Anyone who suffers from pancreatitis will initially not be able to eat normally. Which foods are forbidden if you have pancreatitis?
People with acute inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis) usually suffer from severe pain in the upper abdomen and digestive problems such as nausea and vomiting. It is then not possible to eat and drink as usual. Just drinking a small amount can be dangerous: with pancreatitis, the body loses large amounts of fluid, among other things because it increasingly leaks into the tissue.
In order to prevent the resulting consequences, sick people are given a liquid solution with electrolytes via a drip in the hospital. (You can find out what further measures are necessary for pancreatitis in the article “Inflammation of the pancreas – which treatment helps?” .) If the symptoms are so severe that you cannot eat for several days, you will also receive liquid food through a stomach tube. Experts call this “enteral” nutrition.
As soon as the symptoms allow it, there is usually nothing wrong with a largely normal diet. Which foods are then suitable – and which are forbidden?
“Forbidden” foods for pancreatitis
Anyone who has or has had pancreatitis should avoid alcoholic drinks and food containing alcohol. Apart from that, there are no foods that are generally forbidden if you have pancreatitis. Since the disease affects digestion , it makes sense to relieve the gastrointestinal tract until the symptoms subside. This applies both to acute pancreatitis and during an episode of chronic pancreatitis.
Those affected should initially avoid food that is difficult to digest. For example, the following are considered to be poorly tolerated:
- Legumes (e.g. beans, peas, lentils)
- Leek, garlic, chives, wild garlic and horseradish
- hot spices (such as chili, pepper and paprika)
- Garlic, chives, wild garlic and horseradish
- incompletely ripened fruit
- high-acid fruits (e.g. citrus fruits, kiwi and pineapple)
- Stone fruit (such as plums)
- Foods with hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats such as certain margarines
- fried, grilled or spicy foods
- roasted and high-fat potato products such as fries, fried potatoes, hash browns, croquettes or pancakes
- minced meat
- processed meat and sausage products (e.g. liver sausage, bockwurst, bratwurst, salami)
- Carbonated drinks
- ice cold or hot drinks
Low-fat foods with a high proportion of carbohydrates are particularly recommended at the beginning. They provide the body with energy without overtaxing the digestive organs.
Alternatives to “forbidden” foods
In order to slowly get the digestive organs used to a normal diet after pancreatitis, it is advisable to gradually build up your diet. At the beginning, those affected should eat the following foods in particular:
- Baked goods such as white bread and rusks
- Potatoes, rice, pasta
- Vegetable broth and cooked (non-gassy) vegetables
- low-acid fruit (e.g. pear, apple, berries)
If you tolerate these foods well, you can supplement them with low-fat foods and drinks with a higher protein content, for example:
- Milk and dairy products with a low fat content
- lean meat such as poultry breast and beef or lamb steak
- low-fat fish such as cod, plaice, perch, Alaskan pollock
- soft-boiled eggs
You can then gradually add more fatty foods.
However, it’s not just about choosing the right food: Lavish meals can put a lot of strain on the gastrointestinal tract – so it’s better to eat several small portions throughout the day.
Once the illness has subsided, there are no longer any special dietary restrictions. However, which diet is beneficial in the long term depends on the individual health conditions of those affected.
What to eat if you have chronic pancreatitis?
Unlike acute pancreatitis, which is usually resolved within a week or two, chronic pancreatitis flares up again and again. This gradually causes more and more damage and scarring in the tissue of the gland. As a result, it may no longer produce enough digestive enzymes, meaning the body can no longer break down and digest food as usual. This leads to diarrhea, changes in the stool (“fatty stool”) and later often to a deficiency of various nutrients and weight loss.
The diet for chronic pancreatitis must not only be well tolerated, but should also counteract deficiency symptoms and weight loss. Those affected have a higher need for calories and fat-soluble vitamins (especially E, sometimes also A, D, K) than healthy people. At the same time, they cannot tolerate all foods due to their illness. However, these needs and intolerances can vary greatly from person to person, just like their respective taste preferences.
Eating properly when you have chronic pancreatitis is a fairly complex undertaking. That’s why those affected usually receive professional nutritional advice. In addition, sufferers have to take the enzymes they lack in the form of tablets and sometimes additional nutritional supplements.
Apart from alcohol, there are no strictly forbidden foods for pancreatitis. However, in order not to increase the digestive problems typical of the disease, it is recommended to avoid foods that are difficult to digest or poorly tolerated. What the overall diet should look like for inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis) depends on the form. You can find out more about this in the article “Pancreatitis – which diet is recommended?” .