Saturday, August 22, 2015

Living a Full Life With Pancreatitis

On March 26, 2008, I was diagnosed with acute severe pancreatitis. Over the years, I've kept a blog so that I can share my experience with others who suffer from pancreatic issues.
The first year was a depressing struggle just to stay alive and to try to learn what food increased the pain levels. Of course, I was quite bad at it initially and often found myself unable to eat for weeks or a couple months at a time simply due to the unbearable pain.
I didn't take morphine or any other pain relievers. Doctors give people morphine who suffer from pancreatic problems because they assume you're basically DOA (dead on arrival) anyway so you might as well not suffer. Over-the-counter pain killers are hard on the liver and would make mine swell.
The problem with pain killers is that they mask the pain. If you don't mask the pain and you're forced to feel it especially with something as painful as pancreatitis then you will no longer want to eat to the point of bothering your stomach. This is a huge deal in healing the pancreas especially during the early stages of recovery. Of course during the attacks and soon thereafter eating and often even drinking anything just aren't really viable options. Although I have gone through times when I could handle tea, broth an either a few potato chips or maybe a little piece of bread.

Generally, the pain comes about an hour after eating. Sometimes anything, even just liquid can make the stomach swell and create pain. I began to learn which foods my system could handle and which they couldn't. I was told by the doctor not to have anything spicy. But the reality is that some spices are anti-inflammatory which means that they decrease the swelling which can help the discomfort of a bloated or swollen stomach. Spices from the turmeric family (such as turmeric, cumin, paprika) are anti-inflammatory... So is ginger! I'm hard headed so it took me a while to start eating fat-free foods - that includes milk, yogurt, cheese, cream, half-and-half. That was tough for me. I also learned how to eat 7% lean meat which I can purchase at Publix. Whole Foods has 95% lean meat... sometimes. Buffalo is easy on the digestive system as well. Now, please remember that I have been recovering from my attack for over 7 years now so please don't think that just because I am able to eat it that your pancreas is ready for food like that the day you get out of the hospital. Also remember that each person's situation and biological structure is different and each needs to be respected as such. Basically, that means that what works for one person might not work for another and we each will need to pay attention to our own body and learn what works for us and what doesn't. JalapeƱos and green peppers are the kind of spicy that my stomach cannot handle.
I didn't stop having pain on a regular basis until my fifth year after diagnosis.
I wanted to write this blog so you (or your family member(s) who is doing this research into your symptoms... and probably a little panicked even a bit terrified) knows that there is the possibility of getting past it.
Just so you know... I really don't live in pain anymore. It has been over two years since my last pancreatic attack. A lot of my healing has come from learning which foods my pancreas can and cannot handle, exercise and decreasing stress levels.
When I was diagnosed it seemed like everything I read about pancreatic damage said that the damage was irreversible and often what I read discussed enduring or covering the pain rather than healing the pancreas. I'd rather heal than suffer or endure pain and that has always been the approach I've taken in my recovery.
I believe I allowed the pancreas to heal over time by not covering or masking the pain but rather by eating small and limited amounts of foods my pancreas could tolerate. In the hospital where I stayed for 16 days, my food intake was initially non-existent since I was off all food and all water and hooked to an IV for nutrients. Eventually I began eating a couple potato chips or a slice of bread or something simple like that. And over a long period of time I gradually increased my food intake as appropriate. For some family members the decrease in weight can be startling or unsettling but the reality is that increasing eating can harm the pancreas rather than heal it. My attitude is that skinny is better than dead. So don't worry about the weight. When the pancreas can handle the additional food intake the person will start eating more. Trying to make a person eat before their pancreas can handle it will only delay healing and increase the risk of scarring, additional damage to the pancreas and even more time before the person is ready (more like capable) of eating more.
I also found that stressing out the adrenal gland could (would and did!) end me up in the emergency hospital. So, I learned to manage stress levels which can help to keep me from getting pancreatic attacks. My thinking was simple - "Is that person pissing me off so much that I am willing to die over it?" Of course not. So when something bothers me I try to keep it in perspective. I'm not perfect. People, places and things still bother me. I just try not to let it affect my adrenal gland because when it does, I notice.
I also learn to respect walking much more than before although I have always enjoyed a good walk. Now I understand that walking was a safeguard to protecting my pancreas and the health of all the organs in my abdomen. Plus, the healthier I am overall the stronger I am and the more likely I'll avoid an attack.
I read that pancreatic cancer comes from reoccurring damage to the pancreas. So, I work diligently to protect and heal my pancreas rather than succumb to its damage and assume death and discomfort.
In the first year or two it can be very difficult to keