Pancreatitis: Causes, Treatments & Natural Solutions

Dealing with pancreatitis comes with many challenges. From daily pain and discomfort to debilitating symptoms that disrupt your quality of life, struggling with this health condition can quickly take a toll on not just your physical health but also, your mental and emotional health too. Fortunately, there is a light at the end of the tunnel and that is the various treatment options available that can help you manage your symptoms and get back to living the life you deserve. Whether you’re dealing with acute pancreatitis or navigating chronic pancreatitis, this article provides you with everything you need to overcome any obstacles you may face along your healing journey. The treatment options and natural remedies are just a couple of paragraphs away, and you’re one step closer to regaining control of your health once again. And we’re here to help.

Pancreatitis info facts

What is Pancreatitis?

Pancreatitis is a serious condition that occurs when the pancreas becomes inflamed. This inflammation in the pancreas disrupts the many important roles it has, including the process of turning food into energy, and the release of digestive enzymes that break down fats and carbohydrates. The pancreas is also responsible for producing two essential hormones, insulin and glucagon, both of which plays a crucial role in regulating blood sugar levels.

But it isn’t just inflammation that you have to worry about. When you have pancreatitis, this essentially means that the enzymes produced by the pancreas start digesting its own tissues. This process leads to swelling, bleeding, and damage to the pancreas itself.

Now, there are two types of pancreatitis: acute pancreatitis and chronic pancreatitis: acute pancreatitis and chronic pancreatitis.

Acute pancreatitis is a temporary condition that occurs when your pancreas is recovering from a minor, short-term injury. The good news is that many people dealing with acute pancreatitis will bounce back completely within just a few days, with some proper self-care combined with rest and pain management. However, approximately more than 300,000 people do end up being admitted to hospitals in the United States due to acute pancreatitis. Some common symptoms associated with acute pancreatitis (and chronic pancreatitis) are nausea, vomiting, fast heart rate, shallow breathing and fever. Again, these symptoms typically work themselves out. However, in rare cases, acute pancreatitis can take a serious turn, putting you at risk of severe health complications, some of which can be life-threatening. So while most people make a full recovery, it’s crucial to keep an eye out for any signs of complications and seek medical attention if needed.

Chronic pancreatitis is a long-term condition that progresses and worsens overtime. It occurs when the injury or damage to your pancreas persists doesn’t stop. Unfortunately, chronic pancreatitis eventually leads to severe damage to your pancreas due to the constant inflammation causing the tissues of your pancreas to develop scarring (known as fibrosis). This impairs the pancreas’ ability to produce essential enzymes and hormones.

As your pancreatic functions continue to break down, you may start to experience a variety of worsening symptoms, such as indigestion, pain after eating, loss of appetite, unexplained weight loss, lightheadedness, low blood pressure and oily poops.

It’s important to understand that both of these conditions are quite serious and require prompt and appropriate attention to prevent any further complications, including the risk of death. So, if you think you may be dealing with either of these types of pancreatitis, it is highly recommended that you seek medical attention.

The Causes of Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis is largely caused by two main factors: gallstones and heavy drinking. In fact, these two causes account for 80% of all pancreatitis cases.

Gallstones are small deposits that form in the gallbladder due to the hardening of cholesterol and bilirubin (a byproduct of red blood cell broken down that is present in bile and can cause jaundice). Studies indicate that gallstones are responsible for 40 to 70% of acute pancreatitis.

However, just because you have gallstones doesn’t necessarily mean you have pancreatitis. Although, the risk of developing pancreatitis increases when small gallstones are present, as they can obstruct the pancreatic duct and cause digestive enzymes to flow back into the pancreas, triggering inflammation.

Excessive alcohol consumption is another significant cause of acute pancreatitis, accounting for approximately 30% of cases. The way alcohol causes pancreatitis is still unclear, but it is believed that when the pancreas processes alcohol in your system, it also produces toxic compounds that are harmful to the pancreas’ acinar cells. Additionally, alcohol may sensitize acinar cells to the effects of cholecystokinin, a hormone released by the duodenum that stimulates the release of digestive enzymes.

Chronic pancreatitis is the result of either of these factors occurring over a long period of time, such as untreated gallstones or prolonged heavy alcohol use.

There are also some other less common causes of pancreatitis, such as:

  • Autoimmune disease
  • Cancer
  • Complications of cystic fibrosis
  • Gene mutations
  • High blood triglyceride levels
  • High blood calcium levels
  • Infections and viruses
  • Ischemia (reduced blood supply)
  • Some medications
  • Traumatic injury to your pancreas

These causes combined represent approximately 20% of pancreatitis cases.

Treatment for Pancreatitis

There are various factors that will determine the best course of action for treating your pancreatitis, such as the cause, severity of your condition and whether its acute or chronic. As such, it’s crucial that you speak with your doctor to receive a proper diagnosis and to discuss the symptoms you’re experiencing. Depending on their findings, your doctor may recommend the following treatments.

If the underlying cause has been resolved…

  • IV fluids: to treat dehydration commonly experienced with pancreatitis, IV fluids may be used to ensure proper hydration and to assist with the healing process.
  • Tube feeding: if you are unable to eat food, a tube can be inserted through your nose or stomach to ensure you’re receiving proper nutrition.
  • Parenteral nutrition: In severe cases, when other feeding methods are not possible, your doctors may opt to provide you with nutrition intravenously.
  • Pain relief: over-the-counter and prescription pain relief medications may be used to help managing pain. In some cases, pain medication is provided to you through an IV.

