My Experience Living With Pancreatitis
I am not a doctor. I am not a PhD. I didn't even attend college. If you use any of this material you do so at your own risk.
Read everything on this page. If you need to leave, bookmark the page or better yet email the link to yourself and place it in a folder named "Living With Pancreatitis" so that you can easily find it. The reason you'll want to do that is because I seriously doubt you will find this kind of in-depth, from-the-horses-mouth kind of information about living with pancreatitis anywhere else on the net unless it is one of my sites.
But Why Listen to Me About Pancreatitis?
Just because I am living with pancreatitis doesn't mean you should listen to me. I may have been living with pancreatitis for over 30 years, but that simply means I could be a lucky idiot; length of time in the saddle certainly doesn't mean I am a skilled rider does it? So, what is the real reason you might be interested in listening to me? You may want to listen to me because...
I Am Pain- and Symptom-Free
That is the most important reason. I was given the drive to uncover the formula, the secret to healing. If you are looking for information about how to beat pancreatitis and live pain-free I will give you what I learned for free.
The information you'll read on this page is not from someone who has simply read about the condition in order to gather the information necessary to write an article. This information is from someone who has been diagnosed with pancreatitis, lived with the condition for a long time, and has found ways to adapt, improvise, and overcome.
Pancreatitis Is Not an Illness to Take Lightly Because It Can Kill You
Sure the "overall" death rate from acute pancreatitis may average out at less than 10 percent, but if you are one of the unlucky 10 percent that would certainly suck wouldn't it? Complications such as necrosis, infection (necrotizing pancreatitis), hemorrhage, and organ failure can rocket that percentage of death up to 50 percent. The damage caused by acute pancreatitis often leads to chronic pancreatitis, causing long-term suffering that can make one wish they had died.
Are you living with pancreatitis? If you have been diagnosed with acute and/or chronic pancreatitis, want to prevent more acute pancreatitis attacks along with the resulting damage, lessen your pain and other symptoms without narcotics and possibly heal your pancreas, well, this may be the article you've searched high and low for.
This article contains information on:
- My personal pancreatitis story (big deal right?)
- How to stop an acute pancreatitis attack in less than 90 minutes
- What foods are safe to eat and those that will make you sick
- Why you should drink grapefruit juice, if possible
- The five supplements that may change your life
And much more.
Why I Want to Share This Information:
After gathering tons of information via research, and successfully becoming pain- and symptom- free, I was asked to share what I have learned; so I created this page. I gathered this pancreatitis information in one place for people who are suffering from pancreatitis themselves, or who have a loved one who is.
As you read through this article, you will find information about symptoms, my experience with doctors and what I think of most of them, the possible complications of the condition, and the primary and secondary causes. You'll also discover what I have learned through experience about such things as diet, alternative home remedies and supplements, and my own mandatory regimen I follow in order to make living with pancreatitis a lot easier, and I think safer, with less possiblity of horrific complications.
So sit back, relax, grab a cup of joe to enjoy while you and I explore the in's and out's of living with pancreatitis.
My Pancreatitis Story
If my pancreatitis was caused due to a football injury, it is my fault I have the condition because I made what turned out to be a very serious mistake.
I was playing center linebacker for my high school team when the injury happened. The fullback had the ball. He came through the line, head lower than mine, (dummy me), and when we hit, his helmet smashed into my gut. About 200 pounds of charging meat smashing into my gut at full bore. I did make the tackle but he tagged me hard just below the rib cage, center mass. It felt great.
I sat out the rest of the game and my folks took me to the family doctor. He had me lay flat on my back, put his hand on my abdomen and asked me to do a sit up. I couldn't. He figured the contact had torn my abdominal muscles, and told my folks that I was to sit on the bench the rest of the season. I started having some problems soon after: heartburn and nausea.
I kept complaining of heartburn and nausea so I soon found myself chatting with the doc. He thought I maybe had an ulcer. That led to my first upper GI test. Barium is so yummy I enjoyed it immensely. The stuff tasted like a thick, white shit malt. My GI tract was clear. So the doc scheduled me for the old dye test for gallbladder disease. I guess teens can have gallstones; however, my gallbladder worked fine with no sign of gallstones. So, when tests didn't show any reason for my symptoms of course I was then a "head case" with hypocondria. He obviously didn't remember I had been hurt playing ball. Here's the funny part...
My Symptoms Simply Disappeared
After several months of feelings like crap, bouts of nausea for as long as two weeks at a stretch and heartburn that started in my gut and traveled all the way to the tip of my tongue, those symptoms simply vanished. I was fine. Hey, I was damn glad they were gone. I didn't miss them, the doc, or the medical tests one bit.
I graduated from high school and enlisted in the Marine Corps. Towards the end of my last tour of duty I started getting sick. This time I experienced heartburn, nausea, and pain. The pain would start center mass and bore into my back or vice versa. I went to sickbay. The Corpsman couldn't determine what was wrong and figured whatever it may be was beyond his pay paygrade, so he scheduled a visit to Oakland Naval Hospital. I felt good about the appointment because military doctors are usually good; they have to be to save lives in wartime trauma situations. I was looking forward to a resolution of my problem.
While at the hospital I was subjected to another upper GI, more blood work, saw a Naval doctor, and was sent back to duty with a prescription for Librax. The Librax took the nausea away, which was a great thing because I hate to puke, but it did nothing for the pain. After about 30 days of off and on sickness, the symptoms again disappeared. What a relief to feel normal again.
I'm Diagnosed a Nut?
Come to find out later (after my enlistment and an honorable discharge) that Naval doc thought it was all in my head (tests showed nothing), and he put that in my SRB! I found out when applying for life insurance. I was told that my SRB showed a possible mental disorder. If I had stayed in the Corps that little bit of info in my SRB could have seriously damaged my career as a Marine.
The Hurt Locker
Then, in the late '70s, the symptoms came back with a vengeance, and I visited the ER seven times. Seven ER visits and none of those people could figure out what the problem was. I was beginning to dislike doctors, and understood why their business is called a practice. I had one doctor, who was a digestive disease specialist, tell me after a whole five minutes that he thought I was too young for a serious problem and was sure I had a spastic colon.
