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Do’s and Don’ts of Pancreatitis Diet

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The pancreas is an organ of many talents. Most of us know the pancreas as the tireless brewer of insulin, the super-important hormone for blood sugar control. We could say that one couldn’t eat without this spongy organ since it plays a pretty important role in digestion. But sometimes, the pancreas is known to digest itself, causing a strange phenomenon called pancreatitis. 

Pancreatitis occurs when the digestive enzymes become active while still in the pancreas (usually, they do not become active until they reach the small intestine), leading to inflammation and damage of the delicate pancreatic tissue and cells. The pancreas begins to “digest” itself as the digestive fluids accumulate inside the organ. Building a healthy pancreatitis diet plan and eating balanced meals is the best way to avoid messing with your pancreas.

Pancreatitis Diet: An Introduction

Your doctor may tell you not to eat or drink for a while during a chronic pancreatitis treatment. Once you start eating again, your doctor will prescribe a pancreatitis diet that includes small, frequent meals. A pancreatitis diet is a healthy, low-fat eating plan that comprises nutrient-dense fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and other lean protein sources. The goal of the diet is to prevent malnutrition and pain while removing foods that aggravate the inflammation.

A pancreatitis diet begins with total abstinence from alcohol and greasy foods. Carbs may get limited in those patients with diabetes. Studies show that a pancreatitis diet can include 30%-40% of calories from fat, particularly food rich in medium-chain triglycerides or fat from whole-food plant sources. The pancreatitis diet is usually low to moderate fibre since high fibre intake may absorb pancreatic enzymes and delay nutrient absorption. 

The HealthifyMe Note

A healthy pancreatitis diet is about creating sustainable eating habits and finding recipes that can become staples in your household. Focus on foods your pancreas can tolerate and won’t have to work as hard to process. 

Pancreatitis Diet: Foods to Eat

The pancreatitis diet is essentially a low-fat diet, where the fibre intake is low. The amount of fat in a pancreatitis diet varies depending on weight and height. It can range between 30-50 grams of fat, depending on the tolerance of your pancreas. Note that you must not concentrate your daily fat consumption on one meal.

Here are the foods you can include in a pancreatitis diet:

  • Vegetables: Spinach, cauliflower, carrot, beetroot, cucumber, cherry tomatoes
  • Fruits: Peeled apple, blueberries, cherries, pineapples
  • Protein: Lean protein sources like chicken, beans, and lentils
  • Whole grains: Oats, barley
  • MCTs: Yoghurt, low-fat milk, coconut
  • Beverages: Tender coconut water, buttermilk, yoghurt-based smoothie, water, broth, and strained fruit juice

Pancreatitis Diet: Foods to Avoid

You may need to limit eating beans and whole grains if you have chronic pancreatitis, which is otherwise acceptable to include in your recovery diet. Now, let’s look at the notorious foods you need to avoid. 

Fried and High-Fat Foods

If you’re trying to combat pancreatitis, avoid fried foods that contain trans-fatty acids. These heavily processed foods, such as chips, french fries and fast-food hamburgers, can worsen the condition or contribute to chronic pancreatitis. Other high-fat foods are:

  • Red meat
  • Processed meats, such as hot dogs and sausage
  • Mayonnaise, margarine and butter
  • Organ meats

Refined Carbs and High-Sugar Foods

Foods high in sugar and refined carbs cause insulin imbalance, straining the pancreas. It also increases triglyceride levels, a risk factor for acute pancreatitis. 

Foods to limit are:

  • Pastries and desserts with added sugars, such as cakes, doughnuts, ice cream, and milkshakes
  • Carbonated beverages
  • Packaged juices and energy drinks with added sugars

Alcohol

You must take a step back from alcohol to recover and avoid pancreatitis. Alcohol consumption leads to dehydration, which causes the pancreas to flare. Drinking alcohol during a pancreatitis attack increases triglyceride levels and makes the pancreas work harder. It can trigger severe health issues and even death.

