Chronic pancreatitis is an inflammation of your pancreas that doesn’t improve over time. The pancreas is an organ located behind your stomach. It makes enzymes, which are special proteins that help digest your food. It also makes hormones that control the level of sugar in your bloodstream. Chronic pancreatitis is an inflammation of your pancreas that doesn’t improve over time vs. acute pancreatitis.
The nutrition goal is to ease digestion so you don’t overload your pancreas and to keep your blood sugar steady so you don’t develop diabetes type 2.
Optimizing your diet to focus on foods rich in protein, low in animal fats, anti-inflammatory, low glycemic, and contain antioxidants. Your pancreas won’t have to work as hard to process, and these nutrient-dense choices all work synergetically to help digestion, keep insulin and cortisol hormone in the sweet spot, and fight the free radicals that damage organs.
The pancreatitis diet’s promotion of nutrient-dense foods also helps you thwart the possibility of malnourishment. This can happen with chronic pancreatitis because several essential vitamins (A, D, and E) are fat-soluble; fat digestion issues beget issues with properly absorbing these nutrients. You may want to supplement if you are low (that’s a simple blood test covered by insurance, and your supplements may be covered by insurance).
Ask your MD about digestive enzymes. Pancreatic exocrine insufficiency (PEI) occurs when normal digestion cannot be sustained due to insufficient pancreatic digestive enzyme activity. Pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy (PERT) remains the mainstay of PEI treatment with the recommended adult initial enzyme dose being 25 000-40 000 units of lipase per meal, titrating up to a maximum of 75 000-80 000 units of lipase per meal
How much and what kind of fat to eat?
The guidelines for fat intake for those with chronic pancreatitis vary. Research suggests some people can tolerate up to 30-40% of calories from fat when it’s from whole-food plant sources or medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). Others feel better with a lower fat intake, such as 50 grams or less per day. The Digestive Health Center at Stanford recommends patients with chronic pancreatitis limit fat to 30-50 grams per day, depending on how well it’s tolerated.
Fat is still essential; you just need to start paying more attention to and adjusting your intake of the kind of fat you eat. For example, the type of fat called medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) can be digested without your pancreas’ help. Coconut and coconut oil are naturally rich sources of MCTs, and it’s also available in supplement form.
You may feel better eating several small meals and snacks throughout the day instead of fewer larger ones. It can also help not eating drinking at the same time. You may also feel better if you avoid combining certain foods, note how you feel after eating, and make adjustments as needed. You know your body best.
What should I eat?
Protein: lower fat sources such as chicken and fish. Beans, legumes, lentils, and quinoa are good sources of plant-based protein. Nuts and nut butter are rich plant-based protein sources, but the higher fat content may contribute to pancreatic symptoms. I’d cut out grass-fed burgers for a bit, or at least be mindful of how you feel afterward. A lean cut like flank steak might be okay.
FAT: Monosaturated choices for the win. Olives, olive oil, avocado, avocado oil, coconut oil. Avoid trans-fat like the devil and anything fried. Pro tip: purchase an air fryer if you like fried foods.
CARBS: Make most of your carbs low starch vegetables (all leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, zucchini, artichokes, etc.) and smaller amounts of starchier veggies such as beets, root vegetables, squash, and whole grains such as quinoa or brown rice or sweet potato. Stick with low glycemic fruit such as berries. Grains, even whole grains, can spike your insulin quickly, so try and stick with ½ a cup at a time, same with whole fruit.
Dairy: Choose low-fat milk and yogurt or a dairy-free alternative such as almond milk.
Spices: Turmeric and ginger have digestive and anti-inflammatory benefits.
Supplements: Omega 3’s EFA and DHA are great for helping with inflammation and are proven to improve cognition and depression. Berberine is a natural way to support blood sugar. Magnesium helps improve a million things, including sleep and muscle relaxation. Cod liver oil is an excellent source of both Vitamin A and D. Pro tip: lemon flavor is the way to go.
These are super general tips to give you an idea of what to focus on. Think of your plate as ½ veggies, ¼ protein, ¼ slow-burning carb with 1-2 Tbs good fat. 1 tbs of fat has 14 grams of fat
If you want to track your fat intake, you could input your meals into a tracker such as MyFitnessPal or IIFYM (If it fits your macros). Some people love data, while it stresses others out. Do what works.
Ideal Sample Meal Plan:
Protein smoothie with protein powder with frozen berries or cherries, frozen spinach, almond milk or water, ¼ an avocado, 1-2 Tbs ground flaxseed.
Two eggs with spinach, red bell pepper, + turmeric cooked in coconut oil. Ezekiel sprouted grain toast and a side of berries.
Huge green salad with a protein of choice, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds with an apple cider/olive oil/maple syrup dressing
Chicken salad with avocado and Mary’s crackers,
Salmon with Brussel sprouts and sweet potato
rotisserie chicken with roasted vegetables and brown rice,