Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of diet should I follow?

In the past, doctors recommended a low-fat diet for people with PEI. That has changed with the recognition that a low-fat diet may worsen your malnutrition and that you need fat in your diet to help absorb certain vitamins. Still, some fats are better for you than others. If you’re not sure how to maintain a balanced, healthy diet, talk to your doctor and a nutritionist about planning healthy meals that will help alleviate your symptoms.

Are there certain foods that I should avoid?

If you have pancreatic exocrine insufficiency (PEI), figuring out what to eat can be tricky. You need to make sure you’re getting enough nutrients and vitamins, but you also need to avoid foods that irritate your digestive tract. On top of this, some conditions associated with PEI, like cystic fibrosis, Crohn’s disease, Celiac disease, and diabetes, have additional special dietary requirements.

Fortunately, a balanced diet combined with enzyme replacement therapy can help ease your symptoms and improve your quality of life. Ask your doctor what kinds of foods you should avoid.

What lifestyle changes do I need to make?

If ongoing pancreatitis (Inflammation of the pancreas) is causing your PEI, certain lifestyle choices can make your condition worse. Alcohol and smoking decrease your chances of successful treatment. It’s hard to make lifestyle changes, so ask your doctor for advice on how to form new healthy habits.

Do I need to take supplements?

If you have PEI, you may need to take vitamins to replace the ones your body is struggling to absorb. Ask your doctor what kinds of symptoms to expect if you’re malnourished, and what you can do to make sure you’re getting enough vitamins in your diet.

How much enzyme replacement should I take?

Your doctor will recommend how much enzyme replacement you should start taking. You’ll take less with snacks than at meals. You may need to take more enzyme replacement if you’re eating a high-fat meal.

How will I know if my treatment is working?

There’s no scientific agreement on how successful PEI treatment with pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy should be defined. The main measure of treatment success is improvement in symptoms, weight gain and improved nutrition. Also, you may have less abdominal pain and flatulence and you may not have to go to the bathroom as often.

Following your doctor’s and pharmacist’s recommendations and taking enzymes with every meal will improve your chances of success. Ask your doctor about how to ensure you’re getting the maximum benefit from your treatment.

What should I do if my treatment isn’t working?

If your treatment isn’t working right away, don’t give up. Improvements in symptoms may take one to two weeks. Remember, you must take your PERT with each meal and snack. Your treatment can’t work if you don’t take it.

Speak to your doctor and he or she may adjust your dose of enzyme replacement therapy. Your dose may be too low, or you may need extra medication. Remember that you have options if your symptoms aren’t improving.

When should I return for a follow-up?

It’s important that you and your doctor or gastroenterologist are working as a team and scheduling regular appointments. Regular appointments will ensure that your treatment plan can be monitored and complications of PEI can be caught early.

What is the difference between a colonoscopy and sigmoidoscopy?

The difference between colonoscopy and sigmoidoscopy is related to which parts of the colon each can examine. Sigmoidoscopy allows doctors to view only the lower part of the colon, while colonoscopy allows doctors to view both the upper and lower sections.  Recent research suggests that colonoscopy is superior to flexible sigmoidoscopy as a colon cancer screening method.

What is the appropriate diet for someone who has pancreatitis?

The majority of pancreatitis is due to alcohol or gallstones. There are less common causes which require appropriate investigations by a specialist. Avoiding alcohol is extremely important for anyone with pancreatitis.

Below are diet recommendations to adhere to following an episode of pancreatitis:

  • Avoid alcohol
  • Eat low fat meals - but keep a well balanced diet
  • Drink plenty of non-caffeinated fluids to keep well hydrated

Additional recommendations regarding diet and lifestyle include:

  • Eating well balanced meals at least 3 per day
  • Being sure to adhere to a high fibre diet
  • Including calcium in your diet
  • Choosing meals low in saturated fats
  • Aiming for a healthy weight (BMI 20-25). Note: rapid changes in weight (increase or decrease) can cause stone formation so be sure to make modifications in your weight gradually.

Enhancing lifelong health

The Canadian Digestive Health Foundation believes our ability to help establish, enrich and protect a healthy gut microbiota is the key to lifelong health