Sample Three-Day Diet Chart for Pancreatitis

Yoghurt or yoghurt-based foods should be an essential part of your daily pancreatitis diet, whether you have it with your main meals or as a light snack. Since your pancreas is not working optimally, follow a consistent schedule to get your pancreas on track. 

Take a look at this pancreatitis-friendly three-day diet plan, which might look grim but does not compromise the nutritional quality and help soothe bouts of pain. 

Day 1

Breakfast (8:00-8:30 AM)

  • Chapati: 2
  • Raita: 1 small bowl

Mid-Meal (11:00-11:30 AM)

  • Juice of 1 peeled apple
  • Soft boiled egg: 1

Lunch (2:00-2:30 PM)

  • Parboiled rice: 1 cup
  • Soybean curry: ½ cup
  • Grilled chicken: 2 pcs.

Evening (4:00-4:30 PM)

  • Oats Poha: ½ a katori
  • Black tea/coffee: 1 cup

Dinner (8:00-8:30 PM)

  • Poached fish (without skin): 1½ cups
  • Sliced carrots: 1
  • Sliced cucumber: 1

Day 2

Breakfast (8:00-8:30 AM)

  • Coconut water: 1 glass/200 ml
  • Steamed idli with sambar: 2

Mid-Meal (11:00-11:30 AM)

  • Upma: 1 cup

Lunch (2:00-2:30 PM)

  • Chapati: 2
  • Low-fat curd: 1 cup
  • Blended dal: 4 tbsp

Evening (4:00-4:30 PM)

  • Mix vegetable and fruit juice: 1 cup/100 ml

Dinner (8:00-8:30 PM)

  • Low-fat cinnamon milk: 1 glass/100 ml
  • Soft cooked rice and veggies: 2 cups

Day 3

Breakfast (8:00-8:30 AM)

  • Raita: 1 small bowl
  • Grilled vegetable sandwich: 2

Mid-Meal (11:00-11:30 AM)

  • Oats and banana bowl: 1 
  • Tender coconut water: 1 glass

Lunch (2:00-2:30 PM)

  • Mediterranean grilled chicken: 2 pcs.
  • Rice flakes pulao: 1 cup

Evening (4:00-4:30 PM)

  • Black tea/ coffee: 1 cup
  • Vegetable sandwich: 1 

Dinner (8:00-8:30 PM)

  • Quinoa and stir-fried vegetables: 1 cup
  • Mashed potato with green sprouts: 1 medium bowl

The HealthifyMe Note

Sometimes, eating small meals throughout the day is more straightforward than attempting to eat three large meals at once. It mainly applies to those who find it challenging to eat. You also need to be very careful to follow a low-fat diet, with the daily fat consumption spread throughout the day in possibly 4-6 small meals. 

Pancreatitis Diet Tips

  • Drink plenty of fluid to avoid dehydration. Keep a bottle of water with you at all times.
  • Consume MCTs (medium-chain triglycerides) as your primary fat source since these do not require pancreatic enzymes to get digested.
  • Avoid eating too many high-fibre foods in one go.
  • Consult your doctor to prescribe supplemental or synthetic pancreatic enzymes to restore the function of the pancreas. 
  • Take a break and follow a diet of clear liquids to give your pancreas some rest. Replace solid food with clear liquids, such as broth, apple, cranberry, and white grape juice, for a day or two. 

Conclusion

Your doctor may advise no food for a day or two before starting the pancreatitis diet, especially when you are experiencing a flare. Then, you can gradually include foods, particularly low-fat, that protect and even help to heal your pancreas. A pancreatitis recovery diet might be the need of the hour, but you must also be aware of other treatments available for pancreatitis. Before embarking on a new diet, consult with your doctor. Since every patient’s pancreatitis condition differs, you need a customised diet. Get a well-crafted diet plan for your condition by subscribing to HealthifyMe.

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