What is Pancreatitis?
Pancreatitis is an inflammatory condition of the pancreas that’s painful and occasionally deadly. Each year from the U.S., almost 220,000 people will suffer from acute pancreatitis, and more than 80,000 people will be diagnosed with chronic pancreatitis. Despite the great advances in critical care medicine over the past 20 years, the mortality rate of acute pancreatitis has stayed at five percent.
Diagnosis of chronic pancreatitis can be difficult, and therapy is often delayed. Patients with chronic pancreatitis often endure severe malnutrition, pain, and have a greater risk of pancreatic cancer.
The pancreas is a long, flat gland that sits tucked behind the stomach in the upper abdomen. The pancreas produces enzymes that help digestion and hormones that help regulate the way your body processes sugar (glucose).
Pancreatitis can occur as:
a) Acute pancreatitis – meaning it comes suddenly and can last for days. The enzymes that are normally released stay in the pancreas, causing it to become inflamed and swollen. This slows the digestion, causes pain, and is associated with some severe complications which could become life-threatening.
b) Chronic pancreatitis can occur as chronic pancreatitis, which happens over many years. The severity and frequency of chronic pancreatitis symptoms differ from person to person. Worsening symptoms are often linked to eating a large high-fat meal or drinking alcohol. As the disease continues to create scar tissue and damage the pancreas, the risk for certain conditions like diabetes and pancreatic cancer increases. In addition, the body can begin to have a difficult time processing and absorbing nutrients causing vitamin deficiencies.
c) Autoimmune Pancreatitis: This is a rare and newly-recognized kind of pancreatitis and may be misdiagnosed as pancreatic cancer. Sharing many of the same symptoms as both acute and chronic, where the inflammation is caused by the body’s immune system attacking the pancreas directly. This condition is broken into two types, Type 1 can affect multiple organs while Type 2 affects just the pancreas.
Pancreatitis occurs when digestive enzymes become activated while still in the pancreas, irritating the cells of your pancreas and causing inflammation. Mild cases of pancreatitis may heal on their own, but severe cases can cause complications and should be seen by a physician at once.
What causes Pancreatitis?
Pancreatitis occurs when digestive enzymes become activated while still in the pancreas, causing the cells of the pancreas to be aggravated and therefore causing inflammation. With recurring occurrences of acute pancreatitis, the pancreas can get damaged and that can lead to chronic pancreatitis. Scar tissue can develop in the pancreas, thereby resulting in loss of normal functioning. This, in turn, can lead to various digestion problems and diabetes.
Conditions that can lead to pancreatitis include:
• Abdominal surgery
• Certain medications
• Cigarette smoking
• Cystic fibrosis
• Family history of pancreatitis
• High calcium levels in the blood
• High triglyceride levels in the blood
• Injury to the abdomen
• Pancreatic cancer
It is also believed that Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP), a procedure used to treat gallstones that can also lead to pancreatitis.
There are a lot of causes of acute pancreatitis. The most frequent, however, are gallbladder disease and alcoholism. These diseases are responsible for over 80 percent of all hospitalizations for acute pancreatitis.
Sometimes, a cause for pancreatitis is never found.
What are the symptoms of Pancreatitis?
Signs and symptoms of pancreatitis can be different, depending on which type you experience.
Acute pancreatitis signs and symptoms include:
• Abdominal pain which radiates to your spine
• Abdominal pain which feels worse after eating
• Rapid pulse
Chronic pancreatitis signs and symptoms include:
• Losing weight without trying
• Oily, smelly stools (steatorrhea)
Why is Pancreatitis painful?
The pancreas, considered a gland, is located in the midline of the back of the abdomen. It is closely associated with the liver, stomach, and duodenum, the first part of the small intestine. A gland is an organ whose main job is to create compounds that pass either in the primary blood flow (called an endocrine system) or pass into a different organ (known as an exocrine function). The pancreas is unusual because it’s both endocrine and exocrine functions. Its endocrine function produces three hormones. Two of these hormones, insulin, and glucagon, are central to the processing of sugars from the diet (carbohydrate metabolism or breakdown). The third hormone created by the endocrine cells of the pancreas impacts metabolic function. This hormone is called vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP). These enzymes are passed into the duodenum through a station called the pancreatic duct. In the duodenum, the enzymes begin the process of breaking down a variety of food components, such as proteins, fats, and starches.
Acute pancreatitis occurs when the pancreas suddenly becomes inflamed but improves. Patients typically recover fully from the illness, and in almost 90% of cases, the symptoms disappear within about a week following therapy. The pancreas returns to its regular structure and working after recovery in the disease. After an attack of acute pancreatitis, the tissue and cells of the pancreas typically return to normal.
All of these causes of pancreatitis seem to have a similar Mechanism in common. Under normal conditions, many of those very potent enzymes produced by the pancreas aren’t active until they enter the duodenum, in which contact with certain other chemicals permits them to function. In pancreatitis, these enzymes become prematurely activated and really start their digestive functions within the pancreas. The pancreas, in essence, begins to digest itself. This process is referred to as autodigestion. A cycle of inflammation begins, including swelling and loss of function. Digestion of the blood vessels in the pancreas results in bleeding. Other active pancreatic chemicals cause the blood vessels to become leaky, and fluid begins to leak from the standard circulation into the gut cavity. The enzymes that are activated also obtain access to the bloodstream through the eroded blood vessels, and start circulating throughout the body.
