I have chronic pancreatitis that causes abdominal pain and nausea. I’ve required hospitalization twice in two years. It still hurts despite the pain medications and enzymes that I take. Can I rebuild my pancreas?
L.Y., Decatur, Ill.
A: There are many ways to help yourself. Most Americans associate the pancreas with diabetes, not with pancreatitis which is getting very common place. It’s associated with dangerous complications and sometimes leads to pancreatic cancer. In March 2008, “Dirty Dancing” star, Patrick Swayze was diagnosed with this and last July, inspirational college professor and author of The Last Lecture Randy Pausch died from it. So you’re smart to take care of your pancreas now.
The condition has been linked to gallstones and autoimmune disorders such as multiple sclerosis or celiac disease (gluten intolerance). Drinking alcohol puts you on the fast track to developing pancreatitis. You should eat low fat, low starch meals and lots of fruits and veggies. No white flour or sugar anymore. Eat grain-free, or at least gluten-free meals. Don’t overeat, your pancreas doesn’t make enough enzymes to digest big meals, and if it does, the digestive juices get all sludgy and fail to drain properly. This is why people with pancreatitis are always one meal away from the hospital.
The pain usually worsens after eating, so many people stop eating for several days at a time during an attack. Dramatic weight loss occurs. Worse than that, fasting can cause potassium levels to plummet which causes muscle aches, leg cramps, weakness, twitches and heart palpitations. If you must fast, and can’t go to a hospital for IV fluids, then take frequent sips of Pedialyte, liquid minerals and green powdered drinks or spirulina. When you begin eating, start with clear liquids, then baby food and so on.
Valuable supplements include dandelion, uva ursi, selenium and L-glutamine. Here are some others:
L-methionine: Helps reduce pain. About 1,000mg two or three times daily.
Pancreatic enzymes: They replenish missing enzymes from your pancreas so they help break down your food. Prescription brands include Creon, Ultrase or Pancrease, and you can buy weaker versions at the health food store such as Lypo Gold or Ultra Pancreatin.
Silica: Rebuilds the pancreatic tissues and may prevent diabetes. Follow label directions, approximately 100 to 150mg twice daily. You may see horsetail herb on product labels because horsetail is a rich source of silica.
NAC (N-acetylcysteine): It may reduce pain and inflammation by improving detoxification and drainage of digestive fluids. This is cutting edge, not widely accepted. Try about 600 – 1,200 mg three times a day, but not if you have kidney stones.
Curcumin (Curcuma longa): Found in turmeric spice. It reduces inflammation of the pancreas. Wonderful! Take 500 – 700 mg two or three times daily; if combined with milk thistle, even better.
Probiotics: Friendly gut bacteria which improve digestion and reduce cancer risk.
Did You Know? Oscillococcinum is a natural homeopathic remedy that may reduce fever, chills and aches associated with colds and flu.