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Health Condition

Pancreatic Insufficiency

About This Condition

Pancreatic insufficiency occurs when the pancreas does not secrete enough chemicals and digestive enzymes for normal digestion to occur.

When pancreatic insufficiency is severe, malabsorption (impaired absorption of nutrients by the intestines) may result, leading to deficiencies of essential nutrients and the occurrence of loose stools containing unabsorbed fat (steatorrhea).

Severe pancreatic insufficiency occurs in cystic fibrosis, chronic pancreatitis, and surgeries of the gastrointestinal system in which portions of the stomach or pancreas are removed. Certain gastrointestinal diseases, such as stomach ulcers,1celiac disease,2 and Crohn’s disease,3 and autoimmune disorders, such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE),4,5,6 may contribute to the development of pancreatic insufficiency. Mild forms of pancreatic insufficiency are often difficult to diagnose, and there is controversy among researchers regarding whether milder forms of pancreatic insufficiency need treatment.

Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas that reduces the function of the pancreas, causing pancreatic insufficiency, malabsorption, and diabetes.7 Acute pancreatitis is usually a temporary condition and can be caused by gallstones, excessive alcohol consumption, high blood triglycerides, abdominal injury, and other diseases, and by certain medications and poisons.8 Chronic pancreatitis is a slow, silent process that gradually destroys the pancreas and is most often caused by excessive alcohol consumption.

Symptoms

People with pancreatic insufficiency may have excess oil in the stool (steatorrhea), which is associated with symptoms of pale, foul-smelling, bulky stools that stick to the side of the toilet bowl or are difficult to flush, oil droplets floating in the toilet bowl after bowel movements, and abdominal discomfort, gas, and bloating. People with pancreatic insufficiency may also have bone pain, muscle cramps, night blindness, and easy bruising.

Other Therapies

Some healthcare practitioners might also recommend intravenous nutritional supplements that replace unabsorbed fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamins A, D, E, and K.

References

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32. Morris-Stiff GJ, Bowrey DJ, Oleesky D, et al. The antioxidant profiles of patients with recurrent acute and chronic pancreatitis. Am J Gastroenterol 1999;94:2135-40.

33. Gut A, Shiel N, Kay PM, et al. Heightened free radical activity in blacks with chronic pancreatitis at Johannesburg, South Africa. Clin Chim Acta 1994;230:189-99.

34. Bonham MJ, Abu-Zidan FM, Simovic MO, et al. Early ascorbic acid depletion is related to the severity of acute pancreatitis. Br J Surg 1999;86:1296-301.

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38. Kulinski B, Buchner M, Schweder R, Nagel R. Acute pancreatitis—a free radical disease. Decrease in fatality with sodium selenite (Na2SeO3) therapy. Z Gesamte Inn Med 1991;46:145-9 [in German].

39. Uden S, Bilton D, Nathan L, et al. Antioxidant therapy for recurrent pancreatitis: placebo-controlled trial. Aliment Pharmacol Ther 1990;4:357-71.

40. McCloy R. Chronic pancreatitis at Manchester, UK. Focus on antioxidant therapy. Digestion 1998;59(suppl 4):36-48 [review].

41. Kirk GR, White JS, McKie L, et al. Combined antioxidant therapy reduces pain and improves quality of life in chronic pancreatitis. J Gastrointest Surg 2006;10:499-503.

42. Kulinski B, Buchner M, Schweder R, Nagel R. Acute pancreatitis—a free radical disease. Decrease in fatality with sodium selenite (Na2SeO3) therapy. Z Gesamte Inn Med 1991;46:145-9 [in German].

43. Uden S, Bilton D, Nathan L, et al. Antioxidant therapy for recurrent pancreatitis: placebo-controlled trial. Aliment Pharmacol Ther 1990;4:357-71.

44. McCloy R. Chronic pancreatitis at Manchester, UK. Focus on antioxidant therapy. Digestion 1998;59(suppl 4):36-48 [review].

45. Kulinski B, Buchner M, Schweder R, Nagel R. Acute pancreatitis—a free radical disease. Decrease in fatality with sodium selenite (Na2SeO3) therapy. Z Gesamte Inn Med 1991;46:145-9 [in German].

46. Uden S, Bilton D, Nathan L, et al. Antioxidant therapy for recurrent pancreatitis: placebo-controlled trial. Aliment Pharmacol Ther 1990;4:357-71.

47. McCloy R. Chronic pancreatitis at Manchester, UK. Focus on antioxidant therapy. Digestion 1998;59(suppl 4):36-48 [review].

48. Kulinski B, Buchner M, Schweder R, Nagel R. Acute pancreatitis—a free radical disease. Decrease in fatality with sodium selenite (Na2SeO3) therapy. Z Gesamte Inn Med 1991;46:145-9 [in German].

49. Uden S, Bilton D, Nathan L, et al. Antioxidant therapy for recurrent pancreatitis: placebo-controlled trial. Aliment Pharmacol Ther 1990;4:357-71.

50. McCloy R. Chronic pancreatitis at Manchester, UK. Focus on antioxidant therapy. Digestion 1998;59(suppl 4):36-48 [review].

51. Banerjee B, Bagchi D. Beneficial effects of a novel IH636 grape seed proanthocyanidin extract in the treatment of chronic pancreatitis. Digestion 2001;63:203-6.

52. Dutta SK, Hlasko J. Dietary fiber in pancreatic disease: effect of high fiber diet on fat malabsorption in pancreatic insufficiency and in vitro study of the interaction of dietary fiber with pancreatic enzymes. Am J Clin Nutr 1985;41:517-25.

53. Scolapio JS, Malhi-Chowla N, Ukleja A. Nutrition supplementation in patients with acute and chronic pancreatitis. Gastroenterol Clin North Am 1999;28:695-707 [review].

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55. Scolapio JS, Malhi-Chowla N, Ukleja A. Nutrition supplementation in patients with acute and chronic pancreatitis. Gastroenterol Clin North Am 1999;28:695-707 [review].

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The information presented by Healthnotes is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires December 2018.

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