The pancreas is an organ that creates enzymes necessary to properly digest starch, protein, and fat. In addition, cells responsible for creating insulin are also found in the pancreas. Pancreatitis is a condition in which the pancreas is inflamed. When pancreatitis is prolonged, pancreatic function declines, leading to malabsorption of nutrients and, possibly, mild diabetes.
Pancreatitis occurs in three forms: acute (short-term) pancreatitis, recurrent acute pancreatitis, and chronic pancreatitis.
Acute pancreatitis is a painful condition, but with treatment it ordinarily resolves in 3 to 7 days. Causes include
extremely high blood levels of triglycerides
, direct trauma to the pancreas, abdominal surgery and procedures, kidney failure, infection, and certain medications.
The treatment of acute pancreatitis consists primarily of resting the pancreas by discontinuing all eating and drinking. Intravenous fluids are used to maintain fluid balance.
Recurrent acute pancreatitis involves multiple bouts of acute pancreatitis, sometimes in the context of a more mild, chronic condition. Each bout is treated as described above.
Chronic pancreatitis is a more gradual process that leads to partial or complete pancreatic failure. Its most common cause is alcohol abuse, although the condition may also occur for other reasons, or for no known reason at all. Chronic pancreatitis causes many symptoms, including most prominently abdominal pain, weight loss, diarrhea because of undigested fat, and mild diabetes. Treatment primarily involves use of digestive enzymes and, if necessary, insulin, as well as dietary changes and pain medication. If
contributed to chronic pancreatitis, it’s important to stop drinking.
are the mainstay of treatment for chronic pancreatitis, and all of these can be considered natural products. The digestive enzymes prescribed by physicians for pancreatitis are not necessarily more powerful than their dietary supplement equivalent, and some experimentation with different products might lead to the best results. Excessive consumption of digestive enzymes can cause harm, however, and for this reason doctor’s supervision is strongly recommended.
Other Proposed Natural Treatments
Chronic pancreatitis leads to malabsorption of fat, which can in turn lead to deficiencies of fat-soluble vitamins, such as
In addition, chronic pancreatitis might impair absorption of
and possibly other nutrients as well.
While it is not clear that these deficiencies are severe enough to cause harm, it makes sense for people with pancreatitis to consider taking a multivitamin/mineral supplement as nutritional insurance.
Antioxidants are substances that help the body neutralize free radicals. Free radicals are dangerous, naturally occurring substances that are thought to play a role in pancreatitis, as well as many other conditions. A small
double-blind, placebo-controlled trial
of people with pancreatitis (chronic as well as recurring acute), examined the effectiveness of an antioxidant supplement providing 9,000 International Units (IU) beta-carotene, 540 milligrams (mg) vitamin C, 270 IU vitamin E, 600 micrograms (mcg) selenium, and 2,000 mg methionine daily.
The results showed improvement both in symptoms and laboratory signs of disease severity.
Similar results were found in a randomized trial among 127 men with chronic pancreatitis; 6 months of antioxidant treatment led to significant reduction in pain compared to placebo.
Other natural supplements with antioxidant properties sometimes recommended for chronic pancreatitis include grapeseed extract (a source of
In a detailed review of 4 studies, researchers concluded that the use probiotics did not benefit patients with severe acute pancreatitis.
Furthermore, according to one study, the use of
led to an increased risk of mortality in patients with severe acute pancreatitis, and should, therefore, be avoided.
Twersky Y, Bank S. Nutritional deficiencies in chronic pancreatitis.
Gastroenterol Clin North Am
Marotta F, Labadarios D, Frazer L, et al. Fat-soluble vitamin concentration in chronic alcohol-induced pancreatitis. Relationship with steatorrhea.
Dig Dis Sci
Uden S, Bilton D, Nathan L, et al. Antioxidant therapy for recurrent pancreatitis: placebo-controlled trial.
Aliment Pharmacol Ther
Besselink MG, van Santvoort HC, Buskens E, et al. Probiotic prophylaxis in predicted severe acute pancreatitis: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.
2008 Feb 13.
Sun S, Yang K, He X, et al. Probiotics in patients with severe acute pancreatitis: a meta-analysis.
Langenbecks Arch Surg.
2008 Jul 17.
Bhardwaj P, Garg PK, Maulik SK, et al. A randomized controlled trial of antioxidant supplementation for pain relief in patients with chronic pancreatitis.
2008 Sep 25.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care
provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a
substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the
advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to
starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a