In the late 1970s I did not have a computer or access to quick information online, so I spent a lot of time in the library reading about diseases and symptoms. I found that gallbladder disease can present with similar symptoms, and passing stones can be painful but there are some key differences between gallbladder disease and pancreatitis. For example...
- Alcohol doesn't affect the gallbladder but will cause major pain with pancreatitis.
- The pain is usually more severe with pancreatitis and comes on suddenly, but it can also have a gradual build up. A telltale symptom of pain starting in front and boring into the back or visa-versa is a typical pancreatitis presentation.
Symptoms I Have Experienced
I have experienced severe pain, nausea, vomiting, fever, chills, sweating, difficulty breathing, swollen abdomen, rapid heart beat, and other symptoms. One symptom I had when I was really bad was that I could not stand something, like an arm or hand, laying on my abdomen. It would make me nauseous and cause pain. At times motion (driving the car, running) would make me sick, and I had never experienced motion sickness of any kind before, even on board ship in heavy seas. Anyways...
I finally found a really good doctor who not only reordered tests I had done previously, but also ordered new tests, some of which he did himself like sticking a scope down my throat so he could view my bile ducts.
He then gave me two drugs while in his office that caused me to have an acute pancreatitis attack. He drew blood every 30 minutes for approximately three hours when my enzyme levels suddenly spiked. This confirmed his suspicions. He again asked me how many times this had happened and I told him again of the seven ER visits and that those were just the really horrible attacks. He calmly mentioned I was lucky I wasn't dead.
The "You're Gonna Die" Chat
We had our little discussion about "preparing for the worst." He told me I had been having acute pancreatitis attacks and that I'd probably continue to have chronic problems. He went on to say that within 10 years I'd be looking at a pancreatic transplant because my pancreas would cease to function; I wouldn't be able to eat and that the success of pancreatic transplants at that time wasn't the best. I think he was trying tell me that within 10 years I might be dead.
I had finally found a good doctor. He told me no more alcohol, prescribed some drugs, and told me exactly why he was prescribing them. One drug, Robinul was to help slow down the digestive process. Compazine was for nausea and Demerol for pain. The Demerol didn't help, it didn't even take the edge off but...
One night while I was in massive pain I was going through the medicine cabinet when I discovered my wife's Motrin. Big pills that the bottle said to take for pain. I was in extreme pain, so I popped one of those horse pills. In 30 minutes or so my pain started to subside and was gone in less than an hour. I was one happy guy. I told Dr. Langdon about the pills. He told me they were an anti-inflammatory and as long as they worked he sure didn't have a problem with prescribing them. In fact, he was a little upset that he hadn't prescribed an anti-inflammatory before since pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas.
Cool! Things were looking up! I had pills that would slow down my gut, pills for nausea, and pills that actually took the pain away without the chance of becoming addicted to opiates like morphine. Now it was time to learn how to heal and beat the 10 year time period.
I Wanted to Live
I did hordes of research after my diagnosis. My research led me to completely eliminate red meat, pork, mayo, butter, cream, and everything else with high fat content from my diet. In other words I was on a diet of fish, poultry (chicken and turkey), fruit, vegetables, legumes, and whole grain products. I also started taking vitamins and minerals to enable me to get enough nutrients absorbed because one of the complications that arises from pancreatitis is called malabsorption. Basically that means you don't absorb nutrients from food like you should. I started taking a multiple vitamin-mineral formula.
Years later I found research on OPC's (pycnogenol and grape seed) and curcumin (turmeric). The virtues of the two sounded too good to be true, but I gave it a shot. I started taking vitamin C, grape seed, and turmeric. Then, after six months of no problems (no pain or other symptoms), to "test" the benefits of Vitamin C, grape seed extract, and curcumin I stopped taking my meds. Six months later I was still in a "no problem zone." The diet and supplements were definitely working. However...
I didn't know what portion of my program was important so I tried eating red meat. After a few days of steak, roast, and hamburger I was sick as a dog. So that meant the diet was damn important. Once I was symptom-free again I eliminated the vitamin C, grape seed, and curcumin. Soon I was sick again. Being a right smart feller I figured that meant that BOTH the strict, low fat diet and the vitamin C, grape seed and turmeric were a necessary course of action unless I wanted to be in pain and puking.
The bottom line? I'm still alive and can still eat.
The two most common causes of pancreatitis are gallstones and alcohol consumption.
Gallstone pancreatitis occurs when a gallstone or stones pass from the gallbladder and get stuck in the pancreatic duct or the ampulla of Vater portion of the common bile duct.
Alcoholic pancreatitis has always been thought to occur in those who consume vast amounts of alcohol via consistent long-term drinking and/or binge drinking. New research suggests that alcoholic pancreatitis may be linked to a genetic variant in DNA.
Traumatic abdominal Injury is another cause of pancreatitis. Traumatic abdominal injury sustained from a car wreck, bad fall, gunshot wound or a 200 pound full back slamming into your gut at full speed, may cause pancreatitis.
Cancer of the pancreas often causes pancreatitis. In fact I have read where doctors say that pancreatitis pain is the cancer pain without the cancer yet how would they know if they have never had either? Maybe some do actually listen to patients?
Other causes include:
- autoimmune disease (autoimmune pancreatitis)
- genes (hereditary pancreatitis)
- medications (the list is long)
- exposure to certain chemicals
- surgery and certain medical proceedures such as ERCP
- infections like mumps
- high blood fat levels
- sphincter of oddi dysfunction
- pancreatic abnormalities such as pancreas divisum
I imagine there are other factors for causation as well.
Pancreatitis Pain Is the Worst Pain Imaginable
" ... inflammation of the pancreas causes some of the most severe pain that people have ever imagined" - Dr. David C. Whitcomb
Those of you who have friends or family who just can't get their head wrapped around the agony you go through and say stupid things like: "It just can't be that bad!" or "I've had a baby, that is the worst pain. I don't see how yours can compare," or some other ignorant, uninformed remark in regards to your ability to function— have them watch the video below.
