A pancreatitis diet needs to be as fat free as humanly possible which means a very, LOW fat diet. Unfortunately the body requires some fat content in our foods but you’ll need to learn which fats your damaged pancreas can tolerate and in what quantities. Your pancreatitis diet needs to be tailored to you just like a fine suit of clothes. And …
Many people who suffer from pancreatitis believe what their doctor tells them regarding what should be safe for their pancreatitis diet. They believe the nutritionist, the nurse, the sick people in their favorite support groups, the guy down the street that can’t even spell pancreatitis let alone give competent advice concerning a pancreatitis diet.
That is a HUGE mistake.
Pancreatitis is nothing to play around with or take lightly and neither is your pancreatitis diet.
If you have been diagnosed with chronic pancreatitis and want to prevent recurrent attacks your pancreatitis diet – what you put in your mouth and swallow – is very important because …
Chronic pancreatitis can turn ugly at any time and result in acute pancreatitis. The death rate of acute pancreatitis reaches as high as 30% in severe cases complicated by infected necrosis.
“Mortality rates for hospitalized patients vary from 5% to 10% in most series. In patients with interstitial pancreatitis, mortality is close to zero. Mortality is substantially increased in necrotizing pancreatitis (less than 1% for interstitial pancreatitis, 10% for sterile necrosis, 30% for infected necrosis).” – Acute pancreatitis, Cleveland Clinic
The above informational links should leave you with the knowledge that there is no doubt how serious your condition is or can become and that doing anything to promote recurrence or that may lead to a recurrent acute pancreatitis attack isn’t real wise. It simply isn’t smart to fool around with what I call acute pancreatitis triggers.
Pancreatitis Diet NO-NO’s
Pancreatitis diet no-no’s or acute pancreatitis triggers are anything proven to lead to acute pancreatitis but in this post we are dealing with what goes into your mouth via your pancreatitis diet.
The acute pancreatitis triggers found in a poorly planned pancreatitis diet consist of two things:
Those two triggers are OUT when it comes to a pancreatitis diet.
We have already discussed alcohol and why you should never allow it in your mouth so I am not going to belabor the subject except to say it is never to be allowed in your pancreatitis diet. If you drink your risk of dying a hard, painful death is greatly enhanced.
I’ve found there is risk in eating. Food is NOT your friend when you have recurring acute and/or chronic pancreatitis so it is important to make sure you include in your pancreatitis diet only the foods that can be considered at least somewhat safe. The list is short. Now …
Right upfront I’m going to tell you that what you have read, heard or been told by just about anyone is probably wrong. This includes your doctor, dietician (I don’t care if he or she is a PhD), your mom, Mr.AnswerBag down the street, some YouTube video or the author of some book on how to survive pancreatitis. If the information is written or produced by:
- A doctor
- A dietitian
- Someone who has never had pancreatitis
- Someone who is now dead
- The surviving spouse or relative of a dead pancreatitis victim
- Anyone who has pancreatitis, is still sick and has NOT been pain-free for at least 5-10 years
The information, from any of the above sources, on a diet for acute or chronic pancreatitis and how to heal your pancreas is in all probability WRONG.
Pancreatitis Diet Foods to Avoid
When choosing foods for your pancreatitis diet the following foods should be avoided like the plague. These foods are dangerous.
- Red meat
- Cheese (all kinds)
- Cooking oils (includes olive oil)
- soy sauce (usually contains alcohol even if not listed on the label)
- Regular milk
- Egg yolk
- Nuts (all kinds)
- Peanut butter
- Cool whip (any other fake crap made with oil)
- Salad dressings
- Ice cream
- Potato chips (any kind of greasy chips)
- Processed foods
- Trans fats (palm oil, cottonseed oil, coconut oil, hydrogenated oils or partially hydrogenated oils)
If it is oily, greasy and/or full of fat it’s out.
Yep, that means pie crusts made with lard (pig fat) are out. Shrimp Scampi, lobster dripping in butter are out. The lobster and shrimp are fine it’s the butter, oil, and fat that needs to go.
Rich cream sauces, gravies and the skin of chicken and turkey are all out. Yep, that means no biscuits and gravy, no mashed potatoes and gravy, no hollandaise sauce, no pasta primavera or alfredo.
If it is rich, creamy and or tasty it is most likely off the list of safe pancreatitis diet foods.
Are you beginning to get the picture?
If you are a steak and bacon lover like I was adhering to a pancreatitis diet is not going to be an enjoyable experience for a while. But the good news is, after a while it gets easier. You will become used to going without certain foods and cooking in certain ways in return for feeling like a half-way well human being.
If you enjoy pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and possible pancreatic necrosis, cysts, hemorrhage and death by all means disregard anything I am telling you. Afterall, it is your life.
What Are Safe Foods For A Pancreatitis Diet?
When you think about solid food for your pancreatitis diet when you are NOT yet healed, think VEGAN until you no longer have pain. In fact I suggest a modified VEGAN diet (no meat, no dairy, no oil or fat) for 6 months or until you are healed enough to where you have ZERO symptoms. Once you no longer have symptoms (pain, nausea) you can begin to add in safe protein sources such as poultry and white meat fish.
