Pancreas and Nutrition: Your Diet for Pancreatitis

by Columbia Surgery on November 14, 2012

This is the second 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 pancreatitis? Is it a precursor to cancer?

Answer: Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas. The pancreas secretes enzymes that help digest fats, proteins and carbohydrates in food. Normally these enzymes are not activated until they reach the small intestines. If they become activated inside the pancreas, they will begin “digesting” it, which causes damage and inflammation to the pancreas. There are different types of pancreatitis. In both chronic and hereditary pancreatitis, there is an increased risk of pancreatic cancer.

Q.: What is first thing you say to new patients with pancreatitis when you see them?

A.: I would explain to them that my goal is to adjust their diet to help their body absorb nutrients better.

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

A.: Their body may not be able to digest food well, especially fat, since the pancreas is responsible for releasing enzymes to help digest nutrients. With pancreatitis, this organ is not secreting enough enzymes to break down the food normally so malabsorption can occur. This can result in weight loss, indigestion, abdominal pain when eating, and oily stools.

Q.: Can following specific dietary guidelines help relieve symptoms?

A.: Following a low fat diet may help reduce the symptoms associated with chronic pancreatitis, because this will decrease the amount of enzymes needed to digest meals. If significant symptoms are still present after making these diet changes, I would encourage the patient to speak with the doctor because there may be a need for pancreatic enzymes.

Q.: What specifically should they eat? Avoid?

A.: Patients with pancreatitis should avoid high fat foods. This includes fried foods, most desserts, whole milk dairy products, fatty cuts of meats, nuts/seeds, and avocado. Also, they should limit fats like butter, salad dressings, sour cream, and mayonnaise, and foods with added sugar, like desserts and sweetened beverages. Alcoholic beverages should also be avoided.

Patients can include grains, fruits and vegetables, lean meats (like fish, skinless poultry, eggs), beans, and low fat dairy products in their diet.

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

{ 126 comments… read them below or add one }

Barbara February 24, 2014 at 1:08 pm

Ignoring the grammatical errors and misspellings, one would be inclined to ask why you would you shun nuts and avocados? What is this sites’ qualifications to make such recommendations?

Barbara February 24, 2014 at 1:13 pm

Also- your dietary limitations are severe and need to be cited by medical studies and qualified physicians and scientists. Show those in your random answers to advice questions and I’ll step down. Otherwise, I’ll consult the Cleveland Clinic.

Columbia Surgery February 24, 2014 at 1:24 pm

Hi Barbara,

Thank you for reaching out to us. We have a more current article written by the clinical nutritionist at The Pancreas Center. You may find it at: Help take pain out of pancreatitis with your diet This may help provide further clarification and guidance for a diet with pancreatitis.

Diets are very personalized, so it is best to speak with a registered dietitian to develop a diet customized for your needs. If you would like to arrange an appointment with The Pancreas Center, we encourage you to call our new patient coordinator at: 212-305-9467. Thank you.

amands February 26, 2014 at 10:47 am

Barbara I have had pancreatitis 2 times. Nuts and avocados are on the list to avoid because of high fat content. Google fat content and you will see. Mine was caused from high triglycerides and diabetes.

Columbia Surgery February 27, 2014 at 10:25 am

Hi Amands,

Thank you for sharing your story. Our more current article about diet and pancreatitis may help clarify suggested diet guidelines, including advice for healthy fats such as avocado and nuts. You may view it: Help take pain out of pancreatitis with your diet.

Remember diets are very personalized, so it is best to speak with a registered dietitian to develop a diet customized for your needs. We offer nutrition counseling here at The Pancreas Center or you may find a local RD by visiting the Academy of Food & Nutrition’s website: http://www.eatright.org/iframe/findrd.aspx. Thank you.

marcie March 7, 2014 at 1:05 pm

I would like help eating right for pancreatitus, i was diagnosed with this in 2012 and still get attacks had one last night

Columbia Surgery March 7, 2014 at 1:46 pm

Hi Marcie,

We have a more recent article written by our clinical nutritionist at The Pancreas Center that helps to outline the general guidelines for a pancreatitis diet. You may read it at: Help take pain out of pancreatitis with your diet. A diet can be very personalized, however, depending on your needs and preferences, and a registered dietitian can develop a plan suitable for you. If you would like to make an appointment with our center, please reach out to our new patient coordinator at 212-305-9467. Thank you and wishing you good health.