Pancreatitis Pain and the Latest Research in Relation to Genetics as a Cause for Pancreatitis
Pancreatitis pain is horrendous. I wanted to post this so that pancreatitis patient family members and/or friends can hear from a prominent pancreas doctor what the pain is like when someone has pancreatitis. This should be somewhat of a revelation for those of you who think your family member or friend is a weeny that merely complains a lot or for the less than intelligent doctors out there that think pancreatitis victims simply want drugs for a nice trip.
Researchers are discovering that alcoholic pancreatitis and other types of pancreatitis may be genetically predisposed. This type of information may be of value to those who are like me and like to know why they may have this disease called pancreatitis, when others do not. Of course...
Dr. Whitcomb, Chief of the Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, touches on the genetic factors involved in those who develop pancreatitis.
Pancreatitis Can Be Difficult to Diagnose for Several Reasons
One of those reasons is simply that when it comes to pancreatitis, doctors can be dumber than bags of barber hair or seem to be because they don't listen. They are in too big a hurry to see their next patient, are thinking about their golf tee time, or simply don't care because it isn't them who is in agony.
Another reason is that they think they are omnipotent, know your body, its symptoms (what you are experiencing) a lot better than you do and if you beg to differ they simply chalk you up as a drug addict looking for a fix, a hypochondriac, or a lonely person in need of attention.
Another reason is that many doctors have difficulty diagnosing anything unless it slaps them in the face (CT scan showing horrendous damage due to necrotizing pancreatitis or cysts the size of watermelons). Horrendous damage and internal bleeding helps them arrive at a diagnosis of pancreatitis, but if you don't have those types of complications yet, it can be difficult to diagnose the problem.
If you have moderate to severe gastrointestinal symptoms and have yet to have a doctor give you a correct, common sense diagnosis, make sure you persevere in finding a gastroenterologist who received his/her degree from somewhere other than Cracker Jack University, is able to recall what they learned in medical school, and uses common sense along with the modern diagnostic tools. I know I am asking a lot because...
Finding a good doctor with great diagnostic skills is like locating a huge placer gold deposit, but I know there are at least one in 14 (7%) who have brains and diagnostic ability. In fact, here's one who wrote an article about Chronic Pancreatitis and Current Problems of Diagnostic Criteria
Just make sure you don't give up. The sooner you get diagnosed the better because there is evidence that the damage from both acute and chronic pancreatitis is reversible if it is diagnosed early enough and if you take appropriate measures to insure that the inflammation in your pancreas has completely abated and the tissue allowed to heal.
I wish you good luck.
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Grape Seed Extract
If you are sick you'll need to take fairly high doses to see results. 200 mg four times per day would be about right. If I could only afford one supplement, this is the exact supplement I would choose ( I use this exact formula) because it has both grape seed (highly anti-inflammatory) and vitamin C in a decent dose of 320 mgs per capsule. What this means is that you don't need to buy vitamin C separately with this product. You get more bang for your buck with this grape seed supplement.
Curcumin is a powerful anti-inflammatory. Jarrow makes quality products. This is the curcumin supplement I use. At 500 mgs (one cap) per day, it's a three month supply. If you are still quite ill you may need two to three caps per day. If you have gallstones or SOD you should not take curcumin. Higher doses of curcumin can cause stomach upset, nausea, even vomiting so work up slowly to make sure it doesn't provide side effects you don't want. Two or three caps per day should be fine but work up from one cap per day just to be sure.
Is There a Pancreatitis Cure?
I know that when you are in extreme pain due to acute or chronic pancreatitis that there is nothing you'd like to find more than a cure.
I'm not gonna lie to you.
There is no cure for pancreatitis. However, my research is leading me to believe there may be hope of possible pancreatic tissue regeneration. If regeneration does exist within the ability of pancreatic tissue, then it would be common sense that dictates what the immediate course of action should be when acute pancreatitis strikes in order to...
Not simply relieve pain with narcotic drugs but to actually stop the acute pancreatitis attack in its tracks in order to prevent catastrophic damage and possible death due to shock, necrosis, infection, or organ failure. The less damage sustained, the easier it will be for the pancreas to regenerate, if there is tissue regeneration capability.
I don't want to get all religious here but if you believe in God and His Creation, wouldn't one wonder if He created man in His image (Bible states we were created in His image) and His image being perfect, that there would be some form of regeneration potential in case of damage?
It is food for thought don't you agree?
So, as I find research regarding potential renegeration of pancreatic tissue I'll post that information within a section of this article pertaining to the regeneration of pancreatic tissue.
Don't get your hopes up.
However, if there is any possibiltiy of regeneration, I am sure it would only happen if the pancreas was not inflamed by alcohol or diet.
I know that even though the possibility of pancreatic tissue regeneration may be good news—it isn't the news you were hoping to hear. You were hoping to hear that there is indeed a pancreatitis cure, but...
As far as I know there is no cure for pancreatitis. Once acute pancreatitis has damaged the pancreas, it is quite likely you will have another event of acute pancreatitis and then the disease will evolve into the chronic form. Sometimes acute pancreatitis resolves, never to return, but that is not the case in the majority of those who have been lucky enough to have been inducted into our private pancreatitis hall of pain. And so...
Since there is no pancreatitis cure we must adapt, improvise, and overcome so that we control pancreatitis pain and damage thereby allowing pancreas healing to take place.
Surgery for Necrotizing Pancreatitis
I have been an extremely lucky pancreatitis victim. So far, to my knowledge, I have not had any major complications such as necrosis, cysts, or infection. However, the last thing I'd want is necrotizing pancreatitis. It has a fairly high death rate—as much as 50 percent when coupled with organ failure. This is why I take great care in adhering to my very low fat diet, abstaining from alcohol in every form, and consuming fairly large quantities of certain vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, curcumin, grapeseed, vitamin C, and enzymes.
Sugical Procedures for Pancreatitis (Acute and Chronic)
I am locating info on surgical procedures so that you folks can learn about what I categorize as "last resort" options. I do not recommend slicing and dicing. The sickest people, those who can not seem to heal, are the ones who have been what I call "gutted" by some surgeon.
