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It's easy to get answers about health and nutrition! Just send your question by email to askdrgourmet@drgourmet.com and Dr. Harlan will respond to selected questions of general interest. Answers will be posted in the Ask Dr. Gourmet newsletter (sign up now!) and archived in the Ask Dr. Gourmet section of the website.

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Ask Dr. Gourmet



What is the right diet for pancreatitis and diabetes?

My husband has had pancreatitis for many years and now has been diagnosed with diabetes. The doctors are still trying to "figure things out" with him, but I'm wondering if you could possibly send me a list of foods that he should eat and those he should avoid. He mostly needs "snack" foods because he has a feeling of hunger quite often (it seems especially in the middle of the night), but I'd also like meal ideas. Anything you can send me would be much appreciated. Thanks for your help.

Dr. Gourmet Says...

A freshly-washed (still wet) green apple

First and foremost, it appears that a low fat diet is key and you should be focusing on a much lower ratio of saturated to unsaturated fat. While in general we believe that low fat diets are not the best choice for overall health, there are a few cases where it is a better choice and chronic pancreatitis is one.

Secondly, it's very important to stop drinking any alcohol. Completely.

Thirdly, no smoking (of course this applies across the board but may have an effect on pancreatitis as well).

There are some guidelines that have been advanced but none of these have been all that well researched. These include:

1. Consuming smaller and more frequent meals.

2. Avoiding very rich, fatty or greasy foods.

3. Some folks with pancreas issues also end up having trouble controlling blood sugar, so it's important to adopt a diet that's low in added sugars and concentrated sweets. Fruits should be OK. While they do have fruit sugar (fructose), they also contain fiber and make great snacks.

4. Acid reflux can be a factor for some and acid reducing agents such as Zantac have been shown to be helpful. You can find information on GERD/Acid Reflux triggers on the Dr. Gourmet Web site.

5. In some cases pancreatitis can cause dehydration. Water is the drink of choice, so keeping a bottle on hand is key.

A modified Mediterranean diet that focuses on somewhat lower saturated fat, low added sugar, healthy carbs like whole grains, legumes, and fruits should help control blood sugar and may help with his symptoms. Snacking should be as limited as possible, with higher fiber fruit a good choice and 100 calorie popcorn packs alternatives. Eating in the middle of the night is to be avoided.

Thanks for writing,

Timothy S. Harlan, MD, FACP
Dr. Gourmet