Pancreatitis: Symptoms Of Pancreatitis, And How To Help Naturally

by Dr. Mehreen Qureshi (Physician)

Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas. This happens when there is congestion in the flow of digestive enzymes and these enzymes start attacking the pancreas itself. Hence, the affected person may feel a discomfort in the abdominal region.

Prolonged pancreatitis can reduce the functionality of the pancreas, leading to a decline in the ability to produce normal quantities of digestive enzymes and hormones. This affects the performance of the pancreas, causing malabsorption of diseases such as diabetes.

About the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), around 275,000 Americans every year for acute pancreatitis. [1]

What is the Pancreas?
The pancreas is a flat gland deep-seated in the abdomen. It is an organ vital associated with the production of various enzymes and hormones responsible for the smooth functioning of the digestive system.

The digestive enzymes are released into the duodenum, where they target the proteins and fats for absorption. Specialized cells in the pancreas secrete mutually antagonistic hormones, namely, insulin and glucagon, into the bloodstream to regulate blood sugar levels.




Insulin absorbs excess glucose from the bloodstream when blood sugar levels are high, while glucagon releases stored glucose into the bloodstream as per the body's requirements.

Types of Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis can present itself in the acute and chronic forms.


Acute pancreatitis is a condition wherein inflammation lasts for a short period, while chronic pancreatitis is characterized by longer durations lasting over years of inflammation. and associated effects.

Acute Pancreatitis

Acute pancreatitis is a sudden inflammation of the pancreas, with associated discomfort that ranges from mild pain to moderate. Through proper treatment, most patients can recover completely, but in severe cases, acute pancreatitis can result in infection, bleeding into the gland, cyst formation, and severe tissue damage.

The severe form of pancreatitis is associated with damage to vital organs including the lungs, kidneys, and heart.

Causes of Acute Pancreatitis


  • Gallstones: Gallstones can obstruct the path of the digestive enzymes and hormones, and this can lead to inflammation of the pancreas.
  • Excessive causes of called triglycerides in your blood: Elevated levels of triglycerides can be caused by radical-induced damage to the pancreatic cells.
  • Alcohol abuse: Excessive alcohol intake is a potential threat to the pancreas.
  • Autoimmune pancreatitis: It is a rare type of pancreatitis caused by the body's immune system attacking the pancreas.
  • Injury: An injury to the pancreas in the event of a direct abdominal or motor vehicle injury can cause inflammation in the pancreas.
  • Cystic fibrosis: chronic genetic cystic fibrosis disease that is abnormally thick and sticky production of mucus that constricts the passageways of the lungs and digestive systems.
  • Certain medications containing estrogen, corticosteroids, and antibiotics play important roles in triggering pancreatitis, either as a direct toxic effect or as a side effect.
  • Viral reinfects in adulthood is a rare and probable cause of pancreatitis.
Symptoms of Acute Pancreatitis


  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Swollen and tender abdomen that feels worse after eating
  • Pain in the upper abdomen
  • Abdominal pain that radiates to your back
  • Fever
  • Rapid pulse
Chronic Pancreatitis


Chronic pancreatitis is manifested by recurring events with mild pancreatic inflammation to moderate or severe pain in the abdominal region.

Chronic pancreatitis impairs the digestive system of the individual, affecting absorption in the small intestine. Despite a wholesome diet, individuals suffering from chronic pancreatitis lose weight frequently, owing to the inability of the digestive system to absorb nutrients.

Recurrent acute pancreatitis can progress to chronic forms. Chronic pancreatitis can lead to scarring and can render the pancreas dysfunctional for a lifetime.