However, there are instances (necrosis with infection aka necrotizing pancreatitis) that certainly warrant surgical intervention, and the patient may not live without it. Under those circumstances, one may have no choice, but for those who are not yet seriously damaged, I am more inclined to suggest a total lifestyle and diet change. This has worked for me, though iit isn't easy to give up foods you love; but, I'd rather do that and keep my organs intact. Many people do not share my views. So...
It is for those people I am gathering info about surgical procedures and posting them here because when one continues to eat foods that are inflammatory to the pancreas or continue to drink alcohol, sooner or later you'll be needing information on surgical procedures.
- ERCP (Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography)
ERCP is used to go inside and take a look at your abdominal area. Biles ducts, pancreatic duct, remove stones and other intricate procedures. It can and does cause Acute Pancreatitis.
- Longitudinal Pancreaticojejunostomy (Puestow Procedure)
The Puestow Procedure is used for pain relief, suspected malignancy, or correcting pancreatitis complications.
- The Whipple Procedure
From what I have read, the whipple procedure is nothing more than surgical butchering that in most cases does nothing for the patient, and in the case of pancreatitis usually causes more long-term, undoable problems than it fixes.
The Puestow, Frey, and Whipple Procedures
These surgical procedures are done either to correct complications or alleviate pain. Once done you cannot get an "undo," and most people who I have either chatted with online or read about are worse off after the procedures than they were before. Some see pain resolution for a time, then it all falls apart and they are back in the same boat though usually worse because their boat now has holes.
Islet Cell Autotransplant After Total Pancreatectomy (TP/AIT)
Twelve-year-old Brittany Alexander has suffered since she was four years old with pancreatitis. In May 2012 Brittany underwent a pancreatectomy and islet cell autotransplant. One month after her surgery, Brittany talks with Dr. Katherine Morgan and nurse coordinator Betsy Shuford at the Digestive Disease Center Division of Gastrointestinal Surgery at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.
Important Note: Brittany and others I have found online have newly done procedures, all within the last couple of years. I have not been able to find any living patient experiences after five years. Make sure you read the next section about TP/AIT, including what little research there is online about outcomes both short and long term which seems to be very elusive and non-existent.
Your story about your experience may help others by sharing the experience with us all. So tell us everything, including as to whether or not the proceedure was successful, if you'd recommend it (non-emergency types of proceedures such as ERCP), and so forth.
Please continue reading below the following comments section for more information on types of food and supplements I've tried while living with pancreatitis.
Have You Had a Pancreatitis Surgical Procedure? Share Your Story! 57 comments
Remember This About Pancreatitis
Pancreatitis Can Kill You!
"I have heard that in war haste can be folly but have never seen delay that was wise." Sun Tzu
"Ultimate excellence lies not in winning every battle but in defeating the enemy without ever fighting" Sun Tzu
What do the above quotes mean?
To win the battle with pancreatitis you must take swift, decisive action, prevent acute pancreatitis attacks and potential, unrepairable pancreatic damage.
Your actions will determine the difference between life and death.
Curcumin is very important when you have pancreatitis. Curcumin, along with grape seed extract, seems to put the fire of inflammation out like water on a camp fire. Both grape seed and curcumin are highly anti-inflammatory and they are extremely potent antioxidants. They have also shown remarkable ability to inhibit cancer cell growth (a possible complication of long-term chronic pancreatitis).
Antioxidants for Chronic Pancreatitis
Daily antioxidant supplementation appears to relieve pain and reduces oxidative stress in patients with chronic pancreatitis. Individuals with chronic pancreatitis may be deficient in antioxidants. Oxidative stress is an important mechanism of injury and inflammation of the pancreas in chronic pancreatitis.
Dr. Pramod K. Garg and colleagues from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi gave chronic pancreatitis patients daily doses of 600 ug organic selenium, 54o mg ascorbic acid, 9000 IU beta-carotene, 270 IU alpha-tocopherol and 2 g methionine. All patients were treated in the standard manner with analgesics on demand and pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy. After six months, the reduction in the number of painful days per month was higher in the antioxidant group than the placebo group. One third of patients became pain-free on treatment. Gastroenterology 2009.
It only took the medical community 14 years more than me to figure this stuff out (certain high potency antioxidants relieve pancreatitis pain), and frankly I'll bet grape seed, curcumin, and vitamin C work better and they are non-toxic. Selenium, even though proven to fight heart disease and cancer, in high doses becomes toxic, causing a vast aray of problems. Large doses of methionine will immediately raise blood plasma levels of homocysteine, which irritates artery walls, causing damage and the resulting arterial plaque known as atherosclerosis but...
That's the medical community for you. If there is a way to do something well, non-toxically, they will choose the toxic way every time!
I'll stay with vitamin C, grape seed extract, and curcumin all of which are non-toxic.
WARNING: If you have Sphincter of Oddi dysfunction (SOD) or gallstones you may want to avoid curcumin and turmeric because it increases bile flow.
These are the exact digestive enzymes I personally use. They contain pancreatin 4X which helps take some of the workload off of my pancreas.
Pancreatic Enzymes: Take a Load Off Your Pancreas
You pancreas produces the digestive enzymes needed to break down the food you eat. When you have pancreatitis you'll find it helpful to lighten the workload of your pancreas by consuming quality digestive enzymes before each meal. Some say to do it after the meal; however, I have found that it works better to have the enzymes in my gut before I eat. If you cheat (I know you will ha ha), and eat a meal or a food item that you shouldn't eat that is higher in fat content, you may want to take an additional dose after the meal along with more grape seed and curcumin. This may help you avoid problems, but don't count on it. The best advice is don't cheat, and take enzymes with each low fat content meal.
Complications of Pancreatitis
It is extremely important, if you have pancreatitis, to understand what you are really dealing with and how important it is for you to keep your pancreas as non-inflamed as possible in order to avoid serious complications that could result in your death.
The more you do to help yourself the better off you are going to be. If you have mild, acute, or mild chronic pancreatitis it can get worse if you allow the problem to become uncontrolled by not doing what you should do. The last thing you want is full-blown acute pancreatitis with complications.
