Acute Pancreatitis: What Happens During an Acute Pancreatitis Attack?

By | April 28, 2013
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acute pancreatitis

Let’s get down to brass tacks and talk pancreas damage from acute pancreatitis.

In order to completely understand how serious any acute pancreatitis attack actually is one must understand what happens during an acute pancreatitis attack. Now …

I am not going to go all “medical” on you and get into all the boring details. You really only need to understand ONE thing about acute pancreatitis and that is this:

What Happens To Your Pancreas

What happens to your pancreas during an acute pancreatitis attack? What happens to your pancreas during an acute attack of pancreatitis is this:

  1. Your pancreas becomes inflamed due to alcohol consumption, gall stone obstruction, high blood fats, abdominal trauma or a myriad of other reasons.
  2. The inflammation activates your pancreatic enzymes. Pancreatic enzymes are only supposed to activate when they reach your small intestine but inflammation can and does trigger early activation while the enzymes are still inside your pancreas.
  3. The enzymes eat your pancreas. Early activation from inflammation turns your pancreatic enzymes into pancreas killers. Instead of being released and activating in the small intestine and breaking down your food they are activated while still inside your pancreas and finding no food to digest they begin eating your pancreas. This process is called  lysis (dissolving) of pancreatic cells.

Not a pretty picture.

Acute pancreatitis hurts like hell, makes you sicker than you’ve most likely ever been before and may cause you to believe you just might be on your way out. People do die from acute pancreatitis with complications with mortality rates as high as 30%.

Acute Pancreatitis Pain and Damage Are Caused By Your Digestive Enzymes


Enzymes are biological molecules that catalyze or increase the rates of chemical reactions and are necessary for almost all forms of life to exist, from bacteria to humans. There are many kinds of enzymes but we are talking human digestive enzymes and …

To extremely over simplify the molecular structure of pancreatic enzymes and how they work, picture them as an ACID. Pancreatic enzymes are NOT acid but it’s an analogy to help you get the picture. So …

If you were to spill sulfuric or hydrochloric acid on your hand how long would it take before you were aware of pain and visible damage?

Not long!

Maybe seconds!

So, how long do you think it takes for activated pancreatic enzymes to begin causing damage to your pancreas?

Again NOT LONG! Yet …

Doctors seem to just “diddybop” around like it’s no big deal and they have all the time in the world while your pancreas is being inhaled by voracious enzymes. Anyway …

So while you are waiting for Dr. Brain Fart, who normally can’t diagnose strep throat with any degree of certainty without doing a throat culture, to discover the problem you are having which turns out to be acute pancreatitis what do you think is happening to your pancreas?

Did you say: “Geewhiz dude it is being damaged?”

Correctomundo keemosabi!

Your pancreas is sustaining more damage every minute that Dr. Brain Fart searches for some off-the-wall, imbecile diagnosis when all symptoms point to acute pancreatitis. I mean if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, smells like a duck it just might be a duck but  hey …

Let’s Visit The ER and Fill Out Forms

filling out ER admission or info forms when sick with acute pancreatitisYour first time at the ER may look something like this:

You come in sicker than a dog and the brilliant reception desk person gives you a silly form to fill out, then you wait, in pain, maybe puking. Then …

You are shuffled into some rank n file nurse’s office who wants to play 20 questions while you are doubled over in pain and puking. Finally when he or she thinks you need to be admitted to the ER you get to wait in a room for Dr. BrainFart.

When Dr. BrainFart comes in smiling (he’s tickled cuz the cute nurse in room 112 just smiled at him and said he was “lookin’ fine today”) he introduces himself and instead of looking at your sheet (the one you filled out) he instead feels the  need to check out your life history by asking questions (the answers to which he doesn’t really hear cuz he’s still thinking about NurseHot4Action). Then …

Hey Doc I Just Puked On Your New Shiny Shoes!puking-on-doctor's-shoes - acute pancreatitis

He asks about symptoms (he can’t see you are leaning forward, sweating and panting like a dog because of extreme pain and the fact you just puked on his shoes doesn’t tell him you have nausea and vomiting). Then …

He wipes off his shoes and asks you to lie on the bed (you can’t even sit still cuz of pain but he wants you to lie down which normally makes the pain even worse) and begins to poke and prod asking the intelligent question “does this hurt?” 

When he’s done poking and prodding you immediately scoot back up onto the edge of the bed and lean forward to help ease the pain, which is a losing battle. Then …

More questions from Dr. Brain Fart (he doesn’t pick up on the clue – you aren’t able to keep lying down and instead lean forward to help ease the pain and he completely misses or dismisses the part about the pain stabbing into your back) and he maybe orders a blood draw for a CBC series. Then …

He leaves for a while to check out Nurse Hot4Action, maybe play a quick game of “slap and tickle” and wait for the blood draw results. The blood draw results come back fairly normal with slightly elevated white blood cells and liver enzymes but nothing else and …

Since he doesn’t have the faintest clue as to what’s wrong with you (he partied and slept through med school and paid his brainiac dorm roommate to do his work and take his exams) he never does check your amylase or lipase levels which would most likely indicate acute pancreatitis. But …


Dr. Brain Fart does experience an epiphany!

Ah ha! He gets it! You are a druggie in “withdrawals” looking for a fix!

For one short moment he was considering some pain and nausea medication to help relieve your discomfort (gross understatement) while he consulted with 10 of his colleagues (because he doesn’t have a clue what is wrong with you) but …


You said you weren’t an alcoholic so you must be a drug user! And …

Since it is almost time for him and NurseHot4Action to end their shift he does what?

The intelligent Dr. Brain Fart conjures up a cool story about “gastritis” and the possibility you ate something bad and the moron releases you with directions to come back if the situation doesn’t improve. Now …

What exactly is happening to your pancreas while this moron, Dr. BrainFart, diagnoses you incorrectly and fiddles around with NurseHot4Action?

It is being destroyed by its own pancreatic enzymes!