Symptoms of Chronic Pancreatitis

Recurrent or even constant abdominal pain, which may be severe
Steady unintentional weight loss required by the body
Fatty, foul-smelling stools (steatorrhea)
Diabetes, as a consequence of the loss of functionality of the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas

Causes of Chronic Pancreatitis

  • Alcohol consumption is a potential risk factor in approximately 70 percent of the cases. [2]
  • Hypertriglyceridemia: Elevated levels of triglycerides.
  • A narrow pancreatic duct; a blockage of pancreatic duct by gallstones or pancreatic stones, often the passage of digestive enzymes or hormones.
  • Cystic fibrosis, characterized by abnormally thick and sticky production of mucus, interferes with the smooth passage of fluids in the lungs and digestive system.
  • Hereditary: Familial pancreatitis that runs in the family.
  • Hypercalcemia can cause injury to the pancreas via accumulation of secretory proteins.
  • Pancreatitis, namely, inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, primary biliary cirrhosis, Sjogren's syndrome, retroperitoneal fibrosis, sarcoidosis, and sclerosing cholangitis.
  • Recurrent episodes of acute pancreatitis can acquire a chronic form.

Where is the Pain of Pancreatitis Felt?
Both acute and chronic pancreatitis are characterized by pain in the upper abdominal area, usually under the ribs. Middle-left upper abdominal pain is a common irrespective symptom of the diagnosed form of pancreatitis. The duration of the stretch is a few hours to several hours at a stretch.

  • Mild pain at first that worsens after eating or drinking.
  • Pain that is flat while lying down and is leaning forward in a seated posture
  • Constant and severe pain that lasts for several days
  • Pain that radiates towards the back region
  • Sometimes, pain that compresses the upper body and backs in a band-like pattern
The intensity of pain is associated with the cause of pancreatitis. A sudden pain that radiates to the symptoms of gallstone-induced pancreatitis, a slight localized pain is indicative of alcohol-induced pancreatitis.

Diagnosing Pancreatitis
A combination of blood tests and imaging studies will be prescribed. Physical examination and medical history will be required to evaluate the possible causes.

The diagnostic criteria for pancreatitis are as follows:

  • Patient presents with sever epigastric pain or pain in the upper left after eating or drinking particularly fatty foods.
  • Lipase or amylase levels three times higher than the normal value is a definitive diagnostic for pancratitis.
  • A value greater than 4 for lipase to amylase ratio strongly suggests alcoholic cause of pancreatitis.

Besides blood tests, healthcare professionals may choose one of the following imaging tests for diagnosis:

  • Abdominal ultrasound
  • Endoscopic ultrasound
  • Computerized tomography (CT) scan
  • Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP), using an endoscope to help get X-rays of the bile and pancreatic ducts
  • Magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP)
  • Pancreatic function test, a test center for some centers in the United States. In this test, the response of the secretin hormone is measured against your pancreas.
Blood tests of an individual suffering from pancreatitis must show high levels of:

  1. Digestive enzymes (amylase and lipase) almost thrice the normal amount
  2. High levels of blood sugar
  3. High levels of lipids (fats) blood
Treatment for Pancreatitis

Your doctor may suggest a visit to the gastroenterologist or surgeon for the following types of procedures and measures that you have:

  • To heal your pancreas, you may be hospitalized and restricted to intravenous nutritional support.
  • Surgery is the underlying cause of pancreatitis is gallstones or some other obstruction of the bile or pancreatic ducts.
  • Medication and antibiotics are administered orally or intravenously.
  • The diet is low in fat and high in fluids with frequent meals in small portions.
  • If the doctor suspects that the condition is stemming from a particular medication, the alternative is to be discontinued or swapped with an alternative safer.
  • Alternative therapies such as yoga, exercise, meditation, and acupuncture have been suggested to ease the pain.
Diet Considerations for Patients with Pancreatitis

The treatment for pancreatitis may involve fasting for a while, to give rest to your pancreas. During this time, intravenous nutritional support is provided. Once the inflammation is contained, a diet low in fat and plenty of fluids is prescribed to speed up recovery. Moreover, alcohol use is restricted if not avoided altogether to keep pancreatitis from worsening or recurring.

Home Remedies to Relieve Pancreatic Pain
Pancreatitis requires immediate medical attention. Treatment usually demands intravenous (IV) fluids, antibiotics, and pain medication. However, you can try some natural remedies, along with your medical treatment, to ease the pain and discomfort associated with the disease.

