Your pancreas may be the less glamorous cousin of organs like the heart and lungs. Yet it quietly goes about its job, keeping your digestive juices flowing and regulating the body’s glucose levels by producing insulin. It plays twin roles, working in both the endocrine system and the digestive system, so when your pancreas is in trouble, you may experience a range of problems from abdominal pain to diarrhea, vomiting, malnutrition, and even diabetes.
Thankfully, the right foods in your diet can go a long way in healing your pancreas and restoring your health. Keep in mind, though, that while the foods listed here can have a restorative and soothing effect on your pancreas, these are not a substitute for medical opinion or medication prescribed by your doctor.
What’s Good For Your Pancreas?
Before getting into what you should be eating, it helps to know what to limit in your diet. The National Pancreas Foundation recommends a low-fat diet, with no more than 20 gm of fat per day and no more than 10 gm per meal. Staying hydrated is also important, while alcohol is a strict no-no.1
Lean protein sources are a good way to ensure you get the nutrients you need without the burden of the extra fat. While helping your pancreas, you will also be doing your cardiovascular system a favor. Trim fat off your meats and eat more chicken breasts and healthy seafood like fish. Switch to tofu or beans as your protein source if possible. Use less oil in your cooking and stick to sprays of olive oil and other vegetable oils. The National Pancreas Foundation suggests using fat-free chicken stock as a cheat’s way to keep meat moist minus the extra fat.2
Have Cruciferous Vegetables And Dark Leafy Greens
Cancer-fighting properties of certain cruciferous veggies like broccoli, arugula, cabbage, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts make them a sensible option for your pancreas. Dark green leafy vegetables like kale, watercress, or spinach are smart choices for healing the pancreas because of their high iron and B vitamins. Holy basil while technically not a vegetable is a green herb that offers antioxidant protection.3
Eat Antioxidant-Rich Fruits And Vegetables
Antioxidant-rich foods, specifically those rich in dietary antioxidants selenium, zinc, vitamin C, and vitamin E, will help heal the pancreas. As one long-term study of 23,658 participants found, the intake of these nutrients could influence your risk of developing pancreatic cancer in particular.4
The ellagic acid in raspberries is both antimutagenic and anticarcinogenic and has been shown in studies to help lower the risk of pancreatic cancer.5 Red grapes, blueberries, and cherries are other antioxidant-rich fruits that help the pancreas.6
Vitamin C and beta-carotene rich carrots provide the body with a rich supply of antioxidants and cancer-fighting falcarinol. The polyacetylene falcarinol may even help with glucose uptake. Alternatively, sweet potatoes pack a beta-carotene punch too, while celery can provide the body with falcarinol to ward off cancer.7 Tomatoes, squash, and bell peppers are other vegetables that come recommended for pancreatitis.8
Cold water fish and fish oils are rich in omega 3 fatty acids that are good for the pancreas. Besides improving the immunity of your body so you can heal better, they also fight inflammation.9
Can A Liquid Diet Heal?
Solid food takes more effort to digest, so if your pancreas is under excessive strain it might help to stick to a liquid diet for a few days. This can help ease the load on the pancreas for a day or two. Clear liquids like broth, apple juice, cranberry juice, or white grape juice are a good idea. But remember, this is only a temporary measure since a liquid diet is lacking in other nutrients your body might need.10
On a more regular basis, you could supplement your solids diet with antioxidant-rich green tea as well as these other clear liquids.
Traditional Chinese medicine suggests the use of red reishi mushrooms to cut inflammation in the body. It also helps bring balance to your system, healing the pancreas. Some studies have also shown the anti-tumor effect of the mushroom. The Beta-D-glucan sugar molecule in these mushrooms stimulates the immune system, helping it respond better to foreign cells of all manner – from viruses to bacteria and even tumor cells.11
Ayurveda meanwhile suggests adding turmeric or curcumin to your food to tackle inflammation, diarrhea, and other digestive disorders.12 Indian gooseberry or amla is useful for regulating blood sugar and is beneficial in treating pancreatitis.13
In general, a sattvik diet that is low on meat and fat is best. Sour and pungent foods, as well as fried and refined foods, are to be avoided. Drinking enough water is important to stave off the dehydrating effects of pancreatitis. The sattvik diet is light and fresh, and includes plenty of fresh vegetables like artichoke, broccoli, celery, cabbage, cauliflower, carrot, okra, as well as fruit like apples, banana, cantaloupe, grapes, and grapefruit. Rice, millets, oats and barley are good staples. Lentils and beans are also considered sattvik. Fresh buttermilk or freshly squeezed juices made at home are also a good way to imbibe more liquid.14
|↑1, ↑2, ↑10||Nutrition Advice & Recipes, The National Pancreas Foundation.|
|↑3, ↑6, ↑8, ↑9||Pancreatitis, University of Maryland Medical Center.|
|↑4||Banim, Paul JR, Robert Luben, Alison McTaggart, Ailsa Welch, Nicholas Wareham, Kay-Tee Khaw, and Andrew R. Hart. “Dietary antioxidants and the etiology of pancreatic cancer: a cohort study using data from food diaries and biomarkers.” Gut 62, no. 10 (2013): 1489-1496.|
|↑5||Edderkaoui, Mouad, Irina Odinokova, Izumi Ohno, Ilya Gukovsky, V. L. Go, Stephen J. Pandol, and Anna S. Gukovskaya. “Ellagic acid induces apoptosis through inhibition of nuclear factor kappa B in pancreatic cancer cells.” World J Gastroenterol 14, no. 23 (2008): 3672-80.|
|↑7||El-Houri, Rime B., Dorota Kotowska, Kathrine B. Christensen, Sumangala Bhattacharya, Niels Oksbjerg, Gerhard Wolber, Karsten Kristiansen, and Lars P. Christensen. “Polyacetylenes from carrots (Daucus carota) improve glucose uptake in vitro in adipocytes and myotubes.” Food & function 6, no. 7 (2015): 2135-2144.|
|↑11||Babu, P. Dinesh, and R. S. Subhasree. “The sacred mushroom “Reishi”-a review.” The American-Eurasian Journal of Botany 1, no. 3 (2008): 107-110.|
|↑12||Gupta, Subash C., Bokyung Sung, Ji Hye Kim, Sahdeo Prasad, Shiyou Li, and Bharat B. Aggarwal. “Multitargeting by turmeric, the golden spice: from kitchen to clinic.” Molecular nutrition & food research 57, no. 9 (2013): 1510-1528.|
|↑13||Khan, Kishwar Hayat. “Roles of Emblica officinalis in medicine-A review.” Botany Research International 2, no. 4 (2009): 218-228.|
|↑14||Morningstar, Amadea. Ayurvedic Cooking for Westerners: Familiar Western Food Prepared with Ayurvedic Principles. Lotus Press, 1995.|