Pancreatic Enzymes & Pancreatic Exocrine Insufficiency

29th November 2019

Pancreatic Exocrine Insufficiency (PEI) can develop when the pancreas doesn’t work properly. The pancreas is a key component of our digestive system and has two main functions. Initially it breaks down food into smaller parts that can be absorbed by our body. Once those smaller food parts have been absorbed, the pancreas also ensures they are used appropriately throughout the body.

The main treatment for PEI is taking pancreatic enzymes in capsule form, to make up for the enzymes that their own pancreas isn’t producing.

Enzyme Doses

Enzyme doses can take a while to get right, and it’s important to maintain a close relationship with your dietitian throughout – to obtain the right dose for you.

If you aren’t taking the correct dose, you may notice symptoms such as: bloating, wind, abdominal pain, streaky, oily, pale or floating/difficult to flush stools.

You can request a referral to a dietitian if you have PEI and need more support with taking pancreatic enzymes. Specialist pancreatic dietitians are often based at specialist pancreatic centres.

Taking Enzymes

It’s important to know that the enzymes work with the food you eat, not with your body.

Spreading taking the capsules throughout your meal is ideal, but it’s also important to know that they won’t work as effectively if you take enzymes before or after you eat. Enzymes must be taken with the food. This is because the enzymes work with and empty with the food that you eat.

In most cases, dietitians advise patients to continue eating a diet with moderate fat. To discover more about eating a balanced diet, click here.

If you’re eating food that is particularly high in fat, you may need to take more enzymes. This should be discussed in further detail with your dietitian, but fattier foods such as takeaways, Sunday roasts & some restaurant foods may require additional enzymes to aid the digestion of fats.

The enzymes will deactivate above 25 degrees celsius. There is little research surrounding hot drinks & enzyme capsules, but because the enzymes deactivate above this temperature, it would be best to avoid drinking hot drinks to take the enzymes.

Take your enzymes with a cold drink and take small sips of this drink. These smaller sips will ensure that the transit time (the time of moving food through the digestive system) won’t speed up too much, allowing the enzymes more time to work with the food.

Type 3c Diabetes

Type 3c diabetes can develop because of damage to the pancreas, including pancreatitis, cystic fibrosis, pancreatic cancer and haemochromatosis.  For more information on Type 3c diabetes click through to Diabetes UK’s information here.

Elaine’s story details her experience with pancreatitis & Type 3c diabetes.

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