The Pancreas and Nutrition: Your Diet for Good Health

by Columbia Surgery on November 7, 2012

This is the first in a three-part Q&A series on nutrition with Kristin Addona, an oncology registered dietitian at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center.

If you would like more information on pancreatitis, call The Pancreas Center office at 212-305-9467. To see a clinician in person, complete our appointment request form and someone will contact you.

Question: What is the idea behind a prevention diet in regards to the pancreas? Can you, for example, reduce your risk of pancreatic cancer?

Answer: Although there is no proven way to prevent pancreatic cancer, you can reduce your general risk of cancer by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. This includes smoking cessation, maintaining a healthy body weight, exercising, and choosing a healthy diet. Studies show that a diet rich in a variety of plant-based foods may help reduce the risk of certain cancers. These foods include fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans. I also recommend that you limit the amount of red and processed meats in your diet.

Q.: If a patient doesn’t have pancreatic cancer yet, why would you be seeing them?

A.: My role at NYP/Columbia is as an outpatient oncology registered dietitian. I see patients who are undergoing treatments for cancer. However, patients see RDs for a wide range of reasons. For example, registered dietitians counsel patients who are seeking to change their diet to help manage their medical conditions, because they want to lose weight, and because they want to improve their diet for disease prevention.

Q.: What is the first thing you say to a new patient when you see them?

A.: I like to understand the reason for their visit and what goals, problems or concerns they may have. This helps me guide the session toward their unique needs.

Q.: What is the most important thing for patients to be aware of in terms of their diet? Why?

A.: It is important for patients to focus on whole foods and limit foods that are processed. When choosing what to eat, try to choose foods that can be placed in a food group. For example, when choosing a snack food, reach for a fruit, vegetable, nuts or yogurt, instead of a bag of chips or pretzels. Also, the fewer ingredients listed on packaged foods, the more natural and whole the product will be. This will ensure that your diet is well balanced, rich in antioxidants and other essential nutrients.

Q.: If there was just one change a person could make, what should that be?

A.: If you are not at a healthy body weight, work towards taking steps to get there. A registered dietitian can work with you to create a sensible plan to help you reach your weight loss goals. If you are already at a healthy body weight, take steps to maintain your weight by doing daily physical activity and eating a healthy well balanced diet.

Related Links:
Pancreas and Nutrition: Your Diet for Pancreatitis
The Pancreas and Nutrition: Your Diet during Pancreatic Cancer Treatment

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

health diet and nutrition February 11, 2013 at 11:44 pm

A good diet also improves heart health and reduced the risk for diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular diseases.

Judith A M. October 5, 2013 at 5:57 am

This is my second Pancreatitis stay in hospital. My first was in 2008, my Lipase were 4682, when I got to hospital, it took 5 weeks with only IV’s. I was told it may never happen again, In July of 2013 I was not eating anything to cause high Lipase and just
passed out with pain, when I got to hospital my lipase were 51,603. I eat very little meat, do not drink, and do eat a few nuts. I am looking for a diet that this never happens again, and have been told by the Doctors, they have no reason why this is happening,

Columbia Surgery October 7, 2013 at 10:21 am

Hi Judith,

Thank you for reaching out to us. I have forwarded your comment to our team at The Pancreas Center, who will be best suited to answer your question. As soon as I hear a response, I will reply.

If you would like more information on the Pancreas Center, please visit: You may also call them at: 212-305-9467.

In addition, Deborah Gerszberg, RD, CNSC, CDN, A Clinical Nutritionist at the Pancreas Center, has written an article about Pancreatitis and Diet. you may look at it at: Hopefully this additional information will be of help. Best regards.

Columbia Surgery October 7, 2013 at 10:35 am

Hi Judith,

I received an answer from the Pancreas Center. With the information you provided, it does not sound like your diet is causing the Pancreatitis; however, without a medical examination from our team, we cannot confirm this or offer the medical advice you seek. You may contact our new patient coordinators, Lynette or Priscilla, at 212-305-9467 and they will help facilitate an appointment.

Again, you can see Deborah’s previous article on pancreatitis and diet at

saurabh g. November 10, 2013 at 10:16 am

dear sir
i m suffering from pancrititas for last 12 years i have sevral attacks every time i been addmitted to hospital stays there for 1-2 weeeks in 2009 ercp is done after that up to 2013 june i hadn,t have any attack but in june again it happens then in july docters did eus . still there is no permanent solution .i m taking low fat diet i don,t drink don,t eat non veg food i don,t understand what to do . what to eat . pls suggest me what to eat
what not to.

Columbia Surgery November 11, 2013 at 9:55 am

We are sorry to hear about your difficulties, Saurabh.

We have another article, “Help take pain out of pancreatitis with your diet”. You may read it here: Hopefully this will help give you more guidance as to your diet.

You may also arrange an appointment with us here at the Pancreas Center. For more information, please visit: You may also call: 212-305-9467 and our New Patient Coordinators can help arrange an appointment for you.