Safe foods for a pancreatitis diet are few but include the following:
- Fish (white meat fish such as cod, halibut, bass, crappie, pollack, orange roughy, talapia, catfish)
- Seafood (lobster, shrimp, crab, scallops, clams etc)
- Poultry (skinless chicken, turkey, grouse, pheasant, quail)
- Egg whites (4 grams of protein per egg white, ZERO fat)
- Legumes (beans, lentils, peas)
- Vegetables (all kinds – leafy greens, tubers and cruciferous)
- Fruits (all kinds EXCEPT avocado and coconut)
- Whole grains (wheat, barley, oats, rice etc)
- Spices (especially good are cayenne, garlic, turmeric, black pepper, ginger because all are anti-inflammatory)
If you are in pain (you haven’t healed) the above meat protein sources may also contain too much fat so tread carefully. When choosing from the above safe foods for your pancreatitis diet try to go organic to avoid GMO’s, chemical pesticides and other unwanted additives. You can buy organically raised poultry and wild fish. Both are harder to find and more expensive but in my opinion worth it.
More Pancreatitis Diet Tips
As you can see the list of potentially safe foods for your pancreatitis diet is short. It took me quite sometime to figure it all out. It’s a complete diet change for most people and isn’t easy but if you want to heal and stay healed you’ll do what is necessary. Again …
Think MOSTLY vegan.
The body needs at least 40 grams of protein per day and when you are sick that is difficult. You are going to lose weight until you heal. You will also most likely lose some muscle. Hopefully once you have been on a well planned pancreatitis diet for a time, have healed and are able to eat 3 meals a day again without pain, nausea and vomiting you’ll regain your weight. Here are more pancreatitis diet tips:
1- READ LABELS. Watch out for things like turkey sausage (any kind) because they use pork intestines for casing. I made myself very ill for three weeks eating turkey sausage cuz I didn’t see the pork casings on the label.
2 – Don’t fall for 99% fat-free bacon and bean soup, ham with split pea, or anything else that contains beef, pork, lamb or duck in any way shape or form and that goes for lunch meat – anything! Read labels. If it contains forbidden meat pass it by.
3 – Don’t Whine! Instead be glad you are alive. I personally can no longer eat wheat, barley and rye products or any type of food that contains them due to Celiac Disease. So if you think your pancreatitis diet is going to be difficult – try mine. Due to my situation my pancreatitis diet list of safe foods is most likely at least 100% smaller than yours. At least you can have pasta and good wheat bread while I have to eat them only in my dreams.
4 – Be sure to cook everything WITHOUT using fats or oils.
5 – Here’s a tool I use online to determine what foods have the most nutrient density and how much fat. Use it. If you read about broccoli you will see it is an excellent choice for a pancreatitis diet. It is loaded with vitamins, minerals, fiber, cancer fighting phytochemicals and has almost 7 grams of vegetable protein in a large stalk and only 1 gram of non-saturated fat.
A Pancreatitis Diet Does NOT Include Fast Food
No you can’t eat Kentucky Fried Chicken, burgers at Carl Jr’s, french fries from McDonald’s, burritos or tacos, or oriental foods made with soy sauce (contains alcohol). If you eat red meat, pork, lamb, duck, potato chips, foods containing alcohol and other high fat foods I’ve told you are dangerous – you deserve to be sick. In fact …
Eating out is dangerous, even at 5 star restaurants because short order fry cooks and even top chefs are probably not concerned with how your food is prepared, except that it looks good and tastes good. For example …
You order poached eggs on toast, no butter, and hash browns cooked without oil. IF you forget to have your hash browns cooked in a clean pan, not on the grill, you may become ill because the hash browns were cooked on a grill that had residual bacon grease or beef fat from the breakfast done before yours. A few hours or a day later while you are puking in the toilet and suffering pain you may wonder why.
Here’s a Fat Lesson
Keep in mind fat is NOT just fat when working out your pancreatitis diet. There are several different kinds of fat.
1- Saturated fat comes from meat sources (meat, broth, soup) and dairy (milk, butter, eggs). It is totally different from fats found in vegetables and fruit. Meat and dairy fat, saturated fat, is the most detrimental to the pancreas when one has chronic pancreatitis and that is why they don’t work in a pancreatitis diet.
2 – Monounsaturated fat is found in olive oil, nuts and cooking oil. Yes nuts are extremely good for health but maybe not yours, especially in any amount over what could be considered extremely small. IF you are NOT healed avoid these fats.
3 – Polyunsaturated fat is plant-based fat. It seems to work fine as long as you are not in or just coming out of an acute attack. Nothing by mouth but water while in an acute pancreatitis attack and nothing for about 72 after it resolves. Then juice, only juice and water. Vegetable or fruit juice, until you feel like you are starving.
Post Acute Pancreatitis Diet
If you are just coming off an acute attack and you have had no pain or nausea for at least 72 hours and you are hungry try some organic vegetable juice. If you tolerate vegetable juice for 72 hours with NO symptoms then try veggies or some type of whole grain like brown rice or a combination of both in a small amount to see how it works out. This would NOT be the time to eat a triple-decker turkey sandwich!
