Chronic pancreatitis is a condition where the pancreas has become permanently damaged from “inflammation” and ceases to function properly. The pancreas is a small organ, located behind the stomach, and it’s main purpose is digestion by helping you regulate the way that your body processes sugar, with it’s all important function of producing insulin.
It also serves an important function in releasing enzymes and helping you digest food. Chronic pancreatitis can affect people of any age, but it usually develops between the ages of 30 and 40, or when the Symptoms Of Pancreatitis are most noticeable. The main causes, as a result of heavy drinking over many years, and it’s more common in men.
Approximately 87,000 new cases of pancreatitis occur annually in the U.S. Chronic pancreatitis is different from acute pancreatitis, where the inflammation is only short term and mainly caused by gallstones. Chronic pancreatitis begins as acute pancreatitis, and if the pancreas becomes scarred during the attack of acute pancreatitis, it cannot return to its normal state and begins the chronic stage.
The damage to the gland continues, worsening over time, becoming chronic in nature. Most people with chronic pancreatitis have had 1 or more attacks of acute pancreatitis. Link for a good Pancreapedia reference on chronic pancreatitis, entitled “Natural Course Of Chronic Pancreatitis”, from the American Pancreatic Association.
Because of the location of the pancreas, pancreatic cancer is often not diagnosed until late stages when it begins to spread to other organs. If you have been diagnosed with any form of pancreatitis and experience any of the symptoms, please consult with your doctor immediately about your concerns. Chronic pancreatitis is considered a risk factor for this cancer.
The most common symptom of chronic pancreatitis is repeated episodes of severe pain in your abdomen. The pain usually develops in the middle or left side of your stomach and can move and radiate along your back. It’s been described as a burning or shooting pain that comes and goes, but it may last for several hours or even days. Although the pain sometimes comes on after eating a meal, there’s often no trigger.
Some people might feel sick and vomit. Symptoms may include belching, heartburn, abdominal cramps, gas, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation. As the condition progresses, the painful episodes may become more frequent and severe. Eventually, a constant dull pain can develop in your abdomen, between episodes of severe pain.
However, pain is less common in chronic pancreatitis than in acute pancreatitis. Some people have pain, but many people do not experience abdominal pain. For those people who do have pain, the pain is usually constant and may be disabling. It’s important to note, pain often goes away as the condition worsens. This lack of pain is a bad sign because it probably means that the pancreas has stopped working.
Advanced chronic pancreatitis occurs when the damage to the pancreas progresses and it becomes unable to produce digestive juices, which help to break down food. Actually one way to determine if the pancreas has entered the chronic stage is by low production of enzyme serum levels, according to a National Institutes Of Health (NIH) study. The digestive enzymes of the pancreas break down everything that we eat like proteins, fats and carbohydrates, into small particles that are absorbed into our gut’s wall. The absence of digestive juices means it’s harder to break down fats and some proteins.
This can cause your stool to become very smelly and greasy. The pancreas usually only loses these functions many years after the first symptoms started. Other symptoms may include weight loss, loss of appetite, jaundice, symptoms of diabetes called diabetes 3-c, because of inability to produce insulin, bleeding due to anemia, nutritional deficiencies or malnutrition equaling lower enzymes production, and ongoing nausea and vomiting.
Variety Of Known Causes
The most common cause of chronic pancreatitis is drinking excessive amounts of alcohol over many years. This can cause repeated episodes of acute pancreatitis, which results in increasing damage to the organ. Because the pancreas is so closely tied to your digestive process, it’s affected by what you choose to eat, as well. Other causes, which is believed to be up 20 percent of the caess, include smoking, autoimmune disease, in which the immune system attacking the pancreas.
There’s also inheriting a faulty gene that stops the pancreas from working properly, high lipid fat levels in the blood, medications, infections, surgical procedures, injury to the pancreas such as a bad fall causing abdominal truma, and gallstones blocking the duct openings of the pancreas, and trapping digestive juices in the pancreas, according to a Mayo Clinic study. Unfortunately, in about 15% of cases of acute pancreatitis and 40% of cases of chronic pancreatitis, the cause is never known.
The damage to the pancreas is permanent in the chronic stage, but treatment can help control the condition and manage any symptoms. Now, it may not sound like it, but the good news is, from the first incidence of pancreatitis to the end stage of chronic pancreatitis, the time frame is generally 8-15 years. Mother Nature is giving us big hints early on so that we have time to repair the pancreas. A person does not need to get to the end stage of pancreatitis.
