Alternative Medicine for Pancreatitis

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
This lesson is going to go over some of the many alternative therapies available for pancreatitis. From specific diets to herbal medicine to supplements and more.

What Is Pancreatitis?

Do you have oily and smelly stools? Do you have pain your upper abdomen? Are you losing weight even though you're not trying to? You might have chronic (persistent) pancreatitis. Pancreatitis is the inflammation ('-itis') of the pancreas ('pancreat-'). The pancreas is a glandular organ that sits next to your stomach. It secretes important substance involved in digestion. Some of them are enzymes, little proteins that help you digest your food. Another is a hormone called insulin, which helps lower your blood glucose (sugar).

Pancreatitis can be very painful and uncomfortable. This lesson is going to go over some of the alternative therapies some people believe may help them with pancreatitis. Do note, most of them have little to no evidence of efficacy, so make sure to talk to your doctor about them before starting, stopping or changing any alternative therapy.

Diet

One way to help manage pancreatitis is by eating a pancreatitis-friendly diet! Let's start with sources of protein. Do you think a person with pancreatitis should eat less or more red meat to get their protein? Less. But they still need protein! Instead of eating red meat, like beef, a person with pancreatitis should consider cold-water fish, beans and tofu as a better protein alternative. In general, a person with pancreatitis should try and avoid high protein foods, this includes dairy products.

Okay, what about carbohydrates? What kinds of carbohydrates should a person with pancreatitis avoid? If you said processed and refined sources of carbs, you're right! Avoid sugar and white bread. Instead, focus on whole grains.

There is a small caveat to the whole grains, however. Make sure you don't have an allergy or sensitivity to something in the grains, like gluten. If you have gluten sensitivity, then you'd want to avoid barley, wheat and rye.

Okay, so we want less red meat and high protein foods and fewer processed carbs. But what about fat? Should a pancreatitis-friendly diet be high in fat or low in fat? If you said low in fat, you're right! Not only should it be low in fat but the fat that is used or consumed should be healthy fat, like olive oil, not animal-based fat like butter.

Okay, but proteins, carbs and fats aren't the only nutrients we get from our food. What about vitamins, minerals and antioxidants? Well, a person with pancreatitis might want to consider:

  • Not eating processed foods, because they destroy antioxidants. A diet low in antioxidants might contribute to worsening a person's pancreatitis.
  • Eating a diet full of antioxidants. This means fresh, organic and raw fruits like blueberries and vegetables like bell peppers.
  • Eating foods high in B-vitamins and iron, like seaweed and spinach.
  • Getting enough vitamin A, C, and E, which might protect a person from some of the damaging effects of pancreatitis.
  • Ensuring they're taking enough selenium, a kind of mineral that can act as an antioxidant

Other considerations include eating several small meals during the day instead of three large ones, drinking lots of water, avoiding alcohol, coffee and smoking, and avoiding fried or spicy foods.

Supplements, Herbs & Others

Some of the vitamins mentioned before may be taken as part of a vitamin supplement. There are other supplements and treatments some believe might help with pancreatitis. For example:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids might help reduce inflammation
  • Coenzyme Q10 could act as an antioxidant
  • Alpha-lipoic acid might act as an antioxidant as well
  • Probiotics, which are microorganisms, could help maintain a healthy digestive tract

Those interested in herbal medicine may want to consider some of the following:

  • Holy basil for antioxidant support
  • Green tea, which is known to have lots of antioxidants
  • Cat's claw, which might help suppress the inflammation seen in pancreatitis
  • Rhodiola to help support your immune system
  • Reishi mushroom, which might help suppress inflammation
  • Grape seed extract for antioxidant support
  • Indian gooseberry, which is considered to be a powerful antioxidant
  • Turmeric to suppress inflammation

Some of you might want to consider consulting with a traditional Chinese medicine specialist. They might recommend remedies like:

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