Learn which foods trigger acute pancreatitis or CP flares. This is extremely important and can only be accomplished in a reliable way by using a food diary.
In a previous post called: Do certain foods cause pancreatitis attacks? I discuss the fact that in normal people foods do NOT cause acute pancreatitis or CP flares but in those of us who have sustained damage foods do cause attacks and flares. For this reason …
It is EXTREMELY important to know what foods YOUR pancreas actually tolerates.
I do NOT believe that all pancreas are different.
Unless you were born with pancreas divisum or some other abnormality your pancreas (before damage) looked like mine, your neighbors or the guy you are friends with at work. It was about the same shape, same size, same weight and performed the same functions. But now …
Things may be totally different due to the extent of damage.
Your pancreas may tolerate more foods than mine and it may also tolerate less. Learning which foods trigger acute pancreatitis or CP flares will ultimately give you a better chance of recovering, healing and staying well.
Which Foods Trigger Acute Pancreatitis Or CP Flares?
The two BIG culprits are FAT and ALCOHOL. Yet …
It IS entirely possible, for those of you who have extensive damage, that almost any food could cause symptoms, especially while your pancreas is still inflamed and has not yet healed. And …
There is also what I call “the straw that broke the camel’s back” syndrome.
This happens when you have eaten foods that should have been avoided and then all of a sudden you have an acute attack after eating an apple, beans and rice or some other usually safe food. And …
You blame the usually safe food (apple, beans and rice, cabbage, etc) instead of the steak, mashed potatoes with gravy, hamburger, fries and shakes you have eaten for the last several days which are the real culprits.
Keep A Food Diary
I began keeping a food diary because I needed to learn EXACTLY what the triggers were that caused an acute pancreatitis attack or made me feel at all unwell.
I take my life seriously, and pancreatitis is serious business to me. I know what can happen during acute pancreatitis and for me the picture ain’t purty.
I began keeping a daily record of EVERYTHING I put in my mouth.
And what you need to understand is that even though pancreatitis is not what I’d call an enigma type disease it does have a lot of idiosyncrasies. And …
What I found is that there are what I call “immediate triggers” and “delayed triggers.”
Immediate triggers are those foods that can bring an attack within hours.
Delayed triggers are those that precipitate an acute pancreatitis attack or flair (not near so bad) but may have been eaten days previously. And …
It’s the “delayed triggers” that people disregard, thinking they are harmless simply because they did not result in symptoms right after or on the same day of ingestion. Plus …
These “delayed triggers” cause people to believe that certain foods, additives, spices and so forth are triggers (because they get sick after eating them) when they are in fact, not responsible.
Very few things caused me to have an immediate response but tons of foods caused me to become sick as much as 96 hours down the road.
WHY some foods trigger an immediate response and others do not or why some that trigger an immediate response one day, trigger a response 2 or 3 days later on another occasions, I simply don’t know.
If this condition, pancreatitis, could be considered an enigma this is the reason and why it is so important to discover the real triggers, foods that lead to acute pancreatitis.
For example you could think: “This guy is full of horse apples, I eat steak and don’t get sick but I eat rice and veggies with cayenne pepper and blah, blah, blah 3 days later and am sicker than a dog.”
It wasn’t the cayenne pepper (many people believe cayenne pepper is bad for pancreatitis victims), it was the steak, pork spare ribs, tamale pie, tacos, double bacon burger with cheese or roast with mashed potatoes and gravy you ate 3 days ago.
I can eat cayenne pepper EVERY day, and I do eat it a lot, and NEVER get sick. Cayenne pepper is HIGHLY anti-inflammatory. Since it can be hotter than fire (ok that’s an exaggeration) I know that may sound hard to believe but they even use cayenne pepper aka capsaicin in pain relief creams for arthritis.
I can also eat turkey sausage (stuffed in pork casings) a couple of times in a week and think I got away with it because I didn’t get sick that day or night or even the next morning but maybe the next night I’m sicker than a poisoned pup wondering what the heck caused this? Because …
I know the oatmeal for breakfast (with no milk or vanilla extract), the fruit I had for lunch and the rice and beans I ate for supper were NOT the triggers. If you are wondering why I mentioned vanilla extract, well, it happens to be very good in oatmeal and I used to use it. I also use to get sick (nausea) and didn’t get it. Then I remembered something. I read the vanilla extract label and (dummy me), yep, vanilla extract contains ALCOHOL! Anyway …
Eating on the day I did get sick may have been the last straw for my pancreas and it just said: “Screw you buddy, you fed me turkey sausage stuffed in pork casings (I didn’t read the label) and I’m pissed” and so it was in fact the turkey sausage stuffed in pork casings that was the real trigger.
After years of dealing with pancreatitis I even make mistakes.
In your case, if you haven’t learned yet, your symptoms could be caused by the steak, hamburgers, fries and shakes you still eat. Or the baked potato with sour cream, bacon bits, butter and chives you ate 2 days ago or anything else that you THINK is safe but in fact, is NOT safe.
The hard part about any proper pancreatitis diet is figuring out the REAL triggers and avoiding them like you would the black plague.
Broths made from anything that is an animal is NOT safe. Animal broths contain fat. Fat is the enemy.
I don’t even LOOK at fat content on labels. (I do too! I needed to rephrase this line) and the next one too.
I couldn’t care less what the label of a soup can or can of broth says in regards to fat content. Yes I DO care about fat content. Fat content per serving IS important. Rule of thumb is 5 grams or less of fat per meal, 25 total grams of fat daily but …
What I DO care about even more are the INGREDIENTS.
Split pea with ham soup (I don’t care if the can says 99% fat-free) is gonna make your pancreas angry and inflamed. You may not pay on the day you eat it but you are gonna pay in some way, later, and then you will blame something you ate that day instead of the real trigger which was the ham.
So, if you think I am full of shtuff, keep a food diary and when you get sick, go back as much as a week and look at what you ate to find the real culprit.
When you find something I have told you not to eat, you’ll hopefully begin to see the light. Maybe you’ll even adjust your diet accordingly so that you are able to heal your inflamed pancreas and live a better, symptom free life.
All it takes is learning which foods trigger acute pancreatitis or CP flares.
I can relate to what you’re saying. I have problems because I haven’t been diagnosed except with exocrine deficiency and GERD. I take Creon enzymes. So I sort of know too much fat has been the problem, this has been going on for years, but now I’m starting to get a little pain as well as a gut feeling that I can only eat so much before things just don’t digest and now mild pain in two particular spots. The foods you describe like oatmeal, beans and rice are some of the only foods I’ve found that don’t cause me a problem when I’m “sick”. Liquid diet is all I can do sometimes to get things to calm down. Then I’ll convince myself that pancreatis isn’t really the problem (I just imagined it!) and eat something with too much fat and bam I’m sick again and my stomach is swollen like a balloon. I don’t have health insurance so II don’t have any way to get diagnosed. I have started the supplements you recommend and the swelling is down a bit. Having trouble getting enough protein, the GERD limits my meal bulk.
Susan – I gotta ask have you ever been tested for celiac disease? The reason I ask is that it can cause acid reflux (GERD). It can cause pancreatitis. It can cause EPI (read this). Protein can be had through beans, peas, lentils and egg whites. You can of course try skinless chicken breast and white meat fish (cod, pollock, bass, perch, rock fish, etc) and easily stay within 5 grams of fat per meal.
Thanks for this insightful article.
I have avoided many foods that have immediately preceeded an attack: some with good reason, and others just because it was the last thing I ate. As pancreatitis sufferers, we are given such conflicting dietary advice, or none at all. It is a minefield – sometimes I just won’t eat anothing, as I just can’t be sure and I am sick of suffering and trying to rationalize the problem. BUT not eating can harm my digestion as I am missing a gallbladder, so all that digestive juice is dumped in my stomach whether it’s needed or not! Then again, I might be in denial and eat anything as I figure it is not something I can control by diet and I am still having symptoms, so what the heck.
I do know, from reading your advice and personal experience, that I can never ever eat dairy, I can not eat a fried anything. I can not eat garlic and onions, and my condition is better controlled by adopting a vegan based diet.
I have been 10 months without an attack and pretty much pain free, for this I thank you. Please keep up the posts they are so encouraging.
Hi Susan – I agree everyone thinks they have the pancreatitis diet solution. The only difference between them and me is that I am right lol 🙂 Actually God is right for He, the Great Physcian, taught me everything I know (in one way or another). So God gets the glory not me. Anyway …
You may, at some point be able to tolerate not fat dairy. I have people who have found no fat cheese, there is no fat milk and no fat yougurt. Some people tolerate it well. I can drink a little no fat milk every now and then but not like a daily thing.
I also fry foods like some veggies, potatoes, onions, egg whites, fish BUT I do NOT use any type of oil. Instead I use nonstick cookware. I also eat garlic. I eat a lot of garlic (mostly in powder form). The vegan diet (modified vegan) is best until you are healed. Then you can add some foods that offer more protein like skinless chicken and white meat fish.
I’m glad to hear that your last 10 months have been an improvement! THAT is a GOOD thing. Keep doing what you’re doing and stay well. 🙂
Thanks for your reply, I have really lost my desire for dairy, even chocolate – I must be really sick *ha*
About cause and effect and how we absolve our food choices: a fellow pancreatitis sufferer ascribed his recent attack to rubbing alcohol he used for cleaning that day, he thought it had been absorbed through his skin …. then he went on to say that it couldn’t have been what he ate as he’d had a perfectly healthy breakfast of scrambled egg. SCRAMBLED EGG!!
Hi Susan – guess what the skin is the largest organ in/on the body and it absorbs all kinds of stuff. So it is entirely possible that the acohol was part of the problem. It absorbs through the skin, into the blood stream and carries it to the liver and probably the pancreas etc – so – I certainly wouldn’t count that out and then there is that scambled egg which IF it was a whole egg – just one – that was 5 grams of fat and if he scambled it in oil, butter or bacon grease (oh man) that would add to the fat content. So it was probably a combination of both. Thanks for sharing because it helps others know what NOT to do and eat. 🙂
Interesting. I realise the the skin is the biggest organ, however, is it in fact permeable by alcohol or ethanol? If this was so, then hand sanitizers would make you drunk, or at least a little tipsy! And they would be off the list for us pancreatitis sufferers. However, http://www.bmj.com/content/341/bmj.c6812
This scientific study debunks that myth.
