What is acute pancreatitis?
The suffix “itis” usually refers to an inflammatory condition. So, by definition, acute pancreatitis is diagnosed when the pancreas becomes suddenly inflamed. However, in many cases this condition is not really “sudden” but rather something that slowly worsens over time; it’s just not diagnosed until it reaches a certain degree of inflammation.
Symptoms can include:
- Abdominal pain that is sometimes felt in the back and gets worse after eating
- Upset stomach
- Increased heart rate
Here at New Hope Health, we believe that the body was created to heal itself if it has what it needs. Your body is smart! Even the discomforts that it puts you through are part of the self-healing process. Take, for example, a simple fever: No one enjoys a fever but your body automatically knows that if there’s a pathogen (aka bad guys: virus, bacteria, etc.) threatening you, then turning up the heat will keep you alive but kill the pathogen. You might not feel good for a few hours or a few days, but the ultimate goal of your survival prevails.
What does the pancreas actually do?
For many people, when they think about the pancreas, the first thought that comes to mind is something about diabetes, blood sugar and insulin. Although it is true that the pancreas does indeed play a role in regulating blood sugar, it does so much more.
Most of the digestive enzymes that are used to break down and help assimilate your food, come from the pancreas. When you eat carbohydrates specifically, the pancreas secretes an enzyme called alpha amylase into the small intestine. This helps to break down starches so that your body can actually use them to give you energy. When you consume proteins, the pancreas secretes lots of enzymes (trypsin, chymotrypsin, elastase, etc.) that helps break proteins into their usable components (often referred to amino acids).
What creates difficulty for the pancreas and how does it become inflamed?
Like any part of the body, if there’s not adequate nutrition and/or blood flow, it will suffer in a variety of ways. Specifically the pancreas can become inflamed from too much sugar, alcohol (a sugar), gall stones, medications, infections and other things.
How can nutrition help?
- Avoid processed foods, sugar and alcohol.
- Increase organic vegetables, preferably raw or steamed (not roasted).
- Add Vietnamese cinnamon to your food (oatmeal, smoothies, etc.) as this can have beneficial effects for the pancreas.
- Supplement with digestive enzymes to help give your pancreas some help.
- Increase Omega 3’s (walnuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds and supplement with DHA).
- Increase your water intake to 1 ounce per pound of body weight, at least for a few weeks. This is good for you in general but can be specifically helpful if there are kidney or gall stones.