Using the Paleo Diet to Support Recovery from Pancreatitis 1

If you have pancreatitis, overeating is probably not your problem. That sharp, radiating pain in your upper abdomen, the oily, smelly stools when you eat fatty foods, and the combination of sweating, rapid pulse, headache, muscle ache, and general indigestion are not conducive to overindulgence in food. But if you need a simple way to choose the foods that minimize pancreatitis symptoms, the paleo diet is a good place to start.

Many people who have pancreatitis simply can't tolerate starches. The simple carbohydrates in rice, potatoes, bread, cereals, and even whole grains don't get digested because the pancreas can't release enough of the digestive enzyme amylase. Chewing your food thoroughly helps, since chewing also releases the enzyme, but even the best eating habits aren't enough if you major on whole grains and other starchy foods. The starch accumulates in your small intestine where it ferments, and the production of gas causes nearly constant pain and stomach upset.

If you have pancreatitis, you almost certainly don't have a problem just with gluten and high-carb foods, but they are usually the biggest problem in your daily diet. Paleo diets remove this problem. Most people who have pancreatitis also have a problem with the lactose sugar in dairy products. Using lactase-added dairy products doesn't usually fix the problem, because the lactose also ferments in the small bowel.

And almost all people who have pancreatitis have a problem with fat. It's simply not possible to eat fried foods, butter, or cream without paying a price later. Fatty meats of all kinds are a bad idea, too.

A paleo diet, with cooked foods, reduces the severity of symptoms. But since many of the most important nutrients are dissolved in fat, and can only be absorbed into the bloodstream if they are consumed with fat, it's necessary to take some nutrients in capsule form. These include:

  • Fish oil, one or two capsules a day, to provide omega-3 essential fatty acids.
  • Flaxseed oil, one or two capsules a day, to provide omega-6 essential fatty acids.
  • Vitamin E, at least 100 IU a day, preferably a product that contains gamma-tocopherol, gamma-tocotrienol, and alpha-tocopherol from natural sources.
  • Vitamin K1, at least 5 mg a week, unless you are on the blood thinner Coumadin (warfarin), in which case you should speak with your doctor.
  • Vitamin K2, at least 1 mg a day, for bone and arterial health. This vitamin is abundant in foods that most people who have pancreatitis can't eat, like butter and well-aged cheeses.
  • Vision antioxidants, such as lutein and zeaxanthin, at least once a week, since they have to be consumed with some fat or in capsule form.

The paleo diet can make an immediate difference in symptoms. Nutritional supplements, which are only needed to prevent nutritional deficiencies, keep you healthy. You may never really know how important they are to your health until you develop a deficiency. It isn't necessary to take megadoses, but it is necessary to get all the nutrients you need for health on a regular basis to avoid new deficiency-related health issues.

About Andy Williams

Andy Williams has a Ph.D. in biology and a strong interest in health and nutrition. The Paleo Gut web site was created to explore the health benefits of the Paleo diet and see how it is changing lives. Also, get our free daily Paleo Gut newspaper delivered to your inbox. Please feel free to contact me and let me know about your Paleo experiences or favorite recipes.

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One thought on “Using the Paleo Diet to Support Recovery from Pancreatitis

  • abigail

    Dear sir, We are parents of 4.5 year old boy diagnosed 2.5 years ago as suffering from hereditary pancreatitis. He is on strict low fat diet (less then 25 gram fat a day). we are concerned about his diet. My husband practices paleo diet we are considerig this for our child and don’t understand from your post how to do this as paleo consists of fat. We would be very greatful if you could write us some more about paleo diet for pancreatitis and how exactly to do it. Thank you very much in advance. Abigial