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Diet for Chronic Pancreatitis: Care Instructions

The pancreas and other digesitve organs


The pancreas is an organ behind the stomach that makes hormones and enzymes to help your body digest food. Certain conditions can cause these enzymes to build up and attack your pancreas, which can cause pain and swelling. This is called pancreatitis and can affect your body’s ability to absorb fat. This causes oily bowel movements and vitamin deficiencies, especially vitamins A, D, E, and K.

Chronic pancreatitis may cause pain in the top part of your stomach that does not go away. You may be able to help relieve the pain by following the tips below.

Your doctor and dietitian can help you make an eating plan that does not irritate your digestive system. Always talk with your doctor or dietitian before you make changes in your diet.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Do not drink alcohol. It may make your pain worse and cause other problems, like making the swelling of your pancreas worse. Tell your doctor if you need help to quit. Counselling, support groups, and sometimes medicines can help you stay sober.
  • Ask your doctor if you need to take pancreatic enzyme pills to help your body digest fat and protein.

Eat a low-fat diet

  • Try to eat 4 to 6 small meals and snacks each day instead of 3 large meals.
  • Choose lean meats.
    • Cut off all fat you can see.
    • Eat poultry like chicken, duck, and turkey without the skin.
    • Many types of fish, such as salmon, lake trout, tuna, and herring, provide healthy omega-3 fat. But avoid fish canned in oil, such as sardines in olive oil.
    • Bake, broil, or grill meats, poultry, or fish instead of frying them in butter or fat.
  • Drink or eat non-fat or low-fat milk, yogurt, cheese, or other milk products each day.
    • Read the labels on cheeses, and choose a reduced fat option.
    • Try fat-free sour cream, cream cheese, or yogurt.
    • Try fortified soy beverage.
    • Avoid cream soups and cream sauces on pasta.
    • Eat low-fat ice cream, frozen yogurt, or sorbet. Avoid regular ice cream.
  • Eat a variety of vegetables and fruits. These are high in nutrition and low in fat.
  • Eat whole grain cereals, breads, crackers, rice, or pasta. Avoid breads that have been fried or deep-fried, like bannock or doughnuts, or breads that have a high fat content, like croissants.
  • Learn how to cook and bake with less fat and sugar.
  • Flavour your foods with herbs and spices (such as basil, tarragon, or mint), fat-free sauces, or lemon juice.
  • Try applesauce, prune puree, or mashed bananas to replace some or all of the fat when you bake.
  • Limit fats and oils, such as butter, margarine, mayonnaise, and salad dressing, to no more than 1 tablespoon a meal.
  • Avoid high-fat foods, such as:
    • Chocolate, whole milk, ice cream, processed cheese, and egg yolks.
    • Fried, deep fried, or buttered foods.
    • Sausage, salami, and bacon.
    • Cinnamon rolls, cakes, pies, cookies, and other pastries.
    • Prepared snack foods, such as potato chips, nut and granola bars, and mixed nuts.
    • Coconut and avocado.
    • Fast food and convenience food meals often have lots of fat.
  • Learn how to read food labels for serving sizes and ingredients.

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