You go home, in agony, and wait for your pancreas to quit eating itself while Dr. Brain Fart gets laid! And …

Since you are sicker than a dog you instinctively don’t eat and you are extremely lucky and the acute pancreatitis finally resolves on its own but …

The DAMAGE is done!

diagnosing-acute pancreatitis

It may not be seen on a CT scan but any moron would know that a pancreas subjected to being eaten for HOURS by its own enzymes is damaged! And …

What exactly does this mean to you?

It COULD mean that within a short time you will most likely experience another acute pancreatitis attack, sustain more pancreas damage, that will most likely lead to chronic pancreatitis which will likely entail more acute pancreatitis attacks!

Hopefully the second time you experience an acute pancreatitis attack you’ll get someone other than Dr. Brain Fart, someone who didn’t sleep through medical school, for an attending ER physician, and he or she will diagnose you correctly.

I hope for your sake that you do not experience a severe form of acute pancreatitis the second time, that you do get diagnosed in time to hopefully prevent disabling surgeries and damage. Heck, I hope you were diagnosed correctly the first time and the acute pancreatitis was quickly resolved and you are pretty much ok but that isn’t likely the case if you are reading this now.

It took me seven (7) ER visits and 14 doctors to get a proper diagnosis of acute pancreatitis. I heard every “brain fart” diagnosis from gastritis, food poisoning, ulcer, spastic colon to flat-out hypochondria.

13 idiots and one very intelligent, good doctor.

I hope your experience is much better, heck, I hope you never experience pancreatitis EVER! But …

alien not acute pancreatitis

Alien not pancreatitis

Chances are if you are reading this post you have been inducted into the pancreatitis hall of pain and for that I am truly sorry and I sincerely hope you are able to achieve becoming pain-free so that you live a fairly normal life. But …

What I have tried to explain (maybe without success) is that the sooner you address the inflammation and STOP the acute pancreatitis attack, the less damage you will sustain. Unfortunately you will sustain damage no matter what happens. Any acute attack of pancreatitis is going to cause damaged tissue. Hopefully you will not be one of those who are really unlucky.

In summary: When you have an acute pancreatitis attack the most important strategy is to STOP the acute pancreatitis attack as quickly as possible by reducing or stopping the pancreas inflammation because …


acute pancreatitis-Pancreatitis-painAccording to the orthodox medical profession most people who have one mild attack that resolves quickly do not have recurrent attacks or complications. Yet they also mention that the discomfort can range from mild to severe.

I quote: “It may range from mild discomfort to a severe, life-threatening illness. Most people with acute pancreatitis recover completely after getting the right treatment.”[1]

I’ve personally never experienced “mild” discomfort with acute pancreatitis. The pain usually feel like an alien trying to eat through and breakout of your gut.

I would suggest if this is your first visit to my blog that you invest all the time you need to learn how to live with pancreatitis, more importantly, learn to beat pancreatitis and keep from incurring more pancreas damage.

I hope you have a pain-free day!



1 – What Is Pancreatitis (WebMD)

207 thoughts on “Acute Pancreatitis: What Happens During an Acute Pancreatitis Attack?

  1. Jean Parker

    I’m grateful for finding this site! I’ve been suffering for 6 years with severe pain and nausea. Doctors don’t seem to be able to diagnose. My story sounds so similar to yours it made me weep. The first time I had an acute attack I was so ill .. Back pain, nausea, chills, bounding heart rate and headache. I couldn’t eat a thing. I went to ER and they basically told me to wait for an ultrasound.. They looked at me as if I was there drug seeking ..I know because I’m a nurse! I know only too well, how health “professionals” judge. Enzymes were not checked. The only way to control it was not to eat or drink ..even water made the pain worse. Since then I have had only short periods of being pain free. Six years and mostly I’ve waited for tests that show nothing. Normal CT, normal MRCP. My GI specialist would suggest that it’s stress and that I am depressed! Damn rights I am ! So would anyone be if they had this type of pain daily. This is our Canadian health care .. Wait wait and wait. I asked for a second opinion ..he thinks it’s chronic pancreatitis.. I had an EUS which was inconclusive .. Now waiting for a repeat MRCP .. To rule out pancreatic divisum .. If this is inconclusive .. I don’t know what to do next. I will travel to the US..any suggestions? I will try your diet and supplements in the meantime.

    1. The Health Guy Post author

      Hi Jean – It is nothing short of maddening when you are sick and the medical pros do nothing. I have seen this so many times it simply makes me wonder how anyone ever receives proper care. Since you are a nurse you’d think they would pay more attention but sadly it sounds like it wasn’t much help. I hope you persevere towards reaching a diagnosis because as you well know that isn’t just a small technicality. The ONLY suggestion I have is to speak with the doctor who thinks it may be chronic pancreatitis and have him agree to meet you in the ER during your next attack so he can guide the team and ensure the proper blood tests are done at the proper time. A brain that is able to use common sense along with elevated amylase and lipase levels are still the hallmark diagnosis tool of acute/chronic pancreatitis. Especially acute. CT is the gold standard for confirmation (damage, necrosis etc) yet isn’t 100%. Minimal change chronic pancreatitis is becoming more recognized. If you haven’t heard of it google it and ask your doc if he/she is familiar. Ask for his/her thoughts on scoring for minimal change CP to learn if they truly know what it is and how it is currently scored. Just suggestions, thoughts, you may have already thought of doing or have done. Hang in there, good luck 🙂

