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The Pancreas

The pancreas is a gland that lies behind the stomach next to the small intestine. It serves two major functions; it secretes digestive enzymes into the small intestine to aid digestion, and it produces the hormones insulin and glucagon that are involved in regulating blood glucose levels.

Pancreatitis is a condition characterized by the inflammation of the pancreas.

Damage to the pancreas takes place when the digestive enzymes produced by its exocrine cells are activated before they are secreted into the small intestine. This causes them to attack the pancreas itself, thus causing inflammation.

There are two types of pancreatitis. The condition may be:

  • Acute Pancreatitis

This sort of pancreatic inflammation lasts for a short time, ranging from mild to life-threatening complications. It may be caused due to gallstones. In severe cases, tissue damage, infection, and harm to other vital organs including the heart and kidneys may occur.

Treatment

Acute pancreatitis is treated using IV fluids and medication to manage the accompanying pain. If the condition takes a turn for the worse, death of the pancreatic tissue may occur, along with permanent damage to other organs. In such cases, surgery may be required to excise the damaged or dead tissue to prevent the infection from spreading.

If the cause of the condition is gallstones, the gallbladder may have to be surgically removed, along with the bile duct and some part of the small intestine.

  • Chronic Pancreatitis

This condition is a long-lasting inflammation of the pancreas, and is mostly a complication of an acute inflammation. Binge drinking is a major cause.

Treatment

This condition may be comparatively difficult to treat. Pain medication and nutritional adaptations are usually advised. Pancreatic enzymes and insulin are also administered.

Dietary Regulations after Recovery

As stated earlier, the pancreas plays a major role in the enzymatic degradation of food and in maintaining blood sugar levels. Thus, after an episode of pancreatitis, it is very important to make certain permanent nutritional changes so that the body can adjust accordingly.

Foods to Avoid

Foods that should be strictly avoided include:

  • Saturated fats (margarine, chips, cookies, crackers, pastries)
  • Fried food
  • Refined carbohydrates (pasta, white bread)
  • Sugary foods
  • Caffeine (tea, coffee, chocolate)

Watch out for Food Allergies

As a result of acute pancreatitis, the body may not be able to cope with certain foods, resulting in allergic reactions. Hence, foods such as wheat, dairy, corn, soy, nuts, etc. must be consumed with care.

Quit Alcohol and Smoking

Alcohol consumption and smoking must be strictly prohibited. If you are addicted to either, it is in your best interest to consult your doctor, or to enroll in counseling programs that may help overcome your addiction.

Opt for a Low-Fat Diet

Avoid consuming foods that are rich in fats. These include most desserts, fried foods, whole-milk dairy products, nuts, butter, cream, salad dressings, mayonnaise and artificial sweeteners.

Include Fruits and Vegetables

Consume more fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Foods such as fish, eggs, skinless poultry and beans will also be beneficial in improving and reviving the functioning of the bowel.

Drink more Fluids

Pancreatitis may cause dehydration, hence always keep a bottle of water with you. Alternately, drink at least 6-8 glasses of water a day.

Acute Pancreatitis: Nutritional Care Plan

Acute Pancreatitis Nutrition Therapy has been getting a lot of attention lately. Almost all patients suffering from this condition are advised to follow a carefully constructed nutritional plan, which is suited to their condition. It mainly focuses on including those foods in the diet which will help increase their rate of recovery and lessen their discomfort. It also includes taking certain vitamins or supplements, but only after consulting a doctor.

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