Medical Conditions

Eating With Chronic Pancreatitis

January 11, 2017   /

What are the major dietary concerns for sufferers of chronic pancreatitis?

People with chronic pancreatitis often have persistent bouts of nausea, vomiting, bloating, fever, and diarrhea. Malnutrition is a concern, because these conditions often limit the intake of food.

Steatorrhea, or fat in the stool, is another major concern for people with chronic pancreatitis, because it leads to vitamin deficiency. In some cases, the pancreas stops making digestive enzymes. When this happens, patients often are prescribed oral pancreatic enzymes, which supplement what the body can no longer makes on its own, to aid in the digestion of protein, carbohydrate, and fat. This is the other reason for a high rate of malnutrition among people with chronic pancreatitis. Even if these individuals do have an appetite, their bodies often are unable to digest the foods that they consume.

Glucose intolerance also is fairly common among people with chronic pancreatitis, because insulin and glucagon, the hormones that control blood glucose regulation, are secreted from the pancreas. The goal of glucose management in people with chronic pancreatitis is not to achieve normal blood glucose levels, as it is with most other cases. Instead, the goal is to control the symptoms of the glucose intolerance. Some people only require lifestyle changes, including dietary modifications and regular exercise, while others require insulin injections.

What is the best diet for people with chronic pancreatitis?
A high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet usually is prescribed. People often find that eating six small meals each day causes fewer symptoms than the traditional three square meals/day pattern. Medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil often is recommended, because it is a fat that is more easily digested and often causes no symptoms in people with chronic pancreatitis. Vitamin B12 often is supplemented, because people with chronic pancreatitis often are deficient in this vitamin. It is extremely important that people with chronic pancreatitis abstain from all alcohol. People with chronic pancreatitis should drink plenty of fluids, because dehydration may aggravate pain.

What foods should people with chronic pancreatitis avoid?
The diet should not include alcohol or high-fat foods.

You also should avoid:

  • Baked goods and desserts made with a high amount of added fat
  • Fatty meats
  • Fried foods
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Whole milk and cream
  • Snacks and crackers that are made with added fat

For people with glucose intolerance, a diabetic diet usually is prescribed.


References and recommended readings

Mahan LK, Escott-Stump S, Raymond JL. Krause’s Food and the Nutrition Care Process. 12thed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:669-674.

Mayo Clinic. Digestive system: pancreatitis.
Available at:
Accessed May 25, 2011.

National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC). Pancreatitis.
Available at:
Accessed May 25, 2011.


Review Date 10/11