      1. Sandra Otter

        For 27 months now I have been blaming the useless doctor who nearly cost me my life due to not recognizing all the signs described in your article here and telling me to come back tomorrow if it had not got better. I had never called her to the house before and could not get up from the floor, dripping with sweat curled over and having vomited with diarrhoea too, the pain was excruciating. My husband helped me up from the floor and as I tried to walk through to the other room, but legs began to give under me. She said “For God’s sake Sandra don’t go down again, we have only just got you up!” She decided against giving me morphine. I don’t know how I got through that day and the night, my husband drove me to the surgery the following day. She seemed to realise it was beyond her abilities finally contacted the ferry service to book my vehicle on, when she could have called for a helicopter. My poor husband had to cope with everything spending a night away from home with a dog and a sick wife meant. The surgeon at the hospital when I arrived there (the ferry journey takes an hour and a half), looked very serious and immediately diagnosed Severe Pancreatitis. Two days later I was flown to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, I was not expected to survive. I spent 148 days in ICU, had four drain sites in total plus one to drain from my lungs. Emergency wash outs and one time a procedure to try to discover where the internal bleeding was coming from and sort it.I was advised to say my goodbyes every time , even the nurse was crying. I spent 8 months in hospital, had to learn to walk again because all my muscle had gone. Trying to build muscle while enduring extreme pain , it is the hardest thing I have ever had to do. I have only 5% of my pancreas left. When I left hospital I was using a zimmer frame, all my hair fell out, the awful diarrhoea. I am unable to work, but have an assessment coming up from the government. I was advised by our Citizens advice to ask the doctor for a supporting letter detailing my current health conditions but he (different one this time) declined saying let’s see what they say at the assessment first. I am frightened and feel degraded, the assessors get rewarded for every person they get back into work. With the Post Traumatic Stress I feel, I know I have nothing left to defend myself. Thank you for this site and all your advice xx

        1. The Health Guy Post author

          Hi Sandra – It sounds like you have been to hell and back. I’m guessing that you are still very unwell. I don’t know what to say except thank you for sharing your experience. I will pray for you. I wish I could do more.

        2. Sam

          Wow just wow soo sooo scary!! poor thing. Hope your feeling somewhat ok. What causes all this?……why arn’t doctors onto it pronto??

  2. Therese

    I don’t usually write feedback on sites. Thank you so much for describing my experience so accurately. I was lucky enough that on my first acute episode they actually did have ONE doctor who eventually did treat me for pancreatis. However, on my third hospital visit, despite all evidence to the contrary, I got the full treatment – starting with me being a druggo wanting a fix, to my entire life history suggesting I needed the psyche ward. I felt so angry, degraded and hopeless until I finally just left the hospital after being told to fill out the psyche sheet (they had decided it was all in my head). Your site gives me validation which others cannot understand unless they have been there. I so agree with your description of “doctors” and can only add my own further observations that these psychopaths are 95% ego and 5% asshole.

    1. The Health Guy Post author

      Therese I am saddened that you had to find out the same thing I did. Most doctors suck at diagnosing, especially pancreatitis. They may be book smart or at least intelligent enough to get through pre-med and med school but when they hit the ER or set up their private “practice” they turn into “barber hair.” I hope you have better success in the future.

    2. Laurie

      My most recent adventure landed me in an ambulance, and then the hospital. The ambulance guys couldn’t do enough for me, very kind, put some Fentanyl in my IV. When they triaged me in the ER, they gave me something for pain (which they did not tell me what it was). When I asked Nurse “pissed off because she actually had to do something” when the med would kick in, she scowled at me and said it should have already. I told her that what she gave me didn’t even put a dent in the pain, she told me she had to ask the Dr. Drug seeking, really? Yes I paid for an ambulance ride and 14 days (half of them in a coma), just to get some drugs. Please. I wish there was a simulator for medical people so they could feel how bad it hurts.

      1. The Health Guy Post author

        Geez Laurie that doesn’t sound fun at all. And I totally agree. Medical personell should have a “disease and condition simulator” and I’d like to be in charge. 🙂 Ok, I know it might be rude but I just have to ask because I am extremely curious … You were in a Coma? Please, what was that like? Do you remember anything while in a coma? Could you hear? Were you aware of anything happening around you? If you don’t answer I’ll understand. I am just really nosey. Hopefully this last adventure you mentioned wasn’t recently and you are feeling better.

      2. Geri woodard

        I just went thru the same I went by the ambulance for the first time usually I drive myself or have some one take me and yes the nurse at hospital gave me 1st of morphine it did
        Not touch the pain I told her the only thing that helps is dilatation wrong thing to say I guess cut it took them 3 hrs to finally give me 1 MG but that didn’t touch the pain finally called my doctor he said give her MG of dilatation every z hrs they did not like that this is my 8 th visit in the last year , why do they always think u are a alcoholic or a druggie ? I would rather be dead then go thru what I went thru last time April 5th thru the 13th I was there just had a endoscopy says I have damage to the head of my pancreas and damage to tail but that’s all he said oh yeah and quit smoking how the hell could I try doing that with this going on the only thing I have been eating is pudding and yogurt if I try anything else the stomach blows up and I look like I’m 9 months pregnant and the pain so I am afraid to ear I live in indiana going to try and go to a mayo clinic some where I have been dealing with this for 13 -yes I’m tired and scared and I need answers if you have any advice please

        1. Jennifer ware

          I also live in Indiana. I’m in the Clark co. Part and the doctors are complete Assholes! Always thinking people are seeking drugs. When clearly I look as if I’m about to die or the exorcist!! They gave me Stadol.. Didn’t touch the pain then another worse of it and Nothing. Then gave me Morphine. Still nothing. Finally I had to tell them the only thing that helps is dilaudid. They even write that I specifically asked for this medication and I knew that it worked from the first time I was in the ER with the same exact thing.

    1. The Health Guy Post author

      Ibuprofen. 800 mgs at once. You can buy Ibuprofen over the counter as Ibuprofen, Advil or Motrin. It usually comes in 200 mg tabs so that would be 4 tabs to make 800 mgs. Ibuprofen coupled with 200 – 400 mgs of grape seed, 500 mgs of curcumin and 1000 mgs of vit c is a killer cocktail and works a bit better than just the Ibuprofen BUT the Ibuprofen should nail it in most cases within 60 – 90 minutes. If nausea and vomiting are a problem 25 – 50 mgs of phenergan (promethazine) suppositories will usually stop the nausea and vomiting so that the Ibuprofen stays down. If you don’t have phenergan call your doc and get a script. Compazine (prochlorperazine) suppositories should work as well, maybe better. Once you have it under control – no food. Nothing by mouth but water and grape seed, curcumin and vitc c for 3 – 4 days or until symptoms completely resolve. Then vegetable juice. Preferably organic home made vegetable juice but if you do not have a juicer low sodium V8 works. If you have no symptoms after 2 – 3 days on juice you could try some steamed veggies and rice. NO FAT or OIL (butter, margarine etc). Use salt and pepper for flavor. Find my posts on diet and how to do a food diary. Keep taking the grape seed, curcumin and vit C. You’ll have to experiment with doses of grape seed, curcumin and C. Most people need a lot to get good results. Once healed up (can take 6 months to a year) you can taper off to smaller doses. Good luck.