So what kind of complications am I talking about?
There are some serious ones, ones that cause death such as:
- Pancreatic cancer
- Necrotizing pancreatitis (infection)
- Organ failure (Kidney, Heart, Lungs, Liver)
Other complications include:
- Breathing problems
Your Eating Habits and Food Choices Are...
Either going to kill you or heal you. Which would you prefer? No matter how healthy something such as olive oil is said to be, one measly teaspoon contains four grams of fat, a tablespoon contains 14 grams of fat. Fat is the enemy—no oil. Your fat consumption should not exceed five grams per meal; 15 - 25 grams total per day, including snacks. No beef, pork, lamb, or duck (way to much fat) or anything made from them (soups, broth, gravies, sauces). Low, low, low fat and no alcohol.
What Are Healthy Food Choices for Pancreatitis?
In another section below, I have mentioned the foods you should avoid at all costs, but I haven't really hit on the foods that are healthy choices or foods that you should eat (when you are hungry), that will help you maintain some semblance of health without putting your pancreas in an inflamed state or your life at risk any more than it already is.
Once you "get it," and completely understand that your life is in your own hands and that fat in any form is your enemy, it narrows down your food choices considerably. Saturated fat, animal fat, is the worst fat. Fatty, oily anything is not a good thing. And you know alcohol, in any form, is completely out right? So let's look at what you may somewhat safely eat.
It all depends on where you are at...
And I'm not talking about your global location.
First of all, if you are just coming out of an attack my best advice is to live on water for 48 hours and then try some fruit juice and vegetable juice (V8). If you have a juicer great. Make your own vegetable juice. After your pancreas has "rested" for at least three days and you have encountered no symptoms for 72, preferrably 96 hours then, if you are hungry, try a small meal of brown rice and vegetables. I mean a small meal, maybe half a cup.
If that goes well have another half a cup in an hour or two. Eat small meals five to six times per day but if you begin to feel any symptoms stop eating. And...
Immediately take aspirin or ibuprofen, grape seed extract (capsules), and curcumin (capsules) to stop the inflammation. Then rest your pancreas as explained above. I suggest you take grape seed extract (one mg per pound of body weight) daily along with 500mgs of curcumin and at least 1000mgs of vitamin C. The grape seed, curcumin, and vitamin C should become a daily routine. They fight inflammation and help heal your pancreas. You can buy them all from any well stocked health food store. You'll also need digestive enzymes with pancreatin 4X. So get them while you are at the health store and take them 15 - 20 minutes before every meal. They help take the load of producing digestive enymes off your pancreas.
If you are not hungry, do not eat.
If you are not hungry that is a signal! Pay attention! If you eat when you are not hungry you most likely will pay. Learn to live differently now that you have pancreatitis. Eat to live instead of living to eat.
Ok, foods that are usually safe and healthy are strict vegan:
- Whole grains, such as oatmeal, wheat bread, rye bread, wheat germ, barley, brown rice, and bulgar.
- Legumes, such as beans (vegetarian), peas, and lentils.
- Tubers, such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, carrots, beets, turnips, parsnips, and rudabegas
- Leafy greens, such as spinach, lettuce, and chard.
- Cruciferous veggies, such as Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and broccoli.
- Fruit, such as tomatoes (yes, tomatoes are fruit just don't put them in a fruit salad), apples, oranges, pomegranate, pineapple, mangos, and papaya.
If you cook your food do it in such a manner that you do not need oil or fat of any kind. None, zip, nada. No oil. Got it?
Note: Avocados are fruit, but they contain extremely high amounts of oily fats and should be avoided unless you feel extremely lucky or have been symptom-free for over six months. If you eat avocado, eat a very small amount.
Once you have been on grape seed extract, curcumin, and vitamin C for six months and have had zero symptoms while eating a strict vegan diet you can begin to try other foods—in small quantities.
These other foods are:
- Fat free or 1% milk
- Fish (trout, tuna, salmon, mackerel, sardines or white fish like bass, perch, crappie)
- Skinless chicken and turkey (broiled, boiled, or BBQ'd)
- Eggs (soft boiled, hard boiled, poached)
- Avocado, flax seed, nuts (very small amounts)
Remember: Cook everything without oil or grease of any kind.
If you experience any unpleasant symptoms you know the drill right? Rest your pancreas and start again after 96 hours with the strict vegan regimen.
I have also started another article dealing with my own personal pancreatitis diet and what you need to do in order to create your own pancreatitis diet because there are certain steps you must take in order to learn what foods should or should not be included in your pancreatitis diet.
Juicing for Pancreatitis
One of the best ways to obtain quality nutrients with little to no fat that will be easily digested (allowing your pancreas to work less) is by drinking fresh juice made from organic fruits and vegetables. If you have enough damage due to acute and/or chronic pancreatitis that has resulted in malabsorption, juicing will make it easier for your small intestines to absorb nutrients. Those are two great reasons to buy your own juicer and start juicing. In order to avoid pesticides which are undoubtedly harmful to an already sick pancreas, it is best to choose organic produce.
Chronic Pancreatitis Life Expectancy
I know from what I read on online support groups that life expectancy for those with chronic pancreatitis is on their minds.
That same question may be on your mind as well, and this is a difficult question to which I have no definitive answer and neither does anyone else.
I was told I may have only 10 years left when I was diagnosed. Some articles say seven to ten years once diagnosed with chronic pancreatitis, others say it takes an average of 10 to 15 years off one's life expectancy. Take the following for example:
This is such a novel thought where docs are concerned. I wonder who told them? "Determining the cause of acute pancreatitis and treating it quickly may help prevent chronic pancreatitis. Not drinking a lot of alcohol reduces the risk of developing this condition." MedLine Plus
"Chronic pancreatitis is associated with a reduction in life expectancy. Only half of the patients with a diagnosis of chronic pancreatitis will survive for longer than seven years following diagnosis." NetDoctor
"This is a serious disease that may lead to disability and death. You can reduce the risk by avoiding alcohol." PubMed Health
This article, written in 1994, states that survival rate at 10 years was 70 percent: Prognosis of chronic pancreatitis. Hey that is good news! Seventy percent were still alive at the ten year mark; maybe things have improved, and survival is much better and for longer periods of time today.