Pain is a major symptom of pancreatitis. The pain is generally quite extreme and steady, found in the top right-hand corner of the abdomen, and frequently described as”piercing” or”dull” This pain is also frequently felt all the way through to the patient’s back. The patient’s breathing may become quite shallow because deeper breathing tends to cause more pain. Nausea and vomiting, and stomach swelling are all common, as well. A patient will often have a slight fever, using an elevated heart rate and low blood pressure.
Shock is a really serious syndrome that occurs when the volume (amount ) of fluid in the blood is very low. In shock, a patient’s arms and legs become really cold, the blood pressure drops dangerously low, the heartbeat is very rapid, and the patient may start to experience changes in mental status.
A few of the complications of pancreatitis are due to shock. When shock occurs, all of the body’s major organs are deprived of blood and the oxygen it carries, leading to damage. Kidney, respiratory, and heart failure are severe risks of shock. The pancreatic enzymes which have begun circulating throughout the body (as well as various poisons created by the abnormal digestion of the pancreas from these enzymes) have severe consequences on the major body systems. Any number of complications can occur, including damage to the heart, kidneys, lungs, lining of the gastrointestinal tract, liver, eyes, bones, and skin. As the pancreatic enzymes operate on blood vessels surrounding the pancreas, and even blood vessels located at a distance, the risk of blood clots increases. These blood clots complicate the situation by blocking the flow of blood in the vessels. When blood circulation is blocked, the source of oxygen is decreased to various organs and the organ can be ruined.
The pancreas may develop additional issues, even after pancreatitis decreases. When the entire organ becomes bloated and suffers extensive cell death (pancreatic necrosis), the pancreas becomes extremely vulnerable to serious infection. A local collection of pus (called a pancreatic abscess) may develop several weeks after the illness subsides, and might result in increased fever and a recurrence of pain. Another late complication of pancreatitis, occurring several weeks after the illness begins, is referred to as a pancreatic pseudocyst. This occurs when dead pancreatic tissue, blood, white blood cells, enzymes, and fluid that has leaked from the circulatory system collects. In an attempt to enclose and organize this abnormal accumulation, a kind of wall forms from the dead tissue and the growing scar tissue in the area. Pseudocysts cause additional abdominal pain by putting pressure on and displacing pancreatic tissue, resulting in more pancreatic damage.
Since the pancreatic tissue is increasingly destroyed in chronic pancreatitis, many digestive functions become disturbed. The quantity of hormones and enzymes normally produced by the pancreas starts to seriously decrease. Decreases in the production of enzymes result in the inability to appropriately digest food. Fat digestion, particularly, is impaired. A patient’s stools become greasy as fats are passed out of the body. The inability to digest and utilize proteins results in smaller muscles (wasting) and fatigue. The inability to digest and use the nutrients in food leads to malnutrition and a generally weakened condition. As the disease progresses, permanent injury to the pancreas can lead to diabetes.
Natural treatments for Pancreatitis
Pancreatitis is a serious illness that requires
medical Alternative therapies should be used only to complement conventional
Diet & Nutritional therapy
Before taking nutritional supplements, patients
should consult their doctors to make sure these supplements don’t interfere
with their overall treatment plan. The following nutritional changes are
recommended to help support pancreatic function and relieve pancreatitis
• comply with a diabetic diet and avoid alcohol
• Restrict intake of hydrogenated/saturated
fats, sugar, and highly processed foods.
• Increase intake of orange and yellow fruits
and dark green vegetables, which are great sources of betacarotene, whole foods,
vitamin C, and other antioxidants.
• Take high-potency multivitamin/mineral
• Use chromium (300 mcg daily) nutritional
supplements to help control Blood glucose levels and enhance insulin
• Require lipotropic agents(which increase
bile flow and from the liver), such as vitamin B6, vitamin B12, folic acid,
choline, betaine, and methionine.
• Take pancreatic enzymes at mealtime.
Other Therapies for Anxiety:
following alternative therapies can help alleviate pain and discomfort.
• Ayurveda treatment for Pancreatitis: An integrative dietary, meditation, and
lifestyle modification protocol has proven outcomes to be taken as a viable
• Meditation. Along with easing pain, meditation struggles
anxiety and depression, lowers cortisol levels, enhances mental performance and
aids in healing from chronic illnesses.
• Relaxation. The signs of pancreatitis cause discomfort,
pain, and frequent stress. Incorporating effective relaxation techniques such
as breathing exercises can help with the symptoms.
• Acupuncture. Useful for a wide range of physical and mental ailments,
acupuncture is a safe and effective way to reduce chronic pain.
Along with pain, a recent study focusing on individuals with chronic
pancreatitis discovered that biweekly yoga for 12 weeks significantly enhanced
anxiety, mood, appetite, general feelings of well-being and alcohol dependence.
Prevention of Pancreatitis
Alcoholism is basically the only preventable cause of pancreatitis. Patients with chronic pancreatitis must stop drinking alcohol completely. The medications that cause or may lead to pancreatitis should also be avoided.