      1. Michael grose

        My wife has it Bad … They want to remove the tail part of her pancreas. Is that a good idea? What is life like after something like that?

        1. The Health Guy Post author

          Hi Michael – I apologize I am just now getting back to you and I am sorry to hear your wife is having such a rough time. Michael I can’t answer your question intelligently. I haven’t had surgery and hope I never have to have it. There is a forum on this site (several different forums) and even though it is very new you might get an answer from someone who stalks my site. You might also check with others who are members of support groups. Facebook has several and there are others online. Just google pancreatitis + support group and see what pops up. From what I am reading (scholar type articles) they do not do as much surgery now as they used to so if they are suggesting surgery there must be a reason. Have a heart-to-heart with the surgeon and ask him/her all the questions you need to ask. The only suggestion I have is to ask why, what, when, etc and make sure they are skilled in regards to pancreas surgery.

      2. Colette Warren

        Please note that Ibuprofen taken as a regular ” pain reliever ” is very damaging to your stomach and in some instances can worsen the Pancreatic Attack. I’ve gone through this 10 years ago and it did take the “newbie” doc 18 hours to figure out the blood and bile spewing from my mouth was a Pancreatic Attack. Spent 7 days in ICU. Thier brilliant suggestion “quit the alcohol” Are you kidding me? Maybe the diagnosis of End Stage Liver Failure should have clued them in. Contracting Hep B and C from By-pass surgery in the early nineties sucks. Tonight I feel all the symptoms coming on. I googled and came across this site. Thought I would chime in a few pearls of wisdom before calling the Ambulance!

        1. The Health Guy Post author

          Hi Colette – I have already told people what I do (800 – 1,000 mg in one dose only for acute pancreatitis) and that Ibuprofen is not safe for long-term use (heart attack, high blood pressure, bleeding risk) and should only be taken when absolutely needed to resolve initial inflammation. I can find no documented evidence of Ibuprofen making pancreatitis worse and only one case of acute pancreatitis probably caused by Ibuprofen and that was a result of intentional over dose, I quote: “He reported that five hours prior to the onset of symptoms, he had ingested seven tablets of ibuprofen 400 mg (equivalent to a 51.4 mg/kg bolus) in an attempt at deliberate self harm.” Read the whole story here. If one has end stage liver failure almost anything could be detrimental.

      3. Jennifer

        Hi there, I. So glad I came a crossed your posts! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve searched for other people who have experienced the same thing as me. I am litterly scared to leave my house or be left alone feeling this may happen for the 3rd time. Idk what to do. The only thing they have said is a low fat diet. He feels my bulimia may be causing it, but I’ve had bulimia for 9 years and NEVER had this. And now in 3 months I’ve had 2 attacks.

        1. The Health Guy Post author

          Jennifer I have never heard of bulimia causing acute pancreatitis so I did some preliminary investigation and found some interesting articles by scholars. Here is one such article that describes the problem as malnutrition in the case of a 26 year old female. It is NOT the only article so there is evidence that suggests bulimia, especially long-term bulimia causing starvation does indeed look like a possible cause. You may want to address that issue and begin eating more chow. Good quality low fat chow. Not junk food.

          Here is a short version of the original article published by the NIH.

          Here is another where a 19 year old female died due to acute pancreatitis caused by bulimia.

          Jennifer I am NOT trying to scare you but you may want to seriously consider changing your eating habits.

          1. Jennifer

            Thanks? this really helps out a lot. I suspected that the bulimia was it culprit in this

  3. Jody

    I found your site a couple of days ago. I feel like an idiot because when my acute pancreatitis attack started I kept telling myself that I had indigestion and that it would go away. Finally, I hate to admit the truth, I went to the ER after 30 hours. 30 hours of my pancreas being eaten by my own digestive enzymes! This was 6 weeks ago. Fortunately, I WAS diagnosed with acute pancreatitis that night. But the next day I was sent home with all of these prescriptions and told to eat only a fluid diet for several days and then continue with low fat. Here’s the kicker though. The doctors at the hospital deduced from my history that the acute inflammation was CAUSED by heavy ibuprofen use. My PCP disagreed, but didn’t really give me much to go on in terms of how to live my life post-pancreatitis attack. What really blew me away was how exhausted I was. Still, I can be doing fine for a few hours and then I feel like I am going to drop. I have to completely change my life and I really didn’t know where to begin. I do like to eat. Who doesn’t? I have been considering getting a juicer and starting with that. I wasn’t sure what vegetables would be the best to fight inflammation. Thank you for the information you have supplied. I am going to buy one this week.

    1. The Health Guy Post author

      Hi Jody – sorry you aren’t well. Just for giggles and grins I went to and used the key words “ibuprofen causing pancreatitis” and got nothing. “ibuprofen caused pancreatitis” revealed one finding that did NOT mention Ibuprofen as a cause of pancreatitis. I believe, since the article abstract was actually about something totally different but happened to mention both acute pancreatitis and ibuprofen in a totally different context than that of causation of pancreatitis, the probability of Ibuprofen being the cause of your pancreatitis is somewhat low, even non-existent, BUT … it could have been Aliens? Just kidding 🙂 Then again you said you have a history of heavy ibuprofen use. What exactly is heavy? I mean 1500 – 3200 mgs per day is used by some people with arthritis – THAT kind of long-term daily usage of any powerful drug could harm organs. I suspect that even a daily consumption of 200 mgs 3 – 4 times per day, long-term would not be something i’d want to do. I’d be more worried about the increased risk of heart attack, kidney damage and liver damage with long-term, high dose usage. Anyway … 800 mgs of of ibuprofen knocked out MOST of my acute pancreatitis attacks in 60 – 90 minutes. A few tooks multiple doses to end the sieges. BUT I have never taken tons of ibuprofen long-term.