Arletta B. November 14, 2013 at 3:11 pm

I have been diagnosed with chronic pancretis for two yr. Ihad alot of issues the first months i had it but, am considered not in the catagorty of the most painful type, My Dr said I am in the 20% that have it but, it involves my diet and I have issues with nausea, I have got some pills for that but, if I am careful with what I eat , like no fat,mostly and all the other features I am doing also. I have stones blocking my enterance to the pancreis gland. My Dr. said beings I don’t have much pain, he wasn’t going to give me any and said it was a prime thing that happens if he would go in and remove stones another one would possibly move in there quite soon and so the series would continue. I take creon ,the enzime to help digest my food , which has helped to, but, I have lost weight, which was ok but, I don’t feel hungry either most of the time,and try to find food that will not make me feel sick. I don’t feel hungry most of the time. I find that fish doesn’t go againist me, I stay away from beef most of the time to. also other meat to. I have an appt. At rochester Mayo on the 20th as I haven’t had a check up since my first one as to a cat scan. I was reading in the paper that Mayo down in Florida have researched a product over two yrs. ago that would be able to see into the pancreis and other organs that are hard to see without going in there or having a cat scan, Have you heard anything of this?I was wondering if this was available to the clinics and Dr.’s yet? Thank you for information you have put on the internet.

Columbia Surgery November 15, 2013 at 11:11 am

Hi Arletta,

Thank you for reaching out to us. I have forwarded your comment to the Pancreas Center, who would be the best people to provide the information you seek. As soon as I hear a response, I will reply.

Deborah Gerszberg, RD, CNSC, CDN, a clinical nutritionist from the Pancreas Center, has written a more current article regarding Pancreatitis and Diet. You may view it: Hopefully this may provide you some help.

If you would like more information about the Pancreas Center, please visit or call them at 212-305-9467. Best of luck.

arletta b November 15, 2013 at 11:54 am

This article was in the paper about detecting cancer early,The Florida research team have got this but, were needing a time to explore the product, but, that was two yrs .ago. If you could come up with some information on this, it sure would help alot of patients who have stones in their pancreas duct blocking the enzymes from getting thru before it turns to cancer or if it has,prevent it from doing harm to your system. It is just a possibility with me,as my dr. had said in the beginning that stones are a prime canidate for cancer.

Columbia Surgery November 15, 2013 at 11:57 am

Thank you for the additional information. Again, I will forward this to our Pancreas Center and will forward you their response once they reply.

Again, if you would like more information about the Pancreas Center, please visit or call them at 212-305-9467.

Nora November 30, 2013 at 3:47 am


My husband had acute pancreatitis attack in 2009. He doesn’t drink but is a smoker. He had another attack in 2011 and we changed our diet to low to no fat diet, reading off labels on every grocery we bought. We try to maintain. A health lifestyle and workout regularly and kept the pancreatitis attack at bay for a year plus. Unfortunately, he recently had another attack. He’s lipase was at 600+/- and he was on IV for a few days, fluid and soft diet, his lipase came down to 32 but 3 days later it went up to 100+/- and he felt pain right on/in this sternum while being on careful diet. We’re at a loss as to how to deal with this. He is getting emotional depressed and I really need some advise

Columbia Surgery December 2, 2013 at 10:20 am

Hi Nora,

I am sorry to hear about your husband’s situation. If you haven’t seen it already, our Clinical Nutritionist Deborah Gerszberg, RD, CNSC, CDN has written a more current article regarding pancreatitis and diet. You may read it at: Hopefully, this may provide you with some additional advice.

You may learn more about the Pancreas Center or request an appointment by visiting or calling: 212-305-9467

Debalina R. December 31, 2013 at 7:50 pm

My brother is 15 years old. When he was 5 he was hospitalized for abdominal pain. It was digonosed as pancreatitis. After that he had several attacks of it every year. Last October 2013 he was again hospitalized for high level of amylase and lypase.. ..It was 3029 around amount. He does not take any fatty food and does play cricket everyday. Now in December he has got again pain and his lypase amylase level is 358,340. Please suggest me what to do. He takes 2tablets of of pan40 every day as suggested by physician.plz help me.hoe can I take care of him and what should be his treatment

Columbia Surgery January 2, 2014 at 3:58 pm


Thanks for your question and the information you provided.

If you can, I suggest that you call the Pancreas Center directly at 212-305-9467. We can only provide a response to very specific information like this after examining or speaking with the patient first.

Sorry I cannot be more helpful through email.

Janice t January 5, 2014 at 11:20 am

My grown son has had pkd disease for years, however he has just been through acute pancratitis. I need to find a diet that will include both disease in his diet. I am finding that one disease diet seems to negate the diet for the other one. Could you possibly help with this to i cludeonediet that would accomodate both diseasea together Thank you for your time. Janice

Columbia Surgery January 6, 2014 at 12:17 pm

Hi Janice,

Thank you for reaching out to us. Unfortunately, this question is best handled by a nutritionist who can perform a complete examination and offer your son individualized advice. Please feel free to call our new patient coordinator at 212-305-9467 to arrange an appointment or you may also visit,

If you are not local, the website will help you find a registered dietitian in your area.

We also have an article that offers advice on diet and pancreatitis.

I hope you found this information helpful. Please let us know if we can help further.

Sandra A. January 16, 2014 at 1:12 pm

I have pancriaties can I drink milk

Columbia Surgery January 16, 2014 at 1:21 pm

Hi Sandra,

Thank you for your question. We have an article which may give you further advice about pancreatitis and diet. Please visit it at: Help take pain out of pancreatitis with your diet Best regards.

Sandi Walker April 14, 2014 at 1:00 pm

I had pancreatitis surgery over six weeks ago. I ate tacos at Taco Bell for dinner and for lunch I was at a Whole Foods open bar. I had diarherra for more than one night and found it hard to digest food for three days after. Is this normal for after surgery life? I did have my gallbladder taken out.

Columbia Surgery April 16, 2014 at 12:23 pm

Sorry to hear that, Sandi. Unfortunately we can’t make and diagnoses over the internet, but I encourage you to to call our Pancreas Center at 212-305-9467 to setup an appointment for an in-person consultation.

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