Now is the time for action if you suspect pancreatitis. People with chronic pancreatitis are usually advised to make lifestyle changes, such as stopping drinking alcohol, stopping smoking, losing weight per an American Pancreatitis Association study on obesity, getting exercise, finding ways to relax and relieve stress such as yoga, and eating a balanced and healthy low-fat, low-sugar, high-protein, nutrient dense, high-calorie diet. Researchers are finding out more about foods you can eat to protect and even help to heal your pancreas. Medications are prescribed to relieve pain but prolonged use is just as detrimental. Pancreatic enzyme supplements may be prescribed to help your digestive system work more effectively, as well.
Foods to Avoid
Specific type foods to avoid includes greasy, fried foods, refined grains and simple carbohydrates foods, processed meats, and high-fat processed foods for not only preventing but also managing pancreatitis. Columbia University Irvin Medical Center confirmed the foods to avoid (see link above):
Abstinence from alcohol and greasy or fried foods is important in helping to prevent malnutrition and pain.
Patients with chronic pancreatitis are at high risk for malnutrition due to malabsorption and depletion of nutrients as well as due to increased metabolic activity. Columbia article continued to say:
Therefore, patients with chronic pancreatitis must be tested regularly for nutritional deficiencies.
Simply, consuming too much fat can cause your pancreas to work harder to release more digestive enzymes than it normally would, causing pain, per this Cleveland Clinic article. An excessive level of enzymes may lead to an attack. However, the other side of the coin has to be considered, too, as processed foods and simple carbohydrates do not have living natural enzymes. The absence of living enzymes in food forces the pancreas to work harder and produce more of its own digestive enzymes to digest food properly.
The National Pancreas Foundation advises that patients with pancreatitis limit their fat intake to 20 grams or fewer per day, with no one meal containing more than 10 grams of fat. By eating an unhealthy diet low in micronutrients, according to U.S. Government Dietary Guidelines 2015-2020, many Americans are deficient in critical in nutrients and minerals such as bicarbonate, potassium, magnesium, zinc, cobalt, and other minerals and have a low intake of essential vitamins.
The pancreas cannot work well without these critical nutrients. Another detrimental issue affecting the function of the pancreas is acidity. Today, most people are too acidic from eating high acid “junk” food” such as processed meats. Whole body acidity destroys the pancreas in many ways. There is so much to whole body acidity that Biotherapy Clinic’s e-book, Healthy Pancreas, Healthy You, discusses this subject matter in detail.
Along with eating more processed foods, people also tend to eat more unnatural food combinations. Such food combinations are difficult to digest and cause the pancreas to work harder than it should. In addition, daily stress is harmful to the pancreas, and constant stress negatively changes its hormonal and neural system, as well.
High levels of sweets, candies, cookies, and sugary foods in your diet can be a major contributing factor to pancreatitis. High sugar foods increases levels of bad fats in your blood, increasing stress on the gland and causing it to malfunction and become inflamed, which also force your pancreas to work harder to compensate for the surge of sugar in your system.
Plus, there’s little nutrition in sugar to nourish the pancreas and the body, and it is one of the major contributors to unwanted weight-gain to your body. Being overweight is a key contributing factors in developing or worsening pancreatitis. So, loosing weight is a major lifestyle change that should be implemented with this condition. The NIH references the American Dietic Association food exchange list for maintaining a healthy weight.
However, since we are on the subject of sweets, there is one exception to this rule of avoiding sugary foods, natural dark chocolate (not milk chocolate). Natural dark chocolate, made from the cocoa bean, is jamb-packed with antioxidants and plant phenols which is healthy for your body.
Drinking plenty of fluids and cutting back on caffeine found in energy drinks is also recommended for people with pancreatitis, according to the NIH study. Eliminating all suspected food allergens including dairy, soy, wheat, corn, food preservatives and chemical food additives, is a good idea, too.
If a person has trouble with this diet, pancreatic enzymes in synthetic form may be given to help digest the food. However, natural fermented foods are a good source of probiotics enzymes. More on that shortly. With acute pancreatitis becoming more common in the U.S., it’s thought that the obesity epidemic may be a factor in rising rates of this disease. One study published in Current Opinion in Gastroenterology in 2017 reviewed by NIH, indicates that obesity may worsen the severity of acute pancreatitis.
So, what is the non-drug, non-surgical approach to reducing the Symptoms Of Pancreatitis and improving pancreatic function? To answer that question, we have to look at pancreatic juice. Pancreatic juice is made up mainly of water, followed by minerals, trace elements, bicarbonate and proteins that are mostly enzymes.
