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Diet and Chronic Pancreatitis

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Updated March 03, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Pancreatitis is an inflammation of an organ called the pancreas. Dietary changes for chronic pancreatitis include eating a low-fat diet and avoiding alcohol. Your health care provider and dietitian/nutritionist may have additional restrictions.

Your pancreas normally makes digestive enzymes that break foods down into individual nutrients, which are then absorbed across the intestinal wall. When you have chronic pancreatitis, your pancreas has difficulty making and secreting the enzymes into the small intestine.

The loss of normal pancreatic function leads to malabsorption of various nutrients, but the improperly digested fats can be particularly distressing, so cutting back on fatty foods might help with some of the symptoms.

Dietary Guidelines for Chronic Pancreatitis

  • Follow a low fat diet – use fats and oils sparingly
  • Don’t eat fried, sautéed or stir-fried foods
  • Bake, grill, boil, roast or steam them, instead
  • Eat fruits and vegetables and low-fat protein sources
  • Avoid all forms of alcohol
  • Eat several smaller meals per day instead of three large ones

Foods to Avoid

  • Fried foods
  • Processed meats
  • Whole eggs
  • Organ meat
  • Fatty cuts of red meat
  • Poultry skin
  • Whole milk
  • Butter
  • margarine
  • Ice cream
  • Sour cream
  • Refried beans
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Peanut and other nut butters
  • Potato or corn ships
  • Muffins
  • Cake, pies and pastries
  • Cookies
  • Salad dressing
  • Mayonnaise
  • Cooking oil
  • Lard

Foods to Eat

  • Lean cuts of meat
  • Skinless poultry
  • Egg whites
  • Tuna canned in water not oil
  • Low-fat or non-fat dairy products
  • Almond milk
  • Rice milk
  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Soy and soy foods
  • Whole grain breads, rolls and crackers
  • Whole grain cereals
  • Pasta
  • Rice
  • Tortillas
  • Fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables
  • Sorbet
  • Gelatin
  • Popsicles
  • Honey
  • Coffee
  • Fruit and vegetables juices
  • Tea
  • Water
  • Clear vegetable soups (not creamed soups0

 

Sample Menu

Breakfast

  • 2 egg whites - scrambled with spinach 
  • 1 slice whole wheat toast - dry or with tablespoon fruit preserve
  • Coffee or tea

Mid-morning snack

  • 1 apple
  • Herbal tea

Lunch

  • Rice and red or black beans
  • 1 tortilla
  • 3 ounces chicken breast
  • salsa
  • water or juice

Mid-afternoon snack

  • Whole wheat crackers
  • One  banana
  • Water

Dinner

  • Pasta with shrimp and marinara sauce 
  • Small green salad with fat-free dressing or balsamic vinegar (no oil)
  • Water or juice

Evening snack

  • Non-fat Greek yogurt with blueberries and honey
  • Water or herbal tea

Be sure to read labels when you shop at the grocery store and ask about the fat content of foods you want to order at any restaurant. Choose products that are low-fat and fat-free. The Nutrition Facts labels will also list the amounts of fat per serving -- they're may be more than one serving in a container.

Speak to your doctor and dietitian about your diet if you also have diabetes, Celiac disease, lactose intolerance or any other types of health care issues that require dietary changes.

Source:

Merck Manual for Health Professionals. "Chronic Pancreatitis." Accessed January 10, 2014. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gastrointestinal_disorders/pancreatitis/chronic_pancreatitis.html

National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. "Pancreatitis." Accessed January 10, 2014. http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/pancreatitis

NHS Choices. "Chronic Pancreatitis - Treatment." Accessed January 10, 2014. http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Pancreatitis-chronic/Pages/Treatment.aspx

Stanford Hospital and Clinics, Digestive Health Center Nutrition Services. "Nutrition Guidelines for Chronic Pancreatitis Patient Education." Accessed January 10, 2014. http://stanfordhospital.org/digestivehealth/nutrition/DH-Nutrition-Therapy-for-Chronic-Pancreatitis.pdf

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