This article, written in 1993, Natural Course of Chronic Pancreatitis states that pancreatic surgery ends up being worthless as far as pain management is concerned, and that survival time is about the same. This should tell you to search for another option. I absolutely believe I have survived for 20 more years than I was told, because of my diet, supplements, refusing to opt for any sort of surgery even related to my pancreas, and avoiding the use of medicines and/or protocols that promote acute pancreatitis.
The above information tells me that even though you may wish you were dead (because of pain and nausea), you can live for a fairly long time with this disease. In fact, I am living proof you can live with, and overcome, pancreatitis as long as you are willing to do certain things. To me, it boils down to is this...
Most people who die from chronic pancreatitis most likely die from an acute pancreatitis attack that turns into SAP, severe acute pancreatitis. You'll note that under the section "Morbidity and Mortality," most deaths occur due to organ failure and infected necrosis.
The reason I say this is because if you look closely, none of the articles state that patients die directly from chronic pancreatitis. It it usually the result of complications, and what is the most likely complication?
This would lead me to believe that if you can prevent acute pancreatitis you may be able to extend your life. If you can extend your life and eliminate your pain and suffering would that not be a good thing?
What are you willing to do to survive and maybe enjoy life again?
Are you willing to quit drinking (if that is the cause of your pancreatitis)?
Are you willing to avoid foods that trigger acute pancreatitis?
How important is it to you to survive and do it without pain, or at least less pain and suffering?
Only you can answer those questions.
Go Vegan to Heal
A Vegan diet (not vegetarian—there is a big difference), is typically considered a very low fat diet. However, what one must consider is that even though strict vegans do not eat meat or dairy products, they still use oil in cooking and that is something you will not do, isn't that right?
Yes it is, so ...
Going vegan with the added restriction of no oil to heal pancreatitis damage is a very good idea. You need to do this for at least six months to one year. Eliminating all saturated fats, oils, and alcohol is simply a smart, healthy choice unless you enjoy pain.
Keep in mind that not all vegan recipes will work for you because some do contain too much fat for a damaged pancreas, but they do give you ideas to use in order to cook some tasty "should be safe" meals. Some substitution or elimination of certain ingredients such as sauces, salad dressings, avocado and other high fat, oily foods may be necessary. Either substitute or cut out those foods which contain fat, look like fat, smell like fat, and most likely are fat from any vegan recipe. And...
Take large doses of grape seed extract, vitamin C, and curcumin.
Do this for at least six months or until your pain, nausea, and abdominal tenderness is gone. Then, you can try to alter your diet to include some dairy, fish, and poultry.
Absolutely no alcohol. Watch out for cough syrup, vanilla extract, and cold remedies.
Supplements for Pancreatitis
These five supplements help me:
I won't insult your intelligence with a bunch of phony online testimonials. And as far as I am concerned the FDA and FTC can go take a hike if they don't like what I say because I use certain supplements to relieve the symptoms of pancreatitis. When I use them I feel a whole lot better, am usually attack free and have far less pancreatitis symptoms. I can't say they will help you. Everyone is different but I know what they do for me. In fact, I know they are the only reason I don't have more problems with pancreatitis than I do.
I take 200mg per day of grape seed and 500mg of curcumin (the extract from turmeric) as a maintenance dose and when I started I took 400 - 800mg of grape seed along with 500 - 1000mg of curcumin per day (I started at the lower doses and worked up and then stayed at the top doses until I had no symptoms or tenderness at all). The vitamin C you also need to work up with. Start at 500mgs per day and work up to 5000mgs per day. Be advised...
Grape seed extract can cause some side effects. Some people experience nausea and headache with the higher doses due to detoxification. If you experience them, decrease the amount you take but try to take one mg per pound of body weight each day and work up to the higher doses. Vitamin C can also cause some intestinal problems at high doses in some folks. It gives some people the runs. Just work through it, it won't kill you. I have taken up to 10,000 mgs per day for 30 days and never died. Your body will become used to both of those super antioxidants and things will go back to normal. And, you may never experience what I just said, I never did, but, some folks do.
Once you are well (no symptoms or abdominal tenderness), you can decrease the dose of grape seed down to a maintenance dose of at least one milligram per pound of body weight. Curcumin can come down to 500mgs per day, vitamin C at 1000 - 2000mgs per day. If this regimen works for you like it does me, you'll notice you feel better in a few days and in time may heal. Do not come off the high doses too soon. Make sure you are completely healed. You'll know because your abdomen will feel normal when you push in with your hand or have someone do it while you lie down. It should not be a painful experience.
Since the pancreas produces the enzymes needed to breakdown a meal, I take digestive enzymes about 15 minutes before meals as well which seems to help possibly because it takes some of the load of producing enzymes off my pancreas. Just like the maintenance doses of the grape seed, curcumin, and vitamin C you will always need to take enzymes.
If you are wondering, the reason I take 2000mgs of vitamin C is because vitamin C is a proven cancer fighter (so are grape seed and curcumin), along with being a very strong free radical fighter, and it works hand in hand with the grape seed to help protect my pancreas.
Even with extra enzymes to help digest food someone with pancreatitis may also suffer from malabsorption, which means that your small intestines don't absorb the necessary vitamins and minerals your body needs to stay healthy. This of course means it is important to supplement with a quality multi-vitamin and mineral formulation.
This is important, not all vitamin formulations are good.
When buying multiple vitamin-minerals formulations, look for quality (real natural vitamins, not synthetic), not price. Stay away from the cheap crap you see advertised on TV. I won't mention any names but cheap one-a-days are useless. If you don't believe me call the sewage treatment facility in your town and ask what vitamins are found in the sewage and then use something else.
Mayo Clinic Pancreatitis Treatment
This fairly new surgical technique could be a real blessing for some people with necrotic pancreatitis. There really are some brilliant minds out there in doctor land, finding them seems to be the difficulty.