      Pancreatitis does create changes. Lifestyle changes (food, drink, activities, etc). You may be washed-out for a time. You may not have as much stamina. If everything goes well and you take care of yourself properly you should regain your old self but your diet may not be what you’d like. Good luck 🙂

      1. Jody

        Thanks for researching the ibuprofen connection. I think it’s a reach. However, it would be nice to know what actually caused the attack. My ibuprofen usage varied over time from nothing for several days, to 800 mg/day, to an occasional period of 1600-2400 mg/day when I had a lot of pain. That was the highest amount I used and it didn’t last a long time.
        The good news is that I have been following your advice. I got the white unsweetend grapefruit juice, the curcumin and the grape seed extract. I have been juicing the recipe that you wrote about that is high in anti-inflammmatory ingredients. I am feeling better, but I certainly was not before I found your site. I am so thankful that you are doing this because the medical community has their head in the sand about this as far asI can tell.
        What continues to surprise me is when I get so exhausted so suddenly after exerting what I consider to be a norman amount of energy. Is all of that energy going to the healing process? Or, is it the illness process?

        1. The Health Guy Post author

          Hey Jody! Great news! You are feeling better! I LIKE that kind of news. 🙂 Acute pancreatitis takes a lot out of a person, even a mild attack so it will be a while until you don’t have that exhausted feeling. Just keep doing what you are doing until you feel really hungry and well enough to eat some solid food. Then go slow with vegan foods that contain no fat. Egg whites (scrambled without oil or butter or margarine), beans and lentils will give you needed protein. You can also hard boil eggs and scoop out the yolk then just eat the whites. Veggies, rice, bulgar (wheat kernals) and oats. Another food that is full of protein and very low in fat is shrimp. One cup of canned shrimp provides 26 grams of protein with only about 2 grams of fat. I like to mix shrimp and egg whites (egg whites have zero fat and no cholesterol) for a power packed breakfast. You can scramble them together with some onion and have a nice low fat breakfast packed with protein, omega 3’s, some B12 and more. Or you can make an egg white and shrimp omlette. Watch the fat content. Each meal should have no more than 5 grams of fat content with a total fat intake of 25 grams or less per day including any snacks.

          1. Jody

            Keep sending out the recipes! I am so grateful to have real guidance during this process of completely changing what I eat. After I started juicing and eating light salads I was feeling pretty good. The last couple of days were not so great and I am sure that I know why so no need to dwell. I have been wanting to ask you if you know how the unsweetend grapefruit juice works? It seems to work. Last night I went to bed not feeling well. I finally got up and drank about 3 oz. of juice and my gut stopped hurting. Why is that?
            I am so glad to know that shrimp is okay. I had been wondering about that lately. What do you think of almond milk? I looked at the nutrition info on the side of a container at the store. It is 2.5 g of fat/cup. Also, do you know anything about MCT oil? Supposedly, as a medium chain triglyceride, it bypasses the pancreas.

          2. The Health Guy Post author

            Hi Jody – I am not able to explain why white unsweetened grapefruit juice works because I am really not sure. I think it’s the polyphenol that is specific to grapefruit called naringenin. All I know is that according to that research (the link I gave you) it protects the pancreas in rats and seems to do the same in humans.

            Almond milk may or may not work. I haven’t used it so I don’t know. How does it affect you? Have you tried it?

            I checked out MCT oil at one time because someone asked me about it and to be honest I can’t remember what I read lol. So no, I don’t know a dang thing about it. It didn’t stick in my brain.

  4. Tereina

    Hi, I’ve been searching for 7 years now! I had an episode back then, and always been with the pain on my side, sometimes stronger sometimes weaker. I know when you explain about doctors from A&E( they are the same in Spain, Barcelona) they didn’t find nothing, they thought I was a druggie..Now I’m in England, I have been having loads of problems in the past few months, getting worst every day, to the point that I think I’m celliac as well

    1. The Health Guy Post author

      Hi Tereina 🙂 – 7 years is a long time to be sick without a diagnosis? However I know what that is like. Hopefully you have something that can be easily managed or cured instead of pancreatitis or celiac disease or both. I hope you find out what the problem is so it can be addressed. Good luck.

      1. Tereina

        Hi Health Guy, well I got some results back. They have found the walls of my stomack enlarged, a fatty liver(I don’t drink), High cholesterol and a kidney stone on left one. They keep not checking the pancreas! I have to say that my mum died of cirrhosis (not drinker)..what do you think?

        1. The Health Guy Post author

          Hi Tereina – I don’t think. I try to avoid thinking cuz it is hard on my one active brain cell. 🙂 I take it they must have done a CT scan? They found some stuff didn’t they? Kidney stone, fatty liver and an enlarged stomach. I’d be concerned with the stomach and liver and be asking the doctor “what’s next?” and “Do you know why and or what is causing these two problems?” And “Are they related in some way?” And “Is either a precursor of some other condition that may be or become life threatening?” And “By the way what about the kidney stone?”

  5. Tereina

    I would like to know what tests shall I ask the doctor, you mentioned a special blood test? Vitamins? I’m desperate, I have a 3 year old, and I feel useless, I need to go to the point. Thanks

    1. The Health Guy Post author

      If you are asking about blood work for celiac disease there are many screening blood tests for celiac disease but the most sensitive and commonly used, whether symptoms are present or not, is the tTG-IgA test. Tissue Transglutaminase Antibodies (tTG-IgA) – The tTG-IgA test will be positive in about 98% of patients with celiac disease who are on a normal gluten-containing diet.