Here are some effective ways to relieve pancreatitis pain.

1. Apply Hot Compress

A hot compress is a quick and effective remedy for upper abdominal pain due to pancreatitis. The warmth of the compress helps relax the muscles of your abdomen, thus reducing the pain. [3] [4]

It is even helpful in alleviating the inflammation.

  • Hot water bottle or warm up heating on a low setting. Wrap it in a small towel and place it on the painful area for 5 to 10 minutes. Repeat as needed.
  • Enjoying a warm bath for 15 to 20 minutes twice a day also helps relieve stomach pain.
Caution: Care should be taken while using a hot water compress to reduce the risk of burns.


2. Apple Cider Vinegar Drink

Apple cider vinegar is rich in anti-inflammatory properties. It helps reduce the abdominal pain related to pancreatitis. Its natural acid content helps reduce the thickness of the bile, thus preventing the formation of stones in the gall bladder (one of the critical causes of acute pancreatitis). Additionally, it helps to maintain an ideal body weight and abdominal fat content, which can aid in pancreatitis treatment. [5]

  • Mix 1 tablespoon of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar in 1 cup of warm water.
  • Stir in 1 teaspoon each of lemon juice and honey.
  • Drink this solution two times a day.
3. Take Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) that are essential to the human body but cannot be synthesized. These are involved in various metabolic pathways of the human body. Omega-3 fatty acids possess anti-inflammatory properties and help reduce inflammation and pain due to pancreatitis. A study reports by increasing the tissue content of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, there can be a reduction of systemic inflammation in acute pancreatitis and of tissue fibrosis in chronic pancreatitis. [6]

According to a 2015 published in Nutrients meta-analysis, omega-3 fatty acids supplemented with the risk of mortality and infectious complications and decreased the span of hospital stays of patients with pancreatitis. [7]

To include omega-3 fatty acids in your diet, consume soybean, flaxseed, walnuts, canola, spinach, shrimp, clams, and fatty fishes such as salmon, trout and tuna. You can also consider taking a supplement on consultation with a doctor.

4. Enjoy Ginger Tea / Ale

Ginger helps reduce inflammation in the pancreas and so does pain owing to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

A 2013 Journal of Preventive Medicine published in the study highlighted the antioxidative and anti-inflammatory effects of ginger. [8]

Aggrated cases of pancreatitis have been identified with pancreatic cancer. A published study in Gastroenterology Research and Practice (2015) established that ginger and its constituents are effective against pancreatic cancer. [9]

  • Sip on warm ginger tea to reduce pain. To make ginger tea, peel and slice a 1/2 inch - long piece of ginger root. Put the slices in 1 cup of hot water. Cover it and let it steep for 10 minutes. Strain, add-on, and drink while it's still warm. You can also chew the ginger slices.
  • You can also drink ginger ale to get relief from pain.
5. Try Acupuncture Therapy

Acupuncture is a safe and effective way of relieving discomfort and pain. Used for thousands of years for a wide array of physical and mental ailments, acupuncture can be used to alleviate the pain related to pancreatitis.

Acupuncture is a type of procedure that involves stimulating anatomical points on the body by a variety of techniques. Thin, solid, metallic needles are penetrated into the skin and are manipulated by the hands or by electrical stimulation.

A 2017 study published in Pancreas studied the analgesic effect of acupuncture in pancreatic pain. Because the outcome is only for short duration, further studies are needed to validate the impact of acupuncture on visceral pain. [10]

Another study conducted in 2018 and published in Trials demonstrated the efficacy of electroacupuncture for pain relief in patients with acute pancreatitis. [11]

Consultation with a doctor must before undergoing acupuncture therapy.

6. Consume Turmeric

Turmeric possesses properties that help fight many cancers, including pancreatic cancer. The anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric can be attributed to its bioactive ingredient, curcumin.

