Pancreatic diet: what to eat in case of chronic pancreatitis?


Pancreatitis is none other than inflammation of the pancreas, a gland responsible for producing digestive enzymes that help digest food and producing insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar. As Marie Behar, dietitian nutritionist specializing in gastric disorders and doctor of Public Health, explains to us, a suitable diet helps prevent symptoms by limiting nutritional deficiencies and weight loss.

Differentiate acute pancreatitis from chronic pancreatitis

Before addressing the dietary aspect, know that we distinguish acute pancreatitis from chronic pancreatitis. In detail, acute pancreatitis is characterized by sudden and severe inflammation of the pancreas. It most often results from gallstones or chronic alcoholism and manifests itself by severe abdominal pain nausea and vomiting.

Chronic pancreatitis develops over a prolonged period, generally following recurrent inflammation of the pancreas. The painful attacks are interspersed with episodes of remission but gradually cause destruction of the pancreatic gland. They often occur after a meal and are the cause of persistent abdominal pain, weight loss and digestive problems.

Chronic pancreatitis: what is the role of diet?

Diet plays a key role in the management of chronic pancreatitis: certain foods can worsen symptoms and inflammation of the pancreas while others prevent it. And Marie Behar warns: “The dietary instructions are the same in cases of acute and chronic pancreatitis unless the acute pancreatitis is linked to serious gallbladder lithiasis. In this case, it requires hospital treatment and the establishment of enteral feeding by tube for a few weeks.”

In detail, a suitable diet is essential for:

  • reduce stimulation of the pancreas and allow him to rest;
  • relieve symptoms by avoiding foods that may aggravate pain, nausea and vomiting;
  • prevent nutritional deficiencies because chronic pancreatitis can cause difficulty absorbing nutrients, especially fats and fat-soluble vitamins like vitamins A, D, E and K;
  • prevent weight loss and complications such as diabetes or digestion problems by reducing the load on the pancreas and promoting better digestive health.

Please note: in addition to the dietary advice that follows, consider monitor your lifestyle. Practice regular physical activity, pay attention to your sleep, learn to manage your stress, stop smoking, etc.

Pancreatic insufficiency: what foods are good for the pancreas?

In case of chronic pancreatitis, absolutely follow these first three tips:

  • Eat slowly and take the time to chew food well so as not to put too much strain on the pancreas.
  • Split your diet by focusing, for example, on three small main meals and two to three balanced snacks per day to optimize digestion;
  • Avoid unnecessary dietary restrictions and eat a varied and balanced diet. If in doubt, consult a specialist who will be able to advise you.

The ideal diet to deal with chronic pancreatitis, according to Marie Behar? A diet that is similar to the Mediterranean diet:

  • focus on fresh fruits and vegetables rich in vitamins and antioxidants;
  • favor whole grains (oats, quinoa, brown rice, barley, etc.);
  • don’t forget legumes (lentils, chickpeas, red beans, etc.);
  • consider lean proteins (chicken breast, turkey, rabbit, lean fish such as saithe, cod, hake, sole, low-fat dairy products, plant sources of protein, etc.)
  • don’t cut out healthy fats (avocados, fatty fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel, seeds, nuts, etc.). “The diet must remain balanced: there is no question of avoiding fat. On the other hand, opt for healthy fats and alternate sources of omega-3 and omega-9,” insists Marie Behar.
  • And if you tolerate dairy products, choose low-fat options such as semi-skimmed or skimmed milk, semi-skimmed or even skimmed yogurts, sweetened or not, and cheeses (within the limit of 30 g per day).

Remember to take your individual tolerance into account to gradually adjust your diet. What works for you may not work for someone else with chronic pancreatitis. And vice versa. Marie Behar.

Which fruits and vegetables to spare the pancreas?

“Generally speaking, fruits and vegetables are only very poorly digested by the pancreas because they essentially contain fiber and water: two nutrients that are not digestible. However, it is advisable to continue to eat fruits and vegetables as part of a varied diet! So choose seasonal fruits and vegetables picked when ripe to increase your intake of vitamins and minerals,” answers the expert.

Depending on the season, it is better to favor vegetables rich in vitamins such as carrotsTHE courgettesTHE Sweet potatoesTHE pumpkinsTHE green beansTHE leeksTHE asparagusTHE spinach, etc. Same story for fruit: choose bananasof the cooked applesof the ripe pearsof the peachesof the nectarinesof the prunes, etc.

What is bad for the pancreas? What foods to avoid in case of pancreatitis?

As you will have understood, it is better to avoid certain foods which can increase inflammation of the pancreas and worsen the symptoms:

  • Foods too high in fatsuch as fried foods, fatty meats and full-fat dairy products, which can be difficult to digest.
  • Spicy foods such as hot peppers, hot sauces and other spicy condiments, which can irritate the digestive system and increase inflammation of the pancreas.
  • Foods high in added sugarsuch as candy, sugary products, soda, and sugary drinks, which can cause blood sugar spikes and worsen inflammation of the pancreas.
  • Fatty meats and processed meats such as bacon and processed meats, which can be difficult to digest and worsen inflammation of the pancreas.
  • Full-fat dairy products such as whole milk and cheese (consumed in excess), which can be difficult to digest and may worsen the symptoms of pancreatitis.
  • Saturated fats such as full-fat crème fraîche, coconut or palm oils or cooked butter.
  • Caffeine is found in coffee, tea, and some energy drinks, which can stimulate the production of stomach acid and worsen the symptoms of pancreatitis.

“If you take pancreatic enzymes, pay attention to your fiber intake, which can alter their action,” underlines Marie Behar. At the risk of repeating ourselves, these are general recommendations that can be adapted according to your individual situation and the advice of your doctor or nutritionist.

Hydrate yourself enough and especially cut out alcohol!

In case of acute or chronic pancreatitis, it is better favor non-irritating drinks for the stomach and pancreas so as not to aggravate the inflammation.

What drinks to favor in case of inflammation of the pancreas?

It’s important to stay hydrated while drinking at least 1.5 liters of water throughout the day. Light, non-greasy broths can also be useful for hydration, as can herbal teas herbal like chamomile or peppermint. You can also opt for fruit juices diluted with water to reduce their acidity. Without forgetting plant-based alternatives to cow’s or sheep’s milk, such as almond or rice milk.

Can you drink alcohol after acute pancreatitis?

Our expert is clear: alcohol is toxic to the pancreas and strongly contraindicated after an attack of acute pancreatitis or when suffering from chronic pancreatitis. Even the occasional consumption of wine, beer or strong alcohol promotes pancreatic damage and may cause pain!

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