Interesting Susan. And your point about getting drunk, though funny, would seem to be valid under certain circumstances. Yet I doubt there is enough alcohol in hand sanitizers to accomplish that unless you have OCD lol Anyway – chances are it was the egg fried in oil, butter or something bad. You should ask the guy what he fried it in but I wish they had tried the absorption on another skin area other than the feet for a comparison. Thanks for the info. 🙂
Very good article… very informative, thank you. What you told Susan to do made a lot of sense to me. I too have GERD and also collagenous colitis (my large intestine’s collagen is too thick to absorb nutrients so the small has to do all the work. I’ve had this for 20 years but I’m okay… no surgery needed). Lately though, I’ve noticed that without any fat… my GERD hasn’t acted up even once!! 🙂
I’ve decided to hold off on the powdered PB (and cookie making) until I’ve had a good six months of no problems. I’ve had two attacks now… thank goodness for Gatorade!!! I know what set it off and that food will never pass my lips again. :'( We DO learn fast, don’t we? I love turkey sausage but after what you said, I’ll never touch it ever again! I’ll make my own without casing.
I’m doing well getting my protein… chicken, turkey, fish, shrimp and protein powder to drink. The 0 fat items I’ve found so far, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese and sliced cheese are doing fine with my gut but I don’t have them everyday.
I’m pretty sure I’m doing this right. Hey, I even got myself new pans from Costco on the weekend, like the ones you showed a picture of. 🙂
Hi Jane 🙂 – yes many of us do learn fast! And that is a good thing. Glad to hear your GERD problem has resolved. I’ve looked for no fat cottage and other cheese and so I have NOT found it here. I wonder if I am missing when I check for it or what? I’d like to try it and see if I tolerate it now and then. I should try some of that Greek yogurt. Does it taste good? Your new pans should make cooking oil/fat free so much easier!
I usually shop at a “superstore” type grocery store because they carry such a huge selection of various foods (it’s part of the Loblaws chain in Ontario, Canada). I’ve just been there and bought Nordica 0% cottage cheese, Astro 0% sour cream, Apetina Feta 3g fat per 5 cubes and Philadelphia light cream cheese .5g fat per Tbsp (which mean I can make my stuffed jalapenos wrapped in 1/2 pc of chicken bacon 😀 ).
I’m now going to make turkey burgers with spinach and Feta (finely crumbled) on the BBQ tonight and also some meatballs with spinach and herbs… mmmm!
I LOVE lime jello mixed with cottage cheese (before setting) and even get 1g of protein in that too. How much protein should I be trying to consume a day?
When you do find and buy your Greek yogurt, ( I get the Liberte brand but watch labels ’cause some aren’t 0% fat free!) try to find the one with honey or vanilla already mixed in… really good with berries in it too! 🙂 Do you have a Costco where you are? I also get their brand (Kirkland) of 0% Greek vanilla which is pretty tasty!
I really, really do think you should start a recipe page… it would be encouraging to a lot of people who think their life is over and they’re going to starve!! Would even give lots of alternative ideas to the usual recipes. What do you say? 😉
Hi Jane – I just may consider doing that and then you ladies, who have way more creative imagination than me, could share low fat recipes that make sens and the mouth water 🙂
You DEFINITELY have to get Stacey Wykes on board for that… have you seen her ideas? Her recipes sound absolutely amazing!!! I’ve been printing them off so I’ve always got the recipe. 🙂
Watch Jamie Oliver’s youtube video for the fat free dressing. I made it yesterday (fresh basil from the garden 🙂 ) and it tastes pretty good! Looking forward to a salad tonight. Mmmmmm.
Jane – yes, Stacey Wykes is certainly creative. And if you have video of food creations that fit my parameters put them in a comment, I’ll check them out and post them if they are safe. I’ll have more on the recipe pages in short order (I think that’s cooking terminology lol). You know, short order cook, get it lolol 🙂
Your website has really helped me- before I found it I was eating applesauce and baby food rice cereal during flare ups, not getting better, no nutrition going into my body and feeling awful. After I found it I borrowed a juicer from a friend and started tried it. I found I was able to tolerate all kinds of fresh fruits and vegetables that are helping my body heal. Was also able to tolerate protein powder which helped get me through the fasting days. Two months into this had not had any doctor suggest juicing or supplements, so frustrating that doctors who specialize in the gut completely ignore the role of nutrition! Thanks so much to you- your information was invaluable! a Godsend! Carol
Carol – you a definitely welcome 🙂 I hope you feel like a new woman soon!
what kind of breads can you eat with cp? or can you?
Hi Genny – bread is ok as long as the fat grams are not from lard (read labels). Still it is best to keep the fat grams per slice as low as possible. There are many breads that offer low fat; 1-2 grams per slice.