Marilyn March 9, 2014 at 4:50 pm

I can testify to the recommendation of avoiding nuts if one is prone to pancreatitis. I have suffered with attacks after consuming large amounts of nuts. Too much fat in them!! And sadly, I love all kinds of nuts! Yes, they are a healthy food, but not when one has documented problems with pancreatitis.

Columbia Surgery March 10, 2014 at 10:08 am

Hi Marilyn,

Thank you for sharing your story. We have a more recent article written by our clinical nutritionist at The Pancreas Center that helps to outline the general guidelines for a pancreatitis diet, including commenting on the issue of nuts. You may read it at: Help take pain out of pancreatitis with your diet. A diet can be very personalized, however, depending on your needs and preferences, and a registered dietitian can develop a plan suitable for you. If you would like to make an appointment with our center, please reach out to our new patient coordinator at 212-305-9467. Thank you and wishing you good health.

Jared March 13, 2014 at 6:20 pm

I was just wondering if you had a more recent article that you could refer me to. Also, are diets something that apply to everyone or are they personalized?
Thanks for your help.

Lacee March 16, 2014 at 10:45 am

Barbara,

I ate some nuts, and I had an attack. They also came right out of me, and my stools were floating. I called my doctor, and she told me that I needed to stay away from any kind of nuts because of the fat content. I do not like avocados but I know they are high in fat. I hope this helps.

Columbia Surgery March 17, 2014 at 9:57 am

Hi Jared,

We have a more recent article written by our clinical nutritionist at The Pancreas Center, which you may read at: Help take pain out of pancreatitis with your diet. A diet can be very personalized depending on your needs and preferences, and a registered dietitian can develop a plan suitable for you. If you would like to make an appointment with our center, please reach out to our new patient coordinator at 212-305-9467. Thank you and wishing you good health.

Angela L. March 20, 2014 at 3:28 pm

My husband has chronic pancretitis and is on dialysis post liver txp. Please help me to help him with the pain associated with his entire nutritional needs. I have nothing!!!

Columbia Surgery March 20, 2014 at 3:52 pm

Hi Angela,

I am sorry to hear about your husband’s struggles, but thank you for reaching out to us. Unfortunately without an examination from our team, we cannot offer you the medical advice you seek. If you would like to see a doctor at The Pancreas Center , I encourage you to call our new patient coordinator at 212-305-9467.

We also have a more current article, which you can read here: Help take pain out of pancreatitis with your diet

Laila March 20, 2014 at 4:31 pm

I know there are many foods you shouldn’t eat, but what should you eat . if you cant answer my question, then can you please refer something useful (book, website, etc). thank you.

Columbia Surgery March 20, 2014 at 6:06 pm

Hi Laila,

Thank you for reaching out to us. We have a more current article written by the clinical nutritionist at The Pancreas Center. You may find it at: Help take pain out of pancreatitis with your diet This may help provide further clarification and guidance for a diet with pancreatitis.

Diets are very personalized, so it is best to speak with a registered dietitian to develop a diet customized for your needs. If you would like to arrange an appointment with The Pancreas Center, we encourage you to call our new patient coordinator at: 212-305-9467. Thank you.

arif March 30, 2014 at 2:23 am

I attacked by acute pancreas in July, 2012. lastly doctor advised me to surgery. after surgery i feel good. but i always feel what to eat to avoid future attack , as pancreas can repeat. even i fear to eat normal foods.
Can i eat below foods?
1) egg
2) meat ( chicken, less cow meat)
3) drinking not alcohol ( like 7 up, pepsi)
4) vegetable ( fried/cooked by soybean oil)
5) yogurt

Columbia Surgery March 31, 2014 at 9:47 am

Hi Arif,

We have a more current article written by the clinical nutritionist at The Pancreas Center, which may help provide further guidance with your questions. You may find it at: Help take pain out of pancreatitis with your diet.