These ingredients are the “fuel” that the body needs to be alive. A car without gasoline isn’t going anywhere, is it? And, your body without the proper nutrients isn’t going any where, either! Speaking of fuel, dehydration is a common problem with pancreatitis, so, it’s vitally important to drink 8 full glasses of filtered water each day.
According to the Pancreas Foundation, high carbohydrate, low fat diet is recommended; and eating smaller more frequent anti-inflammatory diet or meals help prevent aggravating the pancreas. Antioxidants may reduce pain in people with chronic pancreatitis, according to a report published in The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews in 2014. For this report, scientists analyzed 12 previously published clinical trials with a total of 585 participants. In their conclusion, they noted that the clinical relevance of this small reduction is uncertain, and more evidence is needed.
They also found that adverse events, while mostly mild, occurred in 16 percent of participants. It’s thought that eating foods high in antioxidant may aid in the treatment of chronic pancreatitis by reducing oxidative stress, a possible cause of the onset of this disease. A National Institutes Of Health (NIH) study published in 2009, researchers analyzed 22 clinical trials and concluded that the data support a benefit of antioxidant therapy from foods in the management of pancreatitis.
A very important essential amino acid naturally present in your body, glutamine plays a role in many metabolic processes. Some research shows that glutamine may benefit people with acute pancreatitis who receive total parenteral nutrition. A study ScienceDirect published in the journal Pancreatology in 2013, researchers reviewed 12 clinical trials with a total of 505 patients.
According to the report’s authors, their analysis “demonstrates a clear advantage” for high-glutamine food sources in patients with acute pancreatitis receiving total parenteral nutrition. They also noted that those receiving enteral nutrition, which is food delivered to the stomach or small intestine through a tube, do not require glutamine.
The use of omega-3 fatty acids may help reduce infectious complications and length of hospital stay in people with acute pancreatitis, especially when used parenterally. That’s the finding of a 2015 report published in the journal Nutrients and reviewed by the NIH, which analyzed eight clinical trials. A class of polyunsaturated fats, omega-3 fatty acids are found naturally in many foods like fatty cold-water fish such as salmon and tuna. Preliminary research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids may help treat pancreatitis by reducing inflammation and repairing tissue damage.
There is a unique healing mineral water, called “Korlovy Vary”, which comes from a thermal spring in a small town in now Czech Republic, that has the exact ingredients found in pancreatic juice. This healing thermal mineral water has been prescribed to patients in Europe for over 500 years. This healing mineral water is made up of minerals, trace elements, and bicarbonate.
After thousands of successful use, European doctors realized that this healing water increases the amount of pancreatic juice produced and the quality of the pancreatic juice is better. All this makes for an alkalized environment in the small intestine, which is what constitutes optimal body health and function.
Pancreatic digestive enzymes work best in an alkaline state, per this Journal Of the Pancreas (JOP) study. Millions of people have improved health by reducing acidity in the digestive system because eat alkaline foods like vegetables and drink mineral water from the Karlovy Vary thermal spring. The thermal mineral water is available in a salt that can be mixed in regular filtered water and used daily. For more information leave a request comment below.
An alkaline, healing diet of nutrient-dense foods, such as lean, organic, grass-fed finished or free-range finished meats, dairy, and brown eggs (A); wild-caught fish and seafood (A)(not farmed-raised ocean fish); fresh organic fruits, vegetables especially legumes and dark green leafy, organic raw nuts and seeds (A); organic whole grains and complex carbohydrates; organic herbs and spices; antioxidant drinks such as espresso; natural dark chocolate; restoration of beneficial intestinal bacteria by eating natural fermented foods (A); polyunsaturated omega 3 fatty acids like extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil (A); natural mineral water; abdominal manipulation; meditation and relaxation; and are all valuable tools, used worldwide to heal pain and indigestion associated with chronic pancreatitis.
Specific Effective Nutrients (Watch “Top 10 Best Foods For Your Pancreas” video). (2)
Reishi mushrooms. Reishi mushrooms are one of the most densely packed foods when it comes to antioxidants and active organic compounds that can affect our health. In pancreatitis, reishi mushrooms are able to soothe and repair the stomach and bring down inflammation.
Ginseng. Ginseng is one of the oldest and most trusted natural remedies for a wide variety of health issues, especially those that are inflammatory in nature or affect the gastrointestinal system. For a case of pancreatitis ginseng tea or ginseng root can be taken to lower inflammation throughout the body and relieve pain, plus it increases insulin production.
Tofu. Switching to tofu-based meals is a popular fatty red meat alternative for vegan people, particularly those who suffer from chronic pancreatitis. This is because high levels of fat in the blood are one of the most common causes of pancreatitis, which can be caused by eating a lot of fatty red meat. If you cut out high-fat foods, you can lower your chances of inflammation in the pancreas.
