Can You Drink In Moderation After Acute Pancreatitis
With acute pancreatitis, even if it was not caused by alcohol, you should avoid drinking alcohol completely for at least six months to give the pancreas time to recover.
Acute pancreatitis is a painful inflammatory condition that affects your pancreas and can cause severe complications if left untreated. The pancreas produces enzymes that digest food so that they can be absorbed into your bloodstream. When something goes wrong with this process — say, a gallstone gets stuck in one of the main ducts leading from the pancreas to the intestine or digestive juices flow backward through an injured duct — then pancreatic inflammation occurs.
Most cases of acute pancreatitis happen unexpectedly. Although there are several possible causes of acute pancreatitis, most often it’s due to excessive consumption of either too much fat or alcohol. But sometimes other factors such as drugs, smoking, trauma and metabolic disorders may also lead to acute pancreatitis. If you have ever had acute pancreatitis, chances are good that you were consuming more than just socially acceptable amounts of alcohol when it happened.
If you’ve been diagnosed with acute pancreatitis, your doctor will want to know what kind of alcohol you drank before symptoms began. He or she might ask whether you typically drink alone or with others; how many drinks per week; how long between drinks; and about any changes in your usual habits during the weeks prior to developing pancreatitis.
Many people who develop acute pancreatitis don’t remember eating anything unusual the day before they felt ill. But if you’re among those who do recall having eaten something out-of-the ordinary (like fatty foods, spicy meals or heavy meals), try not to overdo it on these types of foods going forward. And if you haven’t already done so, take steps to reduce your intake of them.
It’s important to note that some doctors believe that consuming small amounts of alcohol, especially red wine, may actually benefit patients recovering from acute pancreatitis. Studies show that red wine contains antioxidants called polyphenols that may help prevent infection and decrease pain. However, because of its potential health benefits, it’s best to avoid alcohol altogether while you’re dealing with acute pancreatitis.
The American Gastroenterological Association and Mayo Clinic both recommend abstaining entirely from alcohol for at least six months after recovery. This gives the pancreas enough time to heal. It’s difficult to predict exactly how long it’ll take, but it usually takes three to four months for the pancreas to fully repair itself. During this time, though, you should avoid all alcoholic beverages, including beer, liquor and hard cider.
You should also stop taking supplements containing vitamin K, which may increase bleeding risk.
Finally, avoid activities like swimming, diving, surfing, scuba diving, water skiing and hot tubbing until your doctor says it’s OK to resume them. These sports put pressure directly onto the pancreas.
What happens if you suddenly come down with acute pancreatitis?
In rare circumstances, sudden onset of symptoms such as back pain, nausea, fever or jaundice could indicate a serious problem. Call 911 immediately, seek medical attention and contact your primary care provider immediately.
Even without symptoms, however, it’s still vital to call your doctor right away if you experience new or worsening symptoms that last longer than 48 hours. Some common examples include persistent headaches, abdominal pain, difficulty swallowing, unexplained weight loss, constipation, diarrhea, dark urine, vomiting blood, shortness of breath, weakness, dizziness, confusion, numbness, tingling, paleness, seizures, slurred speech, tremors, drooling, uncontrollable urination, chest pain, irregular heartbeat or swelling around the eyes, lips or tongue.
How can I stay safe while traveling?
Because acute pancreatitis can strike anyone at anytime, you need to be aware of the warning signs and symptoms of acute pancreatitis. Always keep travel insurance handy in case you end up with pancreatitis. Many policies cover emergency surgery for overseas treatment. They often require pre-existing authorization, however. Make sure you get proof of coverage in advance.
While abroad, you should carry identification showing your name and where you live. Also pack medications for treating allergic reactions, sunburn, diarrhea, upset stomach, motion sickness, altitude illness, insect bites and snakebites. Bring along extra medication bottles and prescription labels.
If you’re staying in a hotel room, make sure the door locks work properly. Don’t share personal items like toothbrushes or towels with another person unless you know them well. Use separate bed linens for each guest. If you think someone else has used your towel, wash it thoroughly. Never leave valuables lying around unattended.
Where can I find information on acute pancreatitis?
This section covers some basic facts about acute pancreatitis. For more detailed information on specific issues related to living with acute pancreatits, go to the Web sites listed here.
National Pancreas Foundation. The National Pancreas Foundation focuses on research, education and support for people affected by chronic and hereditary forms of pancreatitis. Its Web site includes information on diagnosis, treatments, patient stories and links to local chapters across the United States.
American Pancreatic Association. The American Pancreatic Association has published guidelines for the management of acute pancreatitis since 1979. Learn about the latest developments in diagnosis, assessment, fluid replacement therapy, nutrition and pharmacotherapy.
Mayo Clinic. The Mayo Clinic provides information on diagnosing, preventing and managing acute pancreatitis. Find out how to recognize early symptoms, how to determine the severity of your disease, and tips for preventing recurrences.
WebMD. WebMD publishes articles on topics ranging from general wellness to special interest areas like diabetes, cancer and HIV/AIDS. Click “Health Library” and search for “acute pancreatitis.”
For additional resources and information, visit the websites below.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A U.S. government agency, the CDC offers information on diseases and conditions affecting public health. Go to their site to learn about acute pancreatitis, read descriptions of outbreaks and see statistics on hospitalizations and deaths.
World Health Organization. WHO works to promote international cooperation and collaboration. Their website features a page devoted to acute pancreatitis. Here you’ll find information on how to treat the disease, prevention strategies, and ways to deal with infected victims.
U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Another federal agency, USPSTF reviews evidence to identify preventive services that can improve population health. Their recommendations are based on extensive analysis of studies. Visit their site to discover the current recommendation for screening tests used to diagnose acute pancreatitis.
NIDDK: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. NIDDK is part of NIH, the nation’s health agency. NIDDK funds clinical trials designed to improve our understanding, diagnoses and treatments for various illnesses. On their site, you can explore a variety of topics including pancreatitis.
NIH Office of Research Services Information Clearinghouse. Located within NIDDK, the ORIS database collects and disseminates biomedical literature on major diseases, disorders and conditions. From the home page, click on “health sciences,” then enter “pancreatitis” in the search box.
Cure JM. Cure is an online resource dedicated to providing information for patients and caregivers of individuals with Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and celiac sprue. On the “Support & Info” tab, you can browse news updates, blogs and discussion forums. Under “Living With Celiac Sprue,” check out a list of frequently asked questions.
Acute pancreatitis isn’t pleasant, but with proper diagnosis and treatment, it doesn’t have to become dangerous. So talk to your doctor about symptoms, and follow his or her advice carefully.
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