The pancreas is a small organ tucked behind your stomach in the upper area of your abdomen. The organ facilitates the digestion of protein, fat and carbohydrates by secreting enzymes which, in ordinary circumstances, become active once they reach the small intestine. Additionally, the pancreas produces a hormone called insulin which regulates blood sugar. Since the pancreas is integrally tied to digestive processes, diet is an essential part of post-pancreatitis treatment.
Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas which occurs when digestive enzymes produced by the pancreas begin to eat away at the organ. The causes of pancreatitis vary, but it is most commonly the result of either alcoholism or a gallstone which blocks the pancreatic duct. Infection, surgery, certain drugs, abdominal injury, high triglyceride levels and hereditary disease may also cause pancreatitis.
Individuals recovering from pancreatitis often experience indigestion, weight loss and abdominal pain and may produce oily stools because their pancreas isn't producing enough enzymes to handle digestion properly. A low-fat diet is key to treating the symptoms of malabsorption because it allows the pancreas to rest. Individuals with pancreatitis should keep their fat consumption below 30 grams per day, according to MedlinePlus.
Pancreatitis often leads to weight loss and malnutrition, so it's important to make every meal nutrient-dense. The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends eating frequent, small meals rich in protein and whole-grain carbohydrates. Protein should come from lean meat, poultry, fish and beans, while consumption of red meat should be limited. Antioxidants are particularly beneficial for recovery, so berries, tomatoes and vegetables are an important part of post-pancreatitis nutrition. To combat malnutrition, incorporate iron and B-vitamin-rich foods such as whole grains and dark leafy greens in your diet.
Stimulants and Allergens
Avoid stimulants including coffee, alcohol and tobacco which exacerbate the malabsorption problems associated with pancreatitis. Additionally, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, it may be necessary to eliminate common allergens including eggs, gluten, dairy, soy and preservatives.
Your doctor may recommend a multivitamin and supplements including omega-3 fish oil, coenzyme Q10, vitamin C and probiotics to combat malnutrition. Do not take supplements without your doctor's permission.