What is Pancreatitis
The pancreas is one of those organs that you tend to hear a lot about, but aren’t sure what it actually does. It’s just as crucial as any other major organ in your body (let’s not talk about the appendix). The pancreas is responsible for processing glucose and releasing enzymes to help with food digestion. It produces insulin which helps break down glucose and store it inside cells.
If the pancreas becomes inflamed or swollen, its functionality will decrease. This condition is commonly referred to as pancreatitis. The health of your pancreas is very closely linked to your diet and the digestive process in general.
There are multiple forms of pancreatitis, some being worse than others. Acute pancreatitis, where the pancreas becomes severely inflamed is often triggered by gallstones, small balls of solidified bladder that form in the gallbladder.
Chronic pancreatitis, the condition where pancreas flareups happen repeatedly over a period of time, are much more closely tied to your diet.
Foods to Eat If You’re Suffering from Pancreatitis
A pancreatitis friendly diet should consist of foods that are low in animal fats, rich in protein, and plush with antioxidants. Most people might be wondering how you achieve this, as meat tends to be the best source of protein available. But there are a lot of good protein options available.
Lean chicken or beef will provide you all the protein you need sans the fat. There are also plenty of plant-based protein options like tofu, almond, and other soy products. The pancreas doesn’t have to over exert itself to process foods of this caliber.
Don’t forget to include lots of fruits and vegetables in your diet as well. Kale, blueberries, spinach, strawberries, etc. are filled with healthy antioxidants that keep your pancreas healthy by killing free radicals that can damage your organs.
Foods to Avoid If You’re Suffering from Pancreatitis
The most important thing to remember if you’re trying stop pancreatitis is to avoid including trans fats in your diet. Generally speaking, trans fats are found in processed foods and fast foods.
Trans fats don’t occur in food naturally. They are the byproduct of an industrial process of adding hydrogen to vegetable oil (the oil predominantly used in fast food cooking and frying). There are some foods that you should exclude or minimize in your diet either due to their makeup or how they are prepared:
- Organ meats
- Red meat
- Fried foods
- Potato chips
- Full fat dairy
- Beverages with added sugars
- White flour
- Pastries with added sugars
Fried foods in particular should be avoided at all costs. The oil that is used in their preparation is the source of the forbidden trans fats that can cause your pancreatitis to flare up. While you are cutting fried foods out of your diet, make sure to also cut out foods made from refined flour.
Processed or refined flour is just empty calories with very little nutritional value. You’re not doing your body any favors by ingesting it. It’s not even as great a source of energy as whole wheat sources. Since the pancreas is responsible for producing insulin to break down glucose, the empty calories just means it has to work harder with less benefits.
Pancreatitis Recovery Diet
If you’ve had a pancreatitis flare up recently, then you should pay extra attention to your diet. Avoid drinking alcohol or smoking tobacco and concentrate on eating a low-fat diet. Make sure to utilize spices and herbs like turmeric, garlic, or ginger that reduce inflammation.
It is also important to make sure you stay properly hydrated. Your pancreas like every other major organ in your body needs proper hydration to function correctly. Don’t just drink water though; you also need to make sure to ingest electrolytes. Electrolytes help you retain the water that you consume. It is pretty pointless to drink water if you are not able to properly retain it.
Besides, making sure to drink enough water and maintaining a low-fat diet, it is also important to make sure that your diet includes the proper vitamins and minerals. It is easy to become malnourished after a pancreatitis flare up. Make sure you are ingesting foods that contain a lot of vitamins A, D, E, and K. Finally, make sure to check with your doctor after any major flare up episodes. Don’t try to self-diagnose yourself.