  6. Marty Smith

    Acute pancreatitis 10 yrs ago. Gallstones in common bile duct. It passed and six weeks later took gallbladder. Has been great 10 years but certain foods from time to time do quickly upset stomach. 4 months ago, began getting sick feeling weekly (memories similar to 10 years ago) finally hit ER and stayed 4 days. Lipase and other levels elevated but not high. CT scan shows blood clot in Portal Vein. Obviously, they can’t determine how long it’s been there. Treated me for Portal Vein Thrombosis- blood thinners for 90 days and low fat diet. New CT scan shows blood clot still in place but pancreas totally healed. Now feeling the nausea again when regular diet was introduced……Your Thoughts? (My Gastro did say about pancreatitis= once a member ALWAYS a member)

    1. The Health Guy Post author

      Hi Marty – Wow I’ve never heard of a portal vein thrombosis before. Sounds interesting, not fun but very interesting. Your GI seems to know the truth (once = always) about most pancreatitis patients. I’d suggest two things. One, go back on the low fat diet and be very careful of what you eat. Two, ask your GI if there is any reason you shouldn’t take grape seed extract, curcumin and vit C (that cocktail in appropriate amounts works something close to a miracle) and follow what your doc says about treating that thrombosis. There must be some non surgical way to dissolve it in time. It can’t be doing any good for your pancreas. You may find this to be a good read. If it were me I’d be doing a bunch of research on how to dissolve that clot. Good luck to you. I hope you and your doc are able to resolve your blood clot issue.

  7. Yves brin

    Hey there healh guy,god i thougth i was alone with that probem,the 9th novembre of this year i am celebrating my 25 year as a A-A member.The reason i qwitted drinking was i was having accute pancraitis pain that the booze did not pushed away anymore.But during my non drinking days i experience pain on occasion after 10 years of fat pork products,then after it calmed down .But on the 7th of septembre of this year i ate some cheap butchers choice ittalian saussage from maxi ,there where so fat ,even on low heat on the BBQ they whould flame like they were made of gassoline.I was in very bad pain ,when’t on internet and saw that ADVIL migth work and it did.Even the daugther in law witch had some morphine because of the same type of pain,she gave me some and it did not work.So i took one advil 3 hours later ,15 minutes laterI i was crying because the pain was gone.It’s guys like you that stops us from rotting the hospitals waiting .And in quebec you better bring a slepping bag to sleep on the floor because it’s so long before you get taken care of…Thanks allot YVES P.S excuse my english

    1. The Health Guy Post author

      Hi YVES – Congrats on your success at kicking alcohol! Great job! I know that must be a challenge. Thanks for telling your story, your kind words and don’t worry about your English. I don’t speak it great my self and you are way ahead of me because I don’t speak another language like French as you do. So no worries!

  8. Deb

    Hi Health Guy,

    I have been reading over your site in small increments for the past few months, and I feel compelled to share my story in the event it may help anyone, or I may be helped.
    21 years ago after having my first child, I was diagnosed with a mild form of congenital spherocytosis. (Confirmed by a blood test.) Sphereocytosis is a blood disease in which your red blood cells are sphere shaped rather than round. As a result, my platelets always ran under the minimum since the blood cells would get caught in my spleen and not make it out the other end as platelets due to their sphere shape. I also had an enlarged spleen about 3x the normal size. I was told if I made it to 40 without getting jaundice, I would likely never need my spleen removed. I was also told the blood disease makes me a sitting duck for gallbladder disease.

    In October of 2014 I went for a 45 minute walk and then went to work on the computer. (I had been walking 45 minutes at least 4 times a week for the past year.) While working from home on the computer, I felt hungry, so I decided to eat a greek yogurt and a banana for lunch while working. The yogurt went down fine, but then after eating the banana, I got a sudden sharp pain right in the solar plexus. It came on suddenly, and I wondered if I was having a heart attack. It was necessary for me to pick my son up from school, and as I was driving to get him, I started having severe pain in the middle of my back. When we got home I told my son I felt very sick and was going to try to lie down. The boring pain between my ribs and my back progressively worsened.

    When my husband came home, I told him what had occurred, and that I wasn’t feeling well. At that time, I started having abdominal pain in addition to the back and pain between the ribs. He said maybe it is the start of stomach flu because my stomach was making all kinds of loud noises to such a high degree that has never happened before. I wasn’t nauseous, or vomiting, nor did I have the diarrhea.

    The next morning when I woke up, my husband said I looked very sick, and he was extremely worried. He wanted to take me to the hospital, but I refused since we have terrible medical insurance, and I was worried about the cost. My husband refused to go to work because he was so worried and said he has never seen me like that before. I finally agreed to let him take me to urgent care. The nurse practitioner said I may have pancreatitis, and she took some blood and said she would call me in the morning with results. If my condition worsened, she instructed me to go immediately to the ER.

    The next morning when I got up, I was very, very, very sick. I called the urgent care, and they said my blood work showed very high lipase levels (1489) and that I needed to immediately go to the ER. I made my husband stop at the urgent care to get a copy of my lab slip (he got made because he wanted me to go directly to the hospital). When I got to the ER, they rushed me in a room and a doctor came in right away. They put me on IV pain meds, and sent me for an ultrasound. After the ultrasound, he said he thought he saw a gallstone stuck in the common bile duct, and sent me for a ct scan to confirm. He said the ct scan showed a bulge in the common bile duct which most certainly means there is a stone lodged in the duct like he suspected, and said I was going to be admitted and have endoscopic surgery the next day to remove the stone.

    Later that evening, the GI doctor came in and said that he did not see a stone in the common bile duct, but based on my sphereocytosis, he was 99.9% sure that my gallbladder was full of stones and that the next day if my lipase was lower, I could be discharged, but would have to have a HIDA scan on my gallbladder the next week. (My dad had his gallbladder out at about my age, and the GI doc said there is often a family history link to gallbladder disease.)

    I went into the hospital on Saturday morning, was released Sunday afternoon, and had a HIDA scan on Tuesday. When I saw the GI doctor on Friday, he told me my ejection fraction rate was only 3%, which is the worst he has ever seen in his 26 years of practice. He said he didn’t know how I could even be walking around with a gallbladder that sick. I went and had a consult with the surgeon that day, and was scheduled for surgery the next Thursday.

    The surgery went smoothly, and I felt really good all things considered. Surgeon said that I had no dietary restrictions, and I could go back to eating anything I wanted. The pathology showed my gallbladder was chock full of stones. So many stones, that there was no room between them.

    Thinking everything was going to be hunky dory, I went back to eating thinking I would be fine. Nope. Wrong. Every time I ate, the pain in my back was like someone ran up and punched me as hard as they could in the middle of the back. It was so debilitating, and I felt so incredibly sick. I went back to the hospital because I felt just like I did upon having the initial attack. My lipase was still elevated, but hey said that was normal because it was only 4 days post surgery. The next day, I went back to see the surgeon, and told him I was having terrible abdominal pain and that horrible back pain just from drinking water.

