Practice relaxation and stress reduction: Meditation and deep breathing exercises can help you ease pain and stress. Also, the addition of yoga to your exercise routine can help you improve your overall quality of life when you suffer from chronic pancreatitis. Other ways to reduce stress include spending time in nature, keeping a journal, and cognitive behavioral therapy.
Final Thoughts on Diet for Pancreatitis
Pancreatitis, or pancreas inflammation, can produce painful symptoms like abdominal pain, a swollen abdomen, abdominal tenderness, bloating, and indigestion.
To prevent pancreas inflammation, it is good to follow a diet for pancreatitis. A healthy, nutrient-dense diet for pancreatitis will include vegetables, fruit, gluten-free grains, nuts, seeds, and lean protein sources like wild-caught fish, and probiotic foods.
Foods to avoid for improving pancreas health include known or suspected allergens, alcohol and caffeine, fried foods, sugary foods, white flour products, processed meats, and trans fats.
Besides adopting a diet for pancreatitis, it is also a good idea to quit smoking, stay hydrated, and practice relaxation and stress reduction techniques like yoga, meditation, and spending time in nature.
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