Things to Remember When Fighting Pancreatitis
Do you have pancreatitis? You are now in a war, a battle for your life because for some reason, your pancreas has, in some way, been injured. It doesn't matter if it shows on a CT scan. If your pancreas was perfectly healthy you wouldn't have the condition—period. In any event you are in trouble, you are now engaged in battle. And...
"Every battle is won before it is fought" - Sun Tzu
This means that if you want to win the battle you need to out-fox your pancreas. You need to know what will piss it off (cause it to become inflamed) or worse, to destroy itself, thereby killing you. And you need to take the appropriate actions to ensure that the first does not happen so the second does not happen.
Things to Know and Take Seriously:
- You must eat to live instead of living to eat. When you have pancreatitis, eliminating alcohol, red meat, pork, lamb, duck, butter, mayo, margarine, and anything else with a high fat or oil content from your diet is absolutely imperative. Read labels on anything you purchase to eat. Make sure that hidden fats such as palm oil, coconut oil, butter, oil-based products (margarine, CoolWhip, etc...) do not enter your mouth.
- Be careful of cough syrup, cold remedies, and mouthwash because many contain alcohol and, yes, the alcohol in mouthwash can be absorbed via the skin, especially under the tongue.
- Vanilla extract doesn't work either because of the alcohol it contains, and even a small teaspoon used in baking can cause problems.
- Bananas must be eaten before they begin to spot because the spotting signals that the sugar is turning into alcohol (trust me I learned this stuff the hard way).
- If you haven't been told by your doc or figured it out yet from what I have said previously, alcohol is a real big no-no with pancreatitis. Yes, that means no wine with dinner, no beer at ball games, and if you drink after I have warned you, well you might want to consider getting your head examined.
The important thing you must understand is that you need to make a choice between drinking alcohol, eating wonderful tasty food full of fat, and possibly dying a horrible painful death or eliminating alcohol and certain foods and possibly living to old age. The choice is yours and I already made mine years ago.
Always Think Anti-inflammation:
Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas. So when I feel unwell, like an attack is coming on, I immediately take aspirin. I used to wait until the pain was bad, but I finally figured out it makes more sense to take the aspirin at the first hint of trouble. I'd rather waste 10 cents worth of aspirin than take a chance of pancreatic damage. I switched from high doses of Motrin to 1300mg (4 tabs) of aspirin simply because I feel aspirin is safer. Aspirin is an anti-inflammatory, and it also things the blood, so that when I get tachycardia I lessen the chances of developing a clot. So I get a double punch.
I use several spices that lower inflammation. For example, in my rice and vegetables for dinner tonight I added in a nice dose of the following:
- Cayenne Pepper
All of those spices are highly anti-inflammatory and garlic has another plus—it is a natural antibiotic that bugs do not become resistant towards. Cayenne pepper helps with pain as well, and ginger helps with nausea. Turmeric is a potent anti-cancer agent which has shown some promising attributes as an angiogenesis inhibitor. Garlic and cayenne have qualities similar to turmeric. I use those four spices a lot! And I use them liberally.
Do Not Eat if You Are Not Hungry:
I have a family member who thinks it helps to eat when they are nauseous, and most often they puke after eating. How dumb is that? What you need to understand is that if you are not hungry, I mean hungry, you can feel the hunger, your belly feels like it is starving and it is talking to you and it says: "feed me!" It is not a good thing to eat when you have pancreatitis. Not feeling the hunger is a signal that your pancreas doesn't want to go to work, and if you piss it off you'll pay. Trust me. So...
I am not talking about your stomach making gurgling noises, or maybe it is dinner time and you think you need to eat. I'm talking about the fact that you know you are hungry and need to eat because you feel bonafide hunger pangs. If you aren't hungry—do not eat. Don't worry you won't starve. You can go up to two weeks without food but you do need to stay hydrated so drink water. But if you are not hungry don't eat.
Eat at Home:
One of the things I have learned the hard way is that it is much safer to eat at home and to eat only what I myself have prepared. The reason is simple. Your family and friends may care about you, even love you dearly, but they have been cooking their way for years. If they use a little butter, bacon fat, mayo, or marinade that chicken breast with a little wine or whatever—they inadvertantly think: "It's just a little, what's it gonna hurt?" Well, that little bit of bacon grease in the fried potaotes probably will make you very ill and could possibly lead to complications that kill you. You need to ask yourself: "Is it worth it?"
I know this is in fact what happens because I have become ill eating food prepared by frineds and family. I found the easiest way to remedy the problem was to simply avoid the food prepared by others. I've had two wives and a myriad of live-in girlfriends. They all, even though it was unintentional, made me sick with their food. My own mother, who loves me dearly, has made me sick with her cooking. You absolutely must take responsibility for your own life (if you wish to live), and avoid eating food prepared by others. They simply don't get the significance of: "A little dab will do ya." And I don't mean that in a good way because that little dab may lead to the attack that turns chronic pancreatitis into an acute episode that ends your life with necrotizing pancreatitis or organ failure.
You may think I am being "anal" about this, but I'm still alive after 30 plus years. I've learned the hard way and I've been extremely lucky. I also understand that my luck could run out at any time. I'd personally prefer it were much later than tomorrow or next week. So, again, you need to choose between what is best for your health and longevity and eating food prepared by others.
All-in-one Multi-Vitamin Mineral Formulation
A quality Multi-Vitamin-Mineral formulation is almost mandatory when you have pancreatitis. You will most likely need an extra boost of vitamins in order to receive the optimum levels of nutrition your body needs to repair itself and survive.
Vitamin-Mineral formulations are not created equal. Most are absolute garbage. I use this formula myself and even though I wouldn't rate it as exceedingly outstanding it does trump 85 - 90% of the products on the market. Most of the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and amino acids come from plant based sources, however some are still of the low quality synthetic composition. But the majority of the formula is quite good. It's easy to take and the absortion is very good and it beats the hell out of buying and taking 30 - 40 different single products of better quality, if you can even find them. I'm happy with it and feel the difference. Give it a try to see if it fits you.