Diets are very personalized, so it is best to speak with a registered dietitian to develop a diet customized for your needs. If you would like to arrange an appointment with The Pancreas Center, we encourage you to call our new patient coordinator at: 212-305-9467. Thank you.

Paula April 2, 2014 at 10:46 pm

I eat a low fat diet due to a kidney/panc transplant. I was looking for information regarding fats and the pancreas. This helped. Thank you.

Columbia Surgery April 3, 2014 at 9:57 am

Hi Paula,

We’re glad to hear this article was helpful. We also have a more current article written by the clinical nutritionist at The Pancreas Center, which may help provide further guidance with your questions. You may find it at: Help take pain out of pancreatitis with your diet. Hopefully this will help provide further guidance.

melanie April 4, 2014 at 12:50 am

I have a 19 year old daughter who after 4 years and removal of her Gallbladder has been diagnosed with acute pancreatitis. I live in a very small town and the doctor’s here will not tell me what i can do for my daughter so that this condition will go away. She has had bout’s with this 3 times already and tonight she is in the hospital with this flare up again. After looking at her blood panel’s she is currently at a 28 which is very high and she is in alot of pain. The hospital is keeping her over night to get better control over this but as a parent this is overwhelming for my daughter and my family. What can i do for my child so that this does not keep occuring ? i must mention that this diagnosis has started since my daughter became pregnant. She is currently 23 weeks along. Please help me so that my daughter can lead a long happy healthy life and enjoy her life and impending motherhood.

Thankyou

Columbia Surgery April 4, 2014 at 10:38 am

Melanie,

I am sorry to hear about your daughter’s struggles. Unfortunately without a complete medical examine, we cannot offer the advice you seek. If you would like to arrange an appointment, I encourage you to call The Pancreas Center’s New Patient Coordinator at: 212-305-9467. If coming in person for an evaluation is difficult due to location, we have arranged with previous patients to work with their local team of doctors to complete initial evaluations.

We also have a more current article about pancreatitis and diet at: Help take pain out of pancreatitis with your diet This may help provide further information. Thank you.

Lucky Singh April 5, 2014 at 6:14 am

My mom is suffering from acute pancreatitis, she was hospitalised 10 days ago for the treatment, for a week, but now she is having pain again, so could this because her fatty diet? because she takes too much fatty food in her diet, like butter milk, butter and many other things…

mukesh sinha April 12, 2014 at 11:57 am

Hi
i am 57 yrs male.
i was digonised golebladder stone which was removed by Doctor.on the same night doctors find internal bleeding whcih they said due pancresis- the puss in golbladder touched to pancrea which lead to internal bleeding .they again performed sergery and give artificial layer to pancrea.though i am feeling better but still very weak and after sitting for 4-5 hours get very tired.my opeartion was done on 27th of Feb.
i am taking food and medicine as per doctors advice.please tell me futher course of action,can i be able to take hard drink in future
mukesh Sinha

Columbia Surgery April 16, 2014 at 12:15 pm

Hello Lucky, I’m sorry to hear about your mom’s condition. Unfortunately, providing an accurate diagnosis over the internet isn’t possible. If you can, I encourage you to call our Pancreas Center at 212-305-9467 to setup an appointment with one of our doctors. You can also visit the Pancreas Center website at http://http://pancreasmd.org/

Columbia Surgery April 16, 2014 at 12:19 pm

Hello Mukesh, glad to hear you’re starting to feel better. Specific recommendations for getting your strength back up would require an in-person consultation with one of our doctors. I encourage you to call our Pancreas Center at 212-305-9467 to setup an appointment. You can also visit the Pancreas Center website at http://http://pancreasmd.org/

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