What Is Acute Pancreatitis?
Pancreatitis is a condition in which there is an inflammation of the pancreas. It is a painful disease which takes a few days to recover, but at certain times, it becomes severe.
The Pancreas is an important organ of the digestive system, which is located behind the stomach. The main function of the pancreas is to produce digestive enzymes, insulin, and glucagon. When the pancreas gets inflamed due to internal or external factors, the condition is called pancreatitis.
Pancreatitis may be of two types:
- Acute pancreatitis- In this condition, there is a sudden inflammation of the pancreas and symptoms range from mild to severe. Patient recovers in a few days. Sometimes there are complications, giving rise to life threatening emergencies.
- Chronic pancreatitis- Here the inflammation is gradual, long lasting and less severe. It usually happens after a bout of acute pancreatitis. But since the symptoms run for a long period, there is damage and trauma to the pancreas. Heavy drinking is known to be the cause of chronic pancreatitis.
What Are The Symptoms Of Acute Pancreatitis?
Symptoms of acute pancreatitis appear with a sudden, dull pain in the upper abdomen. The pain rises gradually, becomes severe and constant reaching up to the back of the body. Pain increases after meals and may last for several days if not treated. The patient looks very ill.
Other symptoms include
- Nausea, Vomiting, Fever, Swollen abdomen.
- Sweating, Diarrhoea, Bloating.
- An increase in pulse rate.
In the cases, where pancreatitis becomes severe and involves other organs, symptoms of low blood pressure and dehydration may also occur.
What Are The Causes Of Acute Pancreatitis?
The digestive juices secreted by the pancreas drain into the duodenum to aid in digestion. The juices are in an inactive form in the pancreas. Otherwise, they would have started to digest the pancreatic cells. Once the digestive juices enter the duodenum, they become active and take part in the digestive process.
When the juices become active while still in the pancreas, they start acting on the pancreatic cells and a host of chemical reactions follow, causing the inflammation.
Key causes of the disease are:
- Gall stones: It is believed that sometimes, a gall stone travels into the duodenum and gets stuck in the duct which acts as a drain for pancreatic enzymes. This blocks the enzymes from entering the duodenum, and trigger pancreatitis.
- Alcohol: Rise in a number of acute pancreatitis cases has been linked to heavy alcohol consumption. Binge drinking people are at high risk of getting this disease.
- Tobacco: Studies show that smoking tobacco may lead to acute pancreatitis.
- Other uncommon causes include:
- Viral infection like measles or mumps may trigger acute pancreatitis.
- An injury to the pancreas during surgical removal of gallstones.
- A rare number of people may get pancreatitis as a side effect of chemotherapy.
- Acute pancreatitis may also be caused as a complication of cystic fibrosis, hyperparathyroidism or Kawasaki disease.
- An infection from a parasite.
- Old people and people who are obese are at a higher risk of getting acute pancreatitis.
What Are The Things One Should Do To Manage Acute Pancreatitis?
- Gall stones are the main cause of pancreatitis. The best way to prevent gall stones would be to eat a healthy balanced diet.
- Stay hydrated.
- Eat meals in small portions at short intervals. Eating six meals throughout the day is easier to digest rather than large meals 3 times a day.
- Overweight people should lose weight as obesity is one of the factors causing acute pancreatitis.
What Are The Things One Should Avoid To Manage Acute Pancreatitis?
Do not drink excessively. Studies show that heavy consumption of alcohol increases toxicity in the pancreas, thereby increasing the risk of pancreatitis.
Do not smoke. A research conducted in Sweden to study the effects of smoking in men and women showed that quitting smoking considerably reduced the risk of pancreatitis in both the genders. Smoking may also lead to pancreatic cancer.
Do not eat fatty food. Too much fat causes cholesterol accumulation in the bile. This leads to the formation of gallstones, which are the primary reasons for pancreatitis.
- Do not have a sedentary lifestyle. Do exercise regularly and stay fit. Overweight people are more prone to develop gallstones, thereby increasing the risk of pancreatitis.
What Are The Best Foods For Acute Pancreatitis?
Managing the diet plays a key role in the treatment of acute pancreatitis. To make the pancreas healthy, we have to give importance to food that is high in protein, low in fat and those that are a powerhouse of vitamins and antioxidants.
- Initially, when the inflammation is severe, you may take clear liquids like apple and cranberry juices and clear soups.
- As the inflammation and the pain reduce, you can tolerate solid food. Introduce carbohydrates like whole wheat bread and brown rice.
- Add low-fat protein foods to your diet. Sources of low-fat protein are lean meat, beans, pulses, and lentils.
- All fruits and vegetables can be eaten except high-fat fruits like avocado. Higher amounts of antioxidants are found in green leafy vegetables, cherries, pomegranates. Bell peppers, soybeans and berries. Incorporate these into your diet.
What Are The Worst Foods For Acute Pancreatitis?
Since the pancreas is inflamed digestion becomes a difficult process. Avoid food which will further aggravate the condition.
- Fried food and junk food.
- Refined carbohydrates present in white bread, white rice and pasta.
- Saturated fats present in red meat, oil, chips, cookies, mayonnaise, etc.
- Caffeine found in chocolates, tea, and coffee.
- Full fat milk and dairy products.
- Cakes, pastries, and desserts with added sugar have to be avoided since people with pancreatitis have a tendency to get diabetes.
- Any food which has been deep fried may cause a flare up. So, cut back on fried and fatty food to avoid triggering another bout of a flare up and subsequent pain.
What Are The Medicines For Acute Pancreatitis?
What Are The Tips To Manage Acute Pancreatitis?
Acute pancreatitis can be cured with timely and proper treatment. In addition to the treatment, what you, and more importantly, what food you avoid will help in quick healing of the pancreas.