If the underlying cause is gallstones…

If you are diagnosed with pancreatitis caused by gallstone, your doctor may recommend procedures to have these gallstones removed. These procedures may include:

  • Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP): this procedure uses an endoscope inserted through your throat and into your bile ducts, where tools are then used to remove the gallstones.
  • Gallbladder removal surgery: This procedure is a less invasive process that involves making a few small incisions, where your gallstones get removed through.

If you have chronic pancreatitis…

Any of the treatment options mentioned above may be used to help treat chronic pancreatitis. Your doctor may also recommend:

  • Receiving specialized care from a gastroenterologist.
  • Lifestyle changes to help slow down the progression of the disease
  • Pain management to help ease pain and discomfort
  • Enzyme supplements to ensure you’re getting enough
  • Insulin injections to ensure your body has enough insulin

Natural Remedies and Tips for Pancreatitis

When it comes to treating pancreatitis naturally, it’s important to remember that these methods should be used to complement any treatment options recommended by your doctor. Pancreatitis can be a very serious health condition that can lead to life-threatening issues, so it’s absolutely imperative you do not dismiss any recommended treatments that can tackle the issue at hand.

With that said, there are several ways you can reduce your symptoms naturally and even prevent pancreatitis altogether. Here are some of the most popular ways to do just that.

Limiting Alcohol Consumption

The first thing you should do if you drink excessively or have pancreatitis, especially if it’s caused by alcohol consumption, is limit or completely avoid alcohol.  Alcohol is a leading cause of pancreatitis and abstaining from it can significantly reduce your symptoms and boost your management of your condition and overall health. If you are struggling to cut back on drinking, there are several support systems available to help you overcoming these types of challenges.

Healthy Diet Changes

Improving your diet is another effective way to naturally treat pancreatitis and alleviate your symptoms. The ideal diet for pancreatitis is a low-fat diet that consists of nutritious meals that are gentle on the pancreas and that also promote healthy digestion.

By avoiding fatty and fried foods, you can reduce the risk of developing gallstones and pancreatitis. This will also help maintain healthy triglyceride levels, especially if you are also limiting the amount of simple sugars you consume.

Adopting New Eating Habits

In addition to eating a healthier diet, adopting new eating habits can also help ease your symptoms. Some common suggestions are:

  • Fasting to relieve pain due to a flare-up
  • Eating smaller, more frequent meals
  • Drinking plenty of clear fluids, preferably water

Daily Exercise

Staying physically active can help reduce the risk of pancreatitis or manage symptoms by helping you maintain a healthy weight. This is because being overweight increases your risk of developing gallstones, which in turn raises your risk of pancreatitis and related symptoms. So, be sure to add regular physical activity into your routine, even if it’s a 20-minute walk around the block. Regular exercise will also help boost your metabolism and the functioning of your digestive tract.

Avoid Triggers

Avoiding triggers, such as alcohol and tobacco is crucial, as they can contribute to pancreatitis or the worsening of existing symptoms. You may also want to avoid other common dietary triggers, such as:

  • Stimulants, such as coffee
  • Trans-fatty acids
  • Common food allergens, such as dairy, soy, wheat
  • Preservatives and food additives

Foods, Herbs and Spices

There are a variety of fresh foods, herbs and spices that can help tackle pancreatitis and the uncomfortable symptoms that come with it. Whether it’s vomiting and nausea or stomach bloating, here are some herbs and spices to sprinkle into your diet:

  • Turmeric: contains curcumin, which can help relief symptoms associated with inflammation.
  • Ginger: contains antioxidants, which can help control inflammation, boost digestion and ease symptoms, such as heartburn, acid reflux and stomach pain.
  • Coconut oil: contains plenty of omega-6 fatty acids which can help control inflammation and increase nutrient absorption.
  • Spinach: contains essential vitamins and minerals, including A, B, C, E, iron and selenium, which can help combat vitamin deficiencies which providing your body with the vitamins it needs to support your pancreas.
  • Mushrooms: contain anti-inflammatory agents that can help ease symptoms of pancreatitis.

Natural Pain Relief

Pain is a common symptom experienced with both acute and chronic pancreatitis. While there are many over-the-counter and prescription pain relief medications available, many of them are highly addictive or pose additional risks to your health. Some natural alternatives to try are:

Find Your Comfort

When dealing with pancreatitis, you may find that certain activities or positions can increase your level of discomfort and even exasperate your symptoms, such as lying flat, coughing, exercising, or consuming larger meals. On the other hand, sitting in an upright position, leaning forward, curling up in a ball, or eating smaller portions may help provide some relief and make you feel better.

Pancreatitis is a serious health condition that should not be overlooked. If you are experiencing symptoms, it’s important to seek medical attention to receive a proper diagnosis and treatment plan based on your individual circumstances, such as the cause, severity and type. Whether you’re dealing with acute or chronic pancreatitis, there are several treatment options available that can help alleviate your symptoms and improve your quality of life. So, don’t put off the healing process. You deserve better

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