A 2011 published in the Indian Journal of Medical Research study suggested that curcumin could attenuate pancreatic tissue and other organs by inhibiting the release of an inflammatory marker. [12]

Another study published in Pain Medicine (2016) reports that curcuminoid supplements may be a safe and effective strategy to mitigate the severity of pain associated with this condition. However, further studies are warranted to define the long-term efficacy and safety of these supplements. [13]

  • Boil 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder in 1 glass of milk or 2 glasses of water. Drink this twice daily.
  • You can also take 400 to 600 milligrams of curcumin supplements up to three times a day or with each meal. Always consult your doctor before taking any supplement.
Note: Avoid high doses of turmeric risk factors. Use turmeric with caution if you are diabetic or suffering from gallstones, bleeding disorders etc.

7. Include Blueberries in Your Diet


The anti-inflammatory properties of blueberries make them a good remedy for pancreatitis pain. It even reduces vascular damage to the pancreas caused by diabetes.

Blueberries are rich in antioxidants, which protect the pancreas from oxidative stress as a result of free-radical damage. These berries can also reduce your risk of developing severe conditions such as pancreatic cancer.

According to the American Institute of Cancer Research, blueberries have a large number of phytochemicals, particularly anthocyanins, which help inhibit tumor growth and may decrease inflammation. [14]

Include at least 1 cup of fresh blueberries in your daily diet to keep your pancreas healthy.

8. Take Reishi Mushrooms



Reishi mushrooms contain powerful anti-inflammatory compounds that can reduce inflammation in and around the pancreas. This, in turn, reduces the risk of developing pancreatitis.

They also reduce the risk of several cancers, including pancreatic cancer.

A 2014 study published in Mediators of Inflammation found in mushrooms to be a source of anti-inflammatory compounds for medical applications. [15]

Another 2016 done on mice study shows the potential usage for chronic pancreatitis. However, more work needs to be done on human subjects. [16]

When taken for health reasons, consume this mushroom in dried or extract form. It is readily available on the market in liquid, capsule, or powdered forms.

Take 150 milligrams to 300 milligrams of reishi mushrooms to help relieve inflammation, in the process boosting your immune system.



Preventing Pancreatitis
To prevent pancreatitis, bring about different changes in your lifestyle to metamorphose into an individual healthier, such as:








  • Limit your alcohol consumption to a minimum. Avoid smoking. Consult a doctor if you suffer from an addiction.

  • Choose a diet plan that is high in fruits, vegetables, and proteins and limits carbs and fats.

  • Keep yourself plenty of fluids throughout the day.

  • Instead of drinking coffee, go for decaffeinated green tea, which is extremely good for your health.

  • Include foods are rich in antioxidants to fight free radical damage.
Additional Tips

Try meditation as it aids in easing pain from chronic illnesses.
Mental and emotional stress factors dramatically affect pain and inflammation in the body. Hence, try to reduce stress as much as possible.
Drink aloe vera juice daily, as it hosts a sufficient quantity of anti-inflammatory compounds, which can help reduce the inflammation of the pancreas. [17]
Papaya juice is another nutrient-rich formula often used to treat pancreatitis. [18]

Complications with Pancreatitis

Several complications may be treated in a timely or proper fashion.


  • Pseudocysts are the result of collected fluids and debris, which when ruptured can result in internal bleeding in the organ and subsequent infection.

  • Respiratory distress occurs, affecting the functioning of the lungs.

  • Diabetes is a severe complication that may result in diminished levels of insulin as a result of the pancreatic inflammation.

  • Untreated chronic pancreatitis can result in pancreatic cancer.

  • Poor absorption leads to unintentional weight loss or malnourishment of diseased individuals.

  • Because pancreatitis is associated with diarrhea, vomiting, and even internal bleeding, a prolonged episode can trigger hypovolemic shock, which is a potentially fatal situation where there is a loss of more than 20 percent of the body's blood or fluid supply.

  • Damage to vital organs including the kidneys, lungs, and heart may occur.
When to See a Doctor

Pancreatitis is characterized by inflammation of the pancreas, with symptoms including abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, breathing difficulties, and digestive distress. These symptoms are not peculiar to pancreatitis and can often be confused with some other ailment.

