Pancreatic cancer makes up 3% of all cancer diagnoses, affecting approximately 57,000 people in the United States.
This small, but important, organ is often overlooked, and it can have a significant impact on your digestive and overall health. There are many ailments other than cancer that can affect your pancreas, including pancreatitis and cystic fibrosis. Here are our tips for a healthy pancreas!
When your pancreas becomes inflamed, it prevents your body from producing digestive enzymes to help breakdown and absorb food. Pancreatic diseases often show up as vomiting, abdominal pain, or even fever and chills. After seeing a doctor about these symptoms, sometimes a clear liquid diet can be used to reset or “cleanse” the pancreas. Imaging tests like CT scans, MRIs or X-rays can be ordered for a closer look at the pancreas, and blood work could also be ordered to check for bilirubin levels or tumor markers.
A diet or lifestyle change is one of the easiest and least invasive ways to manage pancreatic stress.
A diet high in protein and low in animal fats and sugars can be easily digested, and including foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and low-fat or non-dairy products could work to improve discomfort. Antioxidant-rich foods like leafy greens, blueberries, sweet potatoes and pomegranates are also beneficial, as is the mediterranean diet, for minor pancreatic diseases. In contrast, red meat, fried foods, full-fat dairy products, and sugary drinks can make symptoms worse. Since your pancreas is responsible for processing much of the fat in your diet and these foods require the organ to work harder. Eating small meals throughout the day, instead of 3 larger meals, decreases the numbere of calories consumed at once, preventing your digestive system from kicking into overdrive to keep up.
Staying hydrated and taking a multivitamin can also help those suffering or recovering from a pancreatic disease.
A multivitamin will help to ensure that your body maintains the appropriate levels of important vitamins and nutrients including A, D, E, K, B12, and folic acid, even if your body is unable to pull those items out of your food. Hydration, in general, improves digestion and makes it easier for food to pass through your body. In turn, this helps to again reduce the workload for the pancreas. A quick check of your urine can help you determine if you are properly hydrated, look for a pale yellow color!
As with many healthcare best practices, avoiding alcohol and smoking is important in managing your symptoms. We also recommend a minimum of 30 minutes of daily exercise, not only for your digestive and pancreatic health, but for your overall health in general. Exercise can help to manage your weight, decrease stress, and improve the circulation and movement in your body functions, which can then improve digestive health.