Best and Worst Foods for Pancreatitis Pain

Your pancreas plays a vital role in helping turn the food you eat into energy. It produces and secretes the enzymes your digestive system uses to break down food for absorption, as well as the hormone insulin that helps transport glucose (energy) from your blood into your cells. 

When your pancreas is inflamed, medically called pancreatitis, you may find eating almost unbearable because of the pain that follows. Though the best and worst foods for pancreatitis may depend on the type of pancreatitis you have, not eating at all may ultimately worsen your condition and your health. 

Our pancreatitis specialists at GastroMed in Miami, Florida want to share the best and worst foods for your pancreatitis pain.

Pancreatitis explained

Though it’s not clear why, pancreatitis is on the rise in the United States, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. As previously noted, your pancreas produces and secretes enzymes that help you digest food. If the enzymes are activated while still in the pancreas, they damage the tissue, causing inflammation and pain.

Pancreatitis is divided into two types:

Acute pancreatitis

Acute pancreatitis is the more common type and is increasing in frequency in the US. With acute pancreatitis, the inflammation and associated pain come on suddenly and resolve after several days of medical treatment. 

Chronic pancreatitis

Chronic pancreatitis is less common than acute, but it’s a long-term condition that requires ongoing medical management. Unlike acute pancreatitis, the inflammation and pain from chronic pancreatitis doesn’t improve, but rather worsens over time. 

Gallstones, excessive alcohol use, genetic conditions, and certain medications are the most common causes of both acute and chronic pancreatitis. 

Though we prescribe medications for the treatment of both acute and chronic pancreatitis, diet also plays an important part in the treatment plan. Some foods may worsen your abdominal pain, while others improve your pancreatic health.

Best foods for pancreatitis pain

To improve your acute pancreatitis pain, the best food may be no food, at least during the first few days of the inflammatory condition. Because your pancreas produces and secretes enzymes based on what’s in your small intestine, eating may worsen the inflammation by increasing production and early activation of the enzymes.

Once the inflammation has subsided, we recommend you stick with a clear liquid diet, which includes water, clear juices (i.e apple or white grape), broth, frozen ice pops, and block coffee and tea. If you tolerate the liquids, we’ll add more solid food to your diet.

For chronic pancreatitis, and for prevention of another acute pancreatitis attack, the best foods should be high in protein, low in fat, and rich in vitamins and minerals. Some of the best food options for pancreatitis pain include:

The Cleveland Clinic also recommends you include plenty of antioxidant-rich foods, such as kale, blueberries, and carrots. 

Worst foods for pancreatitis pain

Though your pancreas produces enzymes that help digest protein, carbs, and fat, foods high in fat seem to be the most problematic for inducing pancreatitis pain. The worst foods for pancreatitis pain include:

Your pancreas also produces insulin to help maintain blood sugar levels. Though high-sugar processed foods may not cause pain, they may affect blood sugar levels, causing highs and lows that affect overall health. 

While fatty foods may trigger your pancreatitis pain, fat is an essential nutrient. We recommend you include nutrient-rich fats, such as nuts and vegetable oils, and keep intake to a minimum. To minimize pain and improve absorption, we may prescribe digestive enzymes.  

Food is an important part of the treatment plan for pancreatitis pain, but not all foods are created equal. If you’re struggling with pancreatitis pain, we can help. 

Contact us today by calling the office most convenient to you or by requesting an appointment online. Telemedicine appointments are available.

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