Fruits The presence of free radicals can aggravate or bring about pancreatitis. Some of the best free radical-fighting foods you can eat are blueberries, acai, and pineapple, which are loaded with antioxidants and can reduce inflammation throughout the body very rapidly. Eating a handful of blueberries every morning can lower your risk of suffering this condition.
Spinach Spinach and other dark green leafy vegetables (kale, turnip and mustard greens) are a common suggestion with ant type of pancreatitis. It’s usually worsened by vitamin and mineral deficiencies, particularly, vitamins A, C, and E, and minerals potassium, magnesium, and selenium, which dark leafy green vegetables are high in.
Polyunsaturated Oils When cooking, you should avoid the use of traditional saturated cooking oils because of the high unhealthy fat content. However extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado oil, which are high in healthy poly-unsaturated omega 3 fatty acids and a good ratio of omega 3s to fattier omega 6s, helps reduce inflammation of the pancreas. An NIH study showed that medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) like coconut oil reduced pain associated with pancreatitis, by reducing inflammation, improving metabolism, and improving cognitive function.
Green Tea According to an NIH study, regular consumption of green tea inhibits the development and the progression of pancreatic cancer. Researchers note that for women this results in a 32 percent reduction in pancreatic cancer risk, and they also note that a lower temperature of the tea is linked to its benefits.
Red Grapes Another powerful antioxidant that has been shown to work well against pancreatitis is resveratrol, which is found in high concentration in red grapes and red wine, especially in naturally-fermented red wine.
Kimchi Another NIH study looked at the Korean super food kimchi, which is a naturally fermented (probiotics) mix of vegetables and spices, effectiveness in reducing blood cholesterol levels and gastro-intestional disorder during acute pancreatitis.
Tumeric. Another spice high in antioxidant is tumeric, with its active ingredient curcumin, and it has a long history of health benefits, especially in treating pancreatitis, like this study published in the Indian Journal Of Medical Research.
Vitamin D. An NIH study looked at the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D, in it benefiting function and insulin sensitivity and systematic inflammation, all characteristic of pancreatitis, and pancreatic cancer, but called for more randomized blind studies. So, that simply means spend some time in nature and replenish your vitamin D. Remember also, that due to digestive issues with pancreatitis, nutrients such as vitamins and minerals can’t be assimilated properly and leads to deficiencies, that’s an important reason to eat foods high in vitamins and minerals.
Some other great natural foods which are beneficial for pancreatitis are garlic, sweet potatoes, broccoli, and licorice.
Adaptogen Peruvian Maca. Peruvian Maca (A) is considered a well-balanced “whole-food” very high in nutrition value and high in micronutrients such as essential vitamins and minerals, amino acids, antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, various plant compounds, including glucosinolates and polyphenols, It’s a good source of carbohydrates, low in saturated fat, and contains a good amount of fiber; all beneficial in supporting better pancreatic health and function.
Although there are not any documented animal or human trials on Peruvian Maca yet and how it could benefit pancreatitis, there are numerous studies that it exhibits high antioxidant properties, boosting levels of antioxidants like glutathione and superoxide dismutase in the body, neutralizing harmful free radicals, inflammation, fighting off chronic disease, such as chronic pancreatitis, and preventing damage to cells. All of which, as we have covered, beneficial to pancreatitis.
One NIH study in 2014 demonstrated that polysaccharides extracted from maca had high antioxidant activity and were effective in treating free-radical damage. An animal study in the Czech Republic even found that administering a concentrated dose of maca to rats not only improved their antioxidant status, but also significantly decreased levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in the liver and reduced blood sugar, helping prevent the development of chronic disease, such as pancreatitis.
Meanwhile, another test-tube study showed that the antioxidant content of maca leaf extract could even protect against neurological damage. Yet, another NIH study concluded Peruvian Maca was effective as a neuro-protective “Adaptogen”, in providing “anti-inflammatory” benefits to the human body, and particularly beneficial to a stressed, inflamed pancreas.
We recommend watching “Pancreatitis | Acute and Chronic Pancreatitis Nursing Lecture Symptoms, Treatment, Pathophysiology” video. (2)
We’ve covered the alternative natural treatments, the causes, and the Symptoms Of Pancreatitis, and we hope you found this article informative and is of some benefit to you. Leave your question and comments below.
(A) Use these links to get more detailed information, and documentation, and to buy these incredible nutrient-dense foods.
(1) Sooraj Mohan Video
(2) Registered Nurse RN Video