    He sent me for a MRI. The MRI came back saying I had a “dilated pancreatic duct”, but other than that my pancreas was perfectly fine. No swelling, no cysts, no inflammation. Since I had pigmented stones (common for sphereocytosis patients) the surgeon said that sludge and small stones may have become washed into my pancreas when the stone was stuck in my common bile duct. He told me I needed a ERCP. The GI doc I saw in the hospital does not perform ERCP’s, so my primary care doctor gave me a referral to a different GI.

    When I went to see the GI, he said before doing a ERCP, he wanted to do an endoscopic ultrasound first since it is less invasive and does not carry the same risk of pancreatitis as the ERCP. So, I went under anesthesia, and when I woke up, my doctor told me that he is 99.9% sure that he saw a birth defect called pancreatic divisum. Because of the divisum, he did NOT perform the ERCP, and instead, referred me to a specialist at Stanford. (I live about 25 minutes from Stanford) . He felt that the specialist would recommend I have a sphincterotomy. He also said that the MRI should have shown my divisum, and said he was going to talk to the radiologist and ask him to reevaluate my MRI, since he felt the radiologist made a mistake. (That is what happened. The radiologist sent my surgeon an addendum stating that he reevaluated my MRI, and that I have divisum.)

    At this point, I had lost almost 30 pounds, had non stop boring pain in the middle of my back, and felt sick every time I ate anything. I was even having trouble sleeping on my left side because it hurt and felt uncomfortable under my left rib cage. So my new GI gave me a rx for creon, and told me to take 2 with every meal. My insurance doesn’t cover it, so I have to pay $220 every month out of pocket which is criminal, but that’s another story. This was all 4 days before Thanksgiving of 2014.. The enzymes really helped me so very much, and I was able to tolerate small portions of healthy food. I have been a vegetarian for 28 years now, so I think I eat fairly well.

    The specialist at Stanford spent about 1.5 hours talking with me about my condition. He told me that he does not think I should have surgery because it ultimately has a very high fail rate. It may help for a few months, but then the majority of patients are right back where they started or worse within the first year. Long story short, he said if I was his sister, he would recommend I control my symptoms with a low fat diet. He said when I have an attack come on, I should immediately take 1 pain pill, then nothing by mouth for 12 hours. Then after 12 hours, to begin a liquid diet for 3 days, then slowly introduce healthy foods in small portions. He said he took an oath to do no harm, and that he feels having a spincterotomy could do more harm than good. He said he would probably never have prescribed the creon enzymes, but since they are working for me, I should keep taking them.

    All in all, since October 2014, I have lost 29 pounds. I am a 5’8” woman that weighed 187, now I weight 158. I went from the low obsese range, to the normal range in 4 weeks. Butter, margarine and olive oil totally set me off. I completely quit drinking alcohol since this all happened. It is such a bummer because I just love to cook and bake. I make homemade pasta, homemade bread, homemade pies, homemade pizza’s with homemade dough…the list goes on and on.

    Based on your experience, I started taking the Grape Seed ex by taking 1- 100 mg pill each day, then moved up to 2 pills; one in the am, one in the pm. I actually started feeling really good, then came the Christmas holidays. Although I have sworn off alcohol because it scares me too much, I made homemade pies, and sampled cheese and ate other things I shouldn’t. Regardless, I was feeling pretty good, so good, that I was forgetting to take my grape seed extract, and some meals I forgot to take my rx enzymes. Well, last night I used just a tablespoon of olive oil to sauté some veggies for a sauce, and I started having abdominal pain, and don’t feel so well today. Been having those twinges on my left side, and intermittent abdominal discomfort. (Realized I need to get back on the grape seed ex. & now know I can’t deviate from the routine even if I am feeling better.)
    Every day I feel like I have a question about my condition, but nowhere to turn, and nowhere to ask. So I am thankful to find this blog and website with folks that have different, but yet the same issues and concerns.

    Does anyone have an answer to why the pancreatic duct dilates? Also, should we be getting scans of our pancreas every so often to check our pancreas? If so, what is the best scan to get, and how often?

    I also have a question about the nausea. My doctors were always asking me if I had nausea, and they couldn’t believe that I didn’t. Even during the first attack I didn’t have any nausea or vomiting which they said was really odd given my high lipase numbers. My biggest complaint was the terrible, horrible back pain. After getting on the enzymes, by back pain started slowly resolving. Well, about the time my back pain started slowly resolving and I was having full days with no back pain, I developed the nausea. Ugh…it is terrible sometimes. I used to think, “if I could only get rid of this severe back pain, I can handle everything else”. But….I didn’t count on the nausea. Holy cow…even though I don’t vomit, it can be really miserable. What causes the nausea?

    1. The Health Guy Post author

      Hi Deb 🙂 – Definitely sounds like you’ve had some bad times lately. The good news, as you have experienced, is that you can feel better. I also have to say that your doc who told you not to have the Sphincterotomy is a smart man who has obviously kept up on conditions and procedures. Keep him or her. Good doctors are really hard to find.

      You have also found out the hard way, like me, that adherence to the diet and supplement regimen is mandatory in order to stay well. Interestingly enough your doc also said he would not have prescribed creon and that may be because you may not need it. Your pancreas may not be damaged enough to warrant the necessity of using creon. Creon is powerful and offers unpleasant side effects if the doses are to large (more than necessary) or if the pancreas is still producing it’s own pancreatic enzymes in the needed amounts. Creon may not be necessary but talk to your doc (the cool guy who would have prescribed it) and find out his thoughts first before discontinuing. The creon could be the cause of your nausea. It could also be your condition, pancreas divisum, and to much fat in your diet. You should be adhering to the same diet I do. Mine isn’t vegetarian or vegan. For those who are sick and still healing it should be a “modified vegan diet.” That means vegan foods (plant sources) and no oil or fat of any kind. If you don’t have juicer get one. You’ll need it, especially with your condition, pancreas divisum – it isn’t gonna go away. Once you have the diet right (food diary would be beneficial) and the supplements right you should again feel better. Good luck to you Deb! 🙂

  9. jennifer

    Hi there! I’ve been reading your blog all day. I had my first attack this past sunday, then again monday….then again on Tuesday. I’m currently 38 weeks pregnant and thought I was in labor. When I finally figured out I wasn’t, I was told to go to the emergency room because it might be an intestinal blockage or gallstones. I’m more of a holistic person (hence why I didn’t go in right away)…and the only thing the doctor was concerned about was lecturing me on where I was planning on delivering. She kept trying to give me an anatomy lesson of a pregnant woman, insisting it was acid reflux. I was doubled over in pain…and the ultrasounds they were doing were excruciating. She ignored where I told her the pain was and said “pain can radiate from anywhere and there’s nothing on your left side to check.” What an idiot. I got sent home and told to drink maalox.