How much daily fat should be in a pancreatitis diet?
Great question, glad I asked aren’t you? This is going to be a wishy-washy answer because you may be able to tolerate less than me or more than me depending on your amount of damage. After years on MY pancreatitis diet and the supplements I became able to eat almost constantly without any ill effects as long as I did not eat anything that was not on the list.
Heck, I felt grrrrreeeaat again! Then …
I screwed up.
I felt so good I said to myself: “Self, why are you still swallowing all these dang supplements? You are well, healed. Life is great!”
So I quit the supplements.
The bad decision to stop taking my pancreatitis supplements took awhile to show up, about one maybe two years and one food choice screw up.
I think it was 2006 when I screwed up and ate smoked turkey sausage without reading the label. It is an experience I really don’t care to remember well enough to correctly date it. In fact …
I thought I might die.
It was one hell of an acute pancreatitis attack. It lasted for over 10 days. Recovery took another 2 – 3 weeks. The horrible pain would come on fast, I’d swallow 800 mgs of Ibuprofen and the pain would go. Next day, for no reason, it would be back with a vengence and …
I hadn’t eaten a thing.
Nothing by mouth but water.
I’d take my nausea meds and slam 8oo mgs of ibuprofen. The pain would recede in an hour and I’d just feel like I was gonna die but without the pain. I mean I felt rotten. Then it returned (11 episodes of acute pain all told) so I tried aspirin. That is when I found 1300 mgs of aspirin worked almost as well as 800 mgs of ibuprofen.
One time during the siege I had to take 2600 mgs of aspirin in one day (2 horrible episodes of acute pain that day). I would NOT suggest taking 2600mgs of aspirin in a day. It worked but I thought maybe I’d taken to much. All I could taste was aspirin, and I felt weird but that ended the acute pain attacks. However by this time, about 12 days into one of the worst times of my life …
I again had a lump in my gut that was very tender but after about 12 days of sometimes excruciating pain, I started to get better. Frankly I was close to giving in and going to the hospital so I am really glad that shit ceased. I still felt like death warmed over but I dragged my ass out of bed, got dressed and …
I went to the health store and bought more grape seed extract, curcumin and vitamin C. I’d have done that sooner but I was too sick to drive. Soon I was feeling much better but that last acute pancreatitis attack did more damage and now I can’t eat some things I could before the episode.
It’s been what probably 6 years since that acute pancreatitis attack and most times I feel pretty decent but it isn’t as good as it was before. I sure the hell wish I had kept taking my supplements and had read that label. But …
I also started drinking grapefruit juice again since I found (from researching) that it may have initially been what stopped my acute attacks in 1984 – 1985. The real healing didn’t begin until I started taking the supplements. That is when my abdomen healed the first time and the supplements have healed it again. Anyway …
I got off track, didn’t I?
How much fat daily in a pancreatitis diet was the question before I got off on a tangent.
15 grams of fat in 3 meals (5 per meal) is optimum with up to 25 grams total daily maximum. In other words you are going to set your daily fat consumption target below 1/2 the average American’s fat consumption in only one meal. In fact your target goal of 15 – 20 grams of fat per day, including snacks, will be less than 1/2 of the LOW end of fat gram consumption recommended by the Mayo Clinic for an average human which is 44 grams.
One stalk of broccoli and a skinless chicken breast (broiled) will provide tons of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, about 58 grams of protein and do it all with only 7 grams of fat. Eat the same meal with only 1/2 a chicken breast and you drop the fat count to 4 grams and still have a meal boasting 33 grams of protein. If you choose wisely you can eat nutrient dense, high protein, low-fat meals 3 times per day and stay around 15 – 20 grams of fat each day, including HEALTHY snacks and that IS what IS necessary. So …
Here’s the pancreatitis diet summary:
No bad, high fat content foods (red meat, pork, lamb, duck, mayo, butter, avocado, coconut, oils, etc). Keep fat content of each meal at 5 grams or less and have most of that fat come from plant-based foods. No alcohol.
Charlotte Gerson on Cancer and Disease
Eat right, be cancer free!
Each of us who have suffered long-term with pancreatitis are, unfortunately, more prone to cancer of the pancreas. Even though the above video is geared towards cancer 89-year-old Charlotte Gerson, Max Gerson’s (who founded the Gerson Institute in 1977) daughter, has a lot to say. All of it good and all of it can be applied to pancreatitis and a diet for pancreatitis.
This video contains a fascinating 48-minutes of great information and perspective from someone who has dedicated her life to helping others overcome serious illness. Gain valuable knowledge by watching this video. It is 48 minutes of some of the best information you will hear.
Now I have said this before but let me say it again. A modified, highly anti-inflammatory, vegan diet which means no oil used for anything, no oily or high fat content foods like nuts and avocado should help you receive measurable relief but as you can see it wasn’t just the diet that helped me it was also the pancreatitis supplements because it wasn’t long after stopping the supplements that I made ONE mistake and had one of the worst acute pancreatitis attacks I can remember. So for me it takes BOTH diet and supplements in order to avoid being very ill.
I wish you wellness!