The pancreas is a large, flat gland behind the stomach in the upper abdomen that produces digestive enzymes. Pancreatitis refers to inflammation of the pancreas. During the normal digestive process, the inactivated pancreatic enzymes move through the ducts to the intestine and help indigestion. Pancreatitis occurs when the digestive enzymes become active inside the pancreas, damaging the organ.
Pancreatitis can be acute or chronic. Acute pancreatitis appears suddenly and lasts for a few days. Chronic pancreatitis develops over several years. The causes of acute and chronic pancreatitis are similar. About 80% of the cases are caused by alcohol abuse and gallstones, while the remaining 20% are caused by medication, chemical exposure, hereditary diseases, infections or high-fat levels in the blood, and genetic abnormalities in the pancreas or intestine.
* Upper abdominal pain that radiates into the back - the pain may increase if one eats foods high in fat content
* Swelling and tenderness in the abdomen
* Nausea and vomiting
* Increased heart rate
Tips to avoid and manage pancreatitis
• Avoid eating foods high in protein several times a day. Choose a low-fat diet. Cutting down on fat can help prevent abdominal pain and pancreatitis.
• Drink a lot of fluids. Hydration is the best way to prevent and treat pancreatitis. Carry a water bottle while traveling.
• Exercise regularly and lose extra weight. Obese people are more likely to develop gallstones and are at greater risk of acute pancreatitis.
• Avoid or stop drinking alcohol to protect the pancreas from its toxic effects.
• Stop smoking. Smoking is a risk factor for the development of pancreatic cancer, which can occur after chronic pancreatitis.
Dietary and lifestyle changes can give relief from the symptoms of pancreatitis.