    I went home and decided to try to”fix” my own issues…thinking it was intestinal. I’ve had intestinal issues my entire life that was controlled by diet when I was in my 20’s. I took 1 drop of 2 essential oils(one was lemon) in a shot of water every hour starting at 5pm. By 12am I was feeling tons and tons better. The next day I stopped doing that and went back to my original, clean diet (let’s face it, I’m 38 weeks pregnant….I was eating all kinds of junk). I had grilled chicken breast with olive oil, olive oil and vinegar mixed greens salad with chopped strawberries, and sauteed asparagus with fresh garlic in olive oil. Within 30 minutes I had another attack. This was by far the worst one I’ve had. I thought I was dying (I know, dramatic) and was on the verge of passing out. A lightbulb went off that an old friend of mine is a doctor so I decided to call her. She diagonosed me over the phone and had me call the hospital for all the tests they pulled on me. I instantly realized lemon is for the pancreas and applied it to some pressure points. Let me tell you….after 4 hours of that agonizing pain…it felt like morphine in a matter of 10 minutes.

    Now I’m here reading your blog. I’ve been drinking marshmallow root and ginger to help internally. I did the liquid thing for the first day….then incorporated food back in the next….and I’m on my 3rd day. I went and bought fish…have been eating that with fresh greens, beans, and lemon. Cooking in water and lemon juice on the stove.

    Everything you’re saying makes so much sense. I’ve always had allergic reactions to coconuts,….ingested or topically. Same with avocado. Same with almonds and cashews. Red meat has always hurt whenever I eat it (since I was a kid). I’m basically dairy free…except for the occasional mozzarella or parmesean. Basically I’ve had a pretty good diet….just never broke it down more until now. You know…..”coconuts are fantastic for you….eat spoonfuls of the oil everyday.” Etc.

    Alright. So the point of all that nonsense is I’m kind of overhwhelmed to be honest. Everything I thought I knew was “healthy” isn’t for me. So I guess after that novel I wrote…..I’m curious….can you use ANY oils? Grapeseed oil, safflower oil…etc?? Or just no oils under any circumstance at all when cooking? I’m trying to figure out how to bake in the oven. How do you cook your egg whites? Also….are there any butter type alternatives you can recommend? Or is that just a dead end street? I’m also having issues letting go of peanut butter. Every nut and seed butter alternative I’ve been checking out seem too fatty. I know I should try things and do the elimination….but I’m terrified. I don’t ever want to experience that pain again!! I take it, I’m supposed to find a gastroenterologist? I can’t stand doctors and see the journey ahead as long and frustrating. Doctors just threw medicine at me growing up (which I’m sure did more damage) and my diet was never altered. I sought out a doctor about 8 years ago who ended up sending me to the mental health clinic…..and about 3 years ago I went to the ER for an inflammed liver. A few tests were done after and was told it was a fluke. Can you recommend any doctors or direct me to a list of doctors in certain regions??

    Thank you so much for your blog. I will continue to stalk it. This is all new and overwhelming and it’s nice to read everything that says “I’m not crazy.”

    Look forward to hearing from you!

    1. The Health Guy Post author

      Nah Jennifer you’re not crazy. Most doctors are idiots. I have no clue how most I have met ever made it through pre med let alone medical school. The problem might be toxic overload, meaning they have to learn so much they forget that common sense, gut intuition and old fashioned diagnostics (if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, looks like a duck it is probably a duck). Now … I have a question for you. Did you ever get an actual firm diagnosis of pancreatitis by anyone via blood work (enzyme levels) and other tests (ultrasound, CT, endoscopic ultrasound, etc)? I ask for several reason the main one being that it is important to know for sure what exactly is wrong. A couple things almost mimic acute pancreatitis. SOD (sphincter of oddi dysfunction) for one is really close and the pain can me mild or debilitating and it also causes pancreatitis. The other is gallbladder disease, in some cases, can be acute. Acute inflammation of the gallbladder can even be life threatening. And here’s the thing all 3 SOD, GBD and Pancreatitis respond to fat negatively and they all also respond positively to a low fat diet. Anyway … knowing for sure what is wrong is good, guessing not so much. By the way …

      IF your friend doctor is good keep her! Good ones are hard to find.

      Now, on to some of the other questions you asked …

      Oils are bad. ALL oils are fat. High fat. Just look at what that healthy olive oil did to you.Now once you find out exactly what is wrong with you and if it does turn out to be pancreatitis, once you have healed you may tolerate some oil in SMALL amounts BUT what I call small amounts and what others call small amounts are two different things. A small amount to me is a tea spoon or less. Preferably that tea spoon in dumped in a pan and then wiped out with a paper towel so that just a residue is left to help with cooking but if you buy quality non-stick pots and pans you shouldn’t need oil to cook. It is BEST to simply AVOID oil in foods and cooking.

      There are no safe butter substitutes. It’s all fat. And I feel your pain when it comes to peanut butter. I love it but it doesn’t love me 🙁

      Sorry you are not feeling well. Hopefully you find out for sure what’s wrong (first step) and you get well. 🙂

  10. James

    You’re a good guy for helping people but you need to understand not everyone’s case is like yours. 75%-80% of people never even have another attack. But you make it out like everyone with one attack needs to go casket shopping.