I may add information to this from time to time that is important for you to know if you suffer from pancreatitis, especially acute forms of the illness.
- Probiotics may Increase Risk of Death
What was once thought to be good therapy turns out to be not so good.
- Pancreatitis caused by gallstones
picture of gallstones blocking the pancreatic duct
- Complications of Pancreatitis
Information via the Mayo Clinic website
- Acute Pancreatitis
Excellent info on symptoms and complications
- Acute Pancreatitis Complications
Possible complications of acute pancreatitis
Pancreatitis Support Groups
One nice thing to have is a group of support people who actually know what you are going through in regards to pancreatitis. Most people such as family, friends, and co-workers have no clue what you endure daily due to pancreatitis, and some can be downright offensive due to ignorance. If you have recently been diagnosed or have suffered for quite sometime, you may find comfort in knowing you are not alone. Support groups are places to vent on a bad day, ask questions, and simply hang out with others who know what the pain and other symptoms are like and the problems you face daily.
However, be advised!
I have joined several support groups and they all have one thing in common which drives me nuts. They are full of sick people who give advice to others, which is guaranteed to keep you sick. If someone gives you advice (what they eat, what they take, what they do, what they think) and they are not pain-free and well—please—for your own well being do not listen. Be polite, whatever, but, I can dang well guarantee you that if you follow the advice of someone who is still sick or had to have their guts removed after years of being sick, you are gonna end up the same way by following that kind of advice. Following the advice of someone in a pancreatitis support group who is still sick, suffering pain, and looking for answers via surgeries and procedures is like following financial advice from your uncle who has gone bankrupt three times or that fat lady down the street who offers you tips on how to lose weight—it simply doesn't make sense.
The information that is passed back and forth by the people I have found in pancreatitis support groups is so dangerous it simply makes me angry.
This article was designed and updated for one reason.
To help people heal their pancreas, if possible (not everyone will be able to heal even if they do exactly what I do because they are already so far gone it isn't possible).
I have read the stories of people in support groups, who are so sick it is nothing less than heart-breaking yet they will not listen to someone who has been in a similar situation (maybe not as bad, maybe worse at one point), yet found a way to stop acute pancreatitis attacks dead in their tracks, heal the pancreas damage, and live mostly pain-free.
If I'd have found someone like me when I was extremely ill, I'd have jumped at the chance to learn and do anything that made sense to stop that unbelievable pain.
But, there are some really stupid people in the world, people who think they are wise yet have no clue. These same people eat foods that would have surely caused my death years ago if I had continued eating them, but I was lucky.
Someone whispered in my ear and helped me find the truth.
I am sharing that truth with you, free of charge.
You'll find where I use certain supplements to heal and keep me healed, and I could care less where you buy them, just buy them and use them. This article is not about making money. Twenty-three cents, or even a buck or two from a sale doesn't turn me on. This is not my dream niche. I work online in areas that nail $25 - $200 per sale. I wouldn't walk across the street for twenty-three cents in commission let alone invest the time it takes to write and update this piece.
So, if you happen to be some puke who thinks I am taking advantage of people who suffer, get your head out of your ass so you can see daylight.
God save my ass.
I have no clue as to why however I can come up with several hundred reasons why He should have simply let me die. He, God, showed me how to heal. He taught me how to do research and showed that what He whispered in my ear years ago has now been proven by science to work.
If you should ask me a question I will tell you what I would do, not what you should do because I am not a doctor. I can't give medical advice, nor can I prescribe a course of treatment. I can tell you that what doctors do in the ER is almost totally wrong and why I wouldn't go in unless I hear that whisper in my ear telling me to go but...
I would suggest that you do not ever do what I do (avoid the ER when prudent), because you can die from acute pancreatitis. I do not trust doctors. I have my reasons for that, but that does not mean I am right. If you have gotten this far along in this article, you know why I avoid doctors, especially when it comes to pancreatitis, and why unless I hear that whisper in my ear telling me I need life saving care, I'll never set foot in an ER ever again for acute pancreatitis.
As for support groups, I cannot recommend them. You will receive too much erroneous information. I have been a member of about five groups and all have been what I'd call a bunch of sick, clueless people offering advice on how to stay sick.
However, if you need support feel free to ask. There is only one of me and I don't spend all my time on this site, but when I see a comment in the form of a question, I answer it. If I know the answer I'll tell you what I know, and if I don't know the answer I'll tell you and then look for the best answer, hopefully supported by science so that you can make an intelligent decision.
I can tell you this: doctors are not always right (they just think they are omnipotent), they call their business a "practice" for a damn good reason and that is because they practice on you. That is why I never do anything some white coat tells me to do (have a procedure, pop a pill, etc) without doing research on that procedure, medication, or surgery first whenever possible; and it is always possible unless you are comatose.
If you would like to join a support goup then feel free, but pay extremely close attention to who you accept advice from because there is so much erroneous, damaging, and imbecillic postings in support groups that I actually cannot recommend them.
When Pancreatitis Makes You Sick Our Lord and His Angels Will Help
I honestly can't count the number of acute pancreatitis episodes I have experienced. When I was very sick, they came often and I am sure that it is only by the grace of God the creator and His angels that I am still alive.
The doctor who diagnosed me said, "You're lucky to be alive."
I didn't see any major resolution in sickness for another three years, but while in an attack I prayed—a lot. Talking to my Father helped, and I know that during the worst episodes He had angels keeping me safe. I never saw them, but, I was never in fear, just pain. And for those of you who have experienced the pain, the type that is so bad you begin to lose touch with reality, things seem to move slow, it seems like a foggy pain racked dream—you know what I am talking about right? Asking your Father in heaven for comfort may help you bear the pain.
Beware. I am not a doctor. I can't prescribe, diagnose, or dispense medical advice and you should do your own research as well as reading about what I personally have experienced and do. Any content on this page, about living with pancreatitis, should only be used for your reading pleasure, and should never be used to diagnose or treat any disease, condition, or physical impairment of any kind. You should always seek competent medical advice from a licensed physician (some do exist) before trying any natural remedy or starting any health program. Am I clear on that?
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