Natural Remedies for Pancreatitis Relief

Pancreatitis
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Pancreatitis is an incredibly painful condition marked by inflammation of the pancreas—a large gland that plays a key part in regulating digestion. While pancreatitis requires immediate medical attention, a number of natural remedies (used to complement but not replace conventional care) may help alleviate pain and other pancreatitis symptoms.

Located behind your stomach, the pancreas releases enzymes into your small intestine to promote the breakdown of food. When pancreatitis occurs, those enzymes mistakenly attack the very tissues that produce them.

There are two types of pancreatitis: acute and chronic. The more common type is acute pancreatitis, a condition that accounts for about 275,000 hospital stays in the U.S. each year. Often caused by gallstones, acute pancreatitis triggers such symptoms as severe pain in the upper abdomen, nausea, and vomiting. Treatment usually consists of hospital treatment with intravenous (IV) fluids, antibiotics, and pain medication.

The most common cause of chronic pancreatitis is heavy alcohol use, with symptoms including nausea, vomiting, weight loss, and oily stools. Known to worsen over time, chronic pancreatitis can result in permanent damage and lead to complications like diabetes, kidney failure, and breathing problems.

To reduce your pancreatitis risk, it’s important to limit your alcohol consumption. Maintaining a healthy weight, sticking to a balanced eating plan, and getting plenty of exercise may also be recommended.

Pancreatitis and Your Diet

Following a low-fat diet that limits greasy, fried, and high-fat processed foods is often recommended for both preventing and managing pancreatitis. That’s because consuming too much fat can cause your pancreas to release more digestive enzymes than it normally would. An excessive level of enzymes may lead to an attack. The National Pancreas Foundation advises that patients with pancreatitis limit their fat intake to 20 grams or fewer per day, with no one meal containing more than 10 grams of fat.

Drinking plenty of fluids and cutting back on caffeine is also recommended for people with pancreatitis, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

In some cases of pancreatitis, patients may need to receive total parenteral nutrition. A method of feeding that bypasses the gastrointestinal tract, total parenteral nutrition provides the patient’s daily requirement of nutrients by intravenous drip.

Pancreatitis and Weight Loss

With acute pancreatitis becoming more common in the U.S., it’s thought that the obesity epidemic may be a factor in rising rates of this disease. What’s more, a study published in Current Opinion in Gastroenterology in 2017 indicates that obesity may worsen the severity of acute pancreatitis.

For help in keeping your weight in check—and possibly protecting against pancreatitis—check out this guide to all-natural approaches to weight loss.

Remedies for Pancreatitis Relief

Although research on the use of natural remedies for pancreatitis relief is limited, there’s some preliminary evidence that certain supplements may ease symptoms. Here’s a look at several findings from those studies:

1) Antioxidants

Antioxidants may slightly reduce pain in people with chronic pancreatitis, according to a report published in The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews in 2014. For this report, scientists analyzed 12 previously published clinical trials with a total of 585 participants. In their conclusion, they noted that the "clinical relevance of this small reduction is uncertain, and more evidence is needed". They also found that adverse events, while mostly mild, occurred in 16 percent of participants.

It’s thought that taking antioxidant supplements may aid in the treatment of chronic pancreatitis by reducing oxidative stress (a possible factor in the development of this disease). It should be noted that, in a systematic review published in 2009, researchers analyzed 22 clinical trials and concluded that the data do not support a benefit of antioxidant therapy in the management of pancreatitis.

2) Glutamine

An amino acid naturally present in your body, glutamine plays a role in many metabolic processes. Some research shows that glutamine supplementation may benefit people with acute pancreatitis who receive total parenteral nutrition.

For a report published in the journal Pancreatology in 2013, for instance, researchers reviewed 12 clinical trials with a total of 505 patients. According to the report’s authors, their analysis “demonstrates a clear advantage” for glutamine supplementation in patients with acute pancreatitis receiving total parenteral nutrition. They also noted that those receiving enteral nutrition (food delivered to the stomach or small intestine through a tube) do not require glutamine supplementation.

3) Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Use of omega-3 fatty acids may help reduce infectious complications and length of hospital stay in people with acute pancreatitis, especially when used parenterally. That’s the finding of a 2015 report published in the journal Nutrients, which analyzed eight clinical trials.

A class of polyunsaturated fats, omega-3 fatty acids are found naturally in many foods (including flaxseed and fatty fish like salmon and tuna). Preliminary research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids may help treat pancreatitis by reducing inflammation and repairing tissue damage.

Should You Use Natural Remedies for Pancreatitis Relief?

Due to a lack of large-scale clinical trials testing their effects in the treatment of pancreatitis, it’s too soon to recommend any natural remedies for pancreatitis relief. If you’re interested in using natural remedies to manage pancreatitis pain, talk to your doctor first about how to incorporate such remedies into your treatment plan.

Keep in mind that acute pancreatitis can be life-threatening. If you experience symptoms such as severe pain that begins slowly or suddenly in your upper abdomen, seek medical attention right away.

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