Every item that you consume has to go through a process of digestion to break it down to a usable form for the body. The stomach secretes hydrochloric acid which is a key part of digestion. After the food has been released from the stomach into the duodenum, the pancreas secretes enzymes that meet the food in the intestine to break down the food further. This isn`t the pancreas` only job. It is responsible for secreting insulin and other blood glucose balancing hormones.
Sometimes, the pancreas can become inflamed and the way that it secretes digestive enzymes can be affected. If the pancreas doesn`t release enough enzymes, then the affected person can really struggle with digestive symptoms. Not only this, but if the food isn`t being broken down sufficiently to be used by the body, the person can become malnourished as they aren`t able to absorb key nutrients from their food.
Protein deficiency (which can cause soft tissue problems, mood imbalances, anaemia, hormonal problems)
Muscular aches and pains
Aim in supporting pancreas insufficiency
The aim when supporting your pancreas is to help to take the pressure off of this organ for a while so that it can rest and repair. Every cell in your body is replaced over a 7 year period. That means that every 7 years, you have (in effect) a new body! Your body is amazing and knows how to regenerate - IF you provide the right conditions for it to do so. By allowing the pancreas to rest, it can replace its cells and regain strength. In order to allow this period of recovery for your pancreas, it is important to follow the steps below.
Nutritional therapy for pancreas insufficiency
Nutritional therapy can help enormously. Most people with mild to moderate insufficiency can make a good recovery from their symptoms. Treatment includes the use of digestive enzymes, nutrient replenishment and a modified diet.
Digestive enzymes are substances that are of natural origin that will act the same way as human digestive enzymes in the breakdown of food. Enzymes are taken with every meal to help the body digest the food properly and therefor absorb its nutrient content. Whilst digestive enzymes are entirely harmless, it is important to start slowly when taking them. The reason for this is; as the body begins to absorb more nutrition from your food, it will have more strength and vitality than before and be able to purge itself of harmful toxins and substances that it may have accumulated. This process can cause some mild symptoms that we call a "healing crisis" or a "herxheimer reaction". It is an important part of your recovery so if you do encounter some symptoms whilst starting on enzymes, do continue. They won`t last for long and it is your body`s way of telling you that it is cleansing itself more than it was before. Not everybody encounters this, so don`t worry if you sail through taking your enzymes without any reactions.
Once you have become used to taking your enzymes, you can increase the dose with meals until your symptoms are completely alleviated.
Pancreas insufficiency diet
You will have no doubt have noticed that eating fats, dairy and meat can cause your digestive symptoms to worsen. This is because the pancreas` main purpose in digestion is to support the metabolism of proteins and fats. It is very important not to have a fat free diet as "good" fats are essential for the human body to function. Everyone knows the brain is made of around 70% water, but did you know that it is a huge fatty organ as well? Every nerve cell in the body is coated in fat and it is also essential for storing certain vitamins and in providing energy.
It is important to understand the different types of fats and avoid the "bad" fats whilst continuing to eat healthy fats.
Fats to avoid Dairy fats - butter, cheese, margarine, cream, milk, ice cream , etc... Cooking oils - avoid all oils other than olive oil and coconut oil - use these in moderation. Try looking into oil - free cooking. Dressings - mayo, salad dressings - stick to olive oil mixed with balsamic vinegar and some lemon or herbs. Pastries, cakes and biscuits, cookies fried foods - chips, crisps, battered foods etc Poultry skin
You may have noticed that you suffer more digestive symptoms after consuming alcohol. For some people, their pancreas insufficiency may have been triggered by alcohol consumption. Alcohol is involved in around half the cases of pancreatic insufficiency. Alcohol is extremely aggravating to the pancreas and so in order to recover, you need to remove alcohol completely from your diet. No if`s or but`s... it`s got to go.
Sugars As your pancreas is also key in regulating blood sugar levels, it is imperative to take the pressure off of the pancreas in terms of having to cope with glucose handling. Every time you consume something sugary, or something that converts to glucose , your pancreas has to pump out insulin. Your pancreas is tired, so let it rest. This means keeping sugar and starchy carbohydrates such as pasta, bread and white rice that convert quickly to glucose out of your diet. It also means balancing your meals to slow the conversion to glucose down. You can do this by having protein with every single meal and every snack. A protein based breakfast will help you set the tone with your blood sugar the right way for the day ahead.
Gluten Gluten is inflammatory and it`s effects are wide-spread throughout the body. It is difficult to digest and causes pressure on the liver - which is responsible for bile flow. Bile flow helps to break down fats as well as the pancreatic lipase enzyme. People with pancreatic insufficiency need their bile to be healthy to help with this process. It`s important to keep the liver free from extra burden so consider going gluten-free or reducing your gluten content considerably.
Water Your body needs fluid now more than ever. Aim for 1.5 - 2 litres of pure water per day. You can add slices of lemon and orange for flavour, or fruit tea bags, berries and herbs also. Water is nice drunk warm and is easier and more soothing for the kidneys this way.
Nutrient replenishment Your nutritional profile will be looked at and vitamins and minerals will be supplemented to bring you back into balance. Going forward, it may be necessary to support yourself with certain vitamins throughout your life.
Outlook Whilst it is possible to help your pancreas to repair, it is something that you are going to have to be aware of for your future health. Once an area of weakness is established, certain dietary and lifestyle triggers can cause it to flare. Pancreas insufficiency is manageable and it is entirely possible to live with the condition without suffering. The power lies in your hands... you need to live your life in the way outlined above. You also need to have good coping mechanisms to stressful situations. Stress will lower the secretion of stomach acid, which will worsen your symptoms. If your lifestyle is very busy or stressful, take some time to assess where these stresses are coming from and do everything you can to ask for help or support, or leave that stressful trigger behind if possible.
Watch how digestive enzymes work:
Thrive Clinical Nutrition and Naturopathic Health Eve Morley BA hons. NT. FNTP. AMNNA. Soc Nat
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