In order to get a proper diagnosis, it is evaluated properly by a medical professional. This is particularly important because it undermines your condition and not tending to be promptly numbered far more serious and life-threatening complications.

Resources:



  • National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/pancreatitis.


  • JA Day. FAQs about Chronic Pancreatitis. Johns Hopkins Medicine. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/gastroenterology_hepatology/diseases_conditions/faqs/chronic_pancreatitis.html. Published October 13, 2017.


  • Pancreatic Cancer Pain. Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. https://www.pancan.org/facing-pancreatic-cancer/living-with-pancreatic-cancer/managing-side-effects-palliative-care/symptoms-pain/.


  • WANG Y, Zhang X, LI C. Applying Hot Compresses with Rhubarb and Mirabilite to Reduce Pancreatic Leakage Occurrence in the Treatment of Severe Acute Pancreatitis. Iranian Journal of Public Health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5401925/. Published January 2017.


  • Beh BK, Mohamad NE, Yeap SK. Effects of synthetic acetic acid vinegar and Nipa vinegar on high-fat diet-induced obese mice. Scientific Report. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5532206/. Published July 27, 2017.


  • Weylandt KH, Nadolny A, Kahlke L. Reduction of inflammation and chronic tissue damage by omega-3 fatty acids in fat-1 transgenic mice with pancreatitis. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) - Reviews on Cancer. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2614880/. Published September 12, 2008.


  • Lei QC, Wang XY, Xia XF, et al. The Role of Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Acute Pancreatitis: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Nutrients. https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/7/4/2261. Published March 31, 2015.


  • Askari G, Hariri M, Darvishi L. Anti-Oxidative and Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Ginger in Health and Physical Activity: Review of Current Evidence. Internation Journal of Preventive Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3665023/. Published April 2013.


  • Prasad S, Tyagi AK. Ginger and Its Constituents: Role in Prevention and Treatment of Gastrointestinal Cancer. Gastroenterology Research and Practice. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/grp/2015/142979/. Published March 8, 2015.


  • Juel J, Liguori S, Liguori A, et al. Acupuncture for Pain in Chronic Pancreatitis: A Single-Blinded Randomized Crossover Trial. Pancreas. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28060186. Published February 2017.


  • The DK, Jung CY, Kim KH. Electroacupuncture for abdominal pain relief in patients with acute pancreatitis: a study protocol for a randomized controlled trial. Trials. https://trialsjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13063-018-2644-1. Published May 16, 2018.


  • Yu W-G, Xu G, Ren G-J. Preventive action of curcumin in experimental acute pancreatitis in mouse. Indian Journal of Health Sciences and Biomedical Research KLEU. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3249972/. Published November 2011.


  • Sahebkar S, Henrotin Y. Analgesic Efficacy and Safety of Curcuminoids in Clinical Practice: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Pain Medicine. https://academic.oup.com/painmedicine/article/17/6/1192/2240744. Published December 12, 2015.


  • AICR’s Foods That Fight Cancer. American Institute for Cancer Research. http://www.aicr.org/foods-that-fight-cancer/blueberries.html.


  • Elsayed EA, Enshasy HE, Wadaan MAM. Mushrooms: A Potential Natural Source of Anti-Inflammatory Compounds for Medical Applications. Mediators of Inflammation. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4258329/. Published November 23, 2014.


  • Li K, Zhuo C, Teng C, et al. Effects of Ganoderma Lucidum polysaccharides on chronic pancreatitis and intestinal microbiota in mice. International Journal of Biological Macromolecules. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27616696. Published December 2016.


  • Mohamed S, Azab E-, Eraky NE-. The possible protective role of aloe vera is extracted in ...: Egyptian Journal of Histology. LWW. https://journals.lww.com/ejhistology/Fulltext/2014/09000/The_possible_protective_role_of_aloe_vera_extracts.14.aspx. Published September 2014.


  • Hewavitharana AK, Shaw PN, Cabot, PJ. Anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory properties of Carica papaya. Journal of Immunotoxicology. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.3109/1547691X.2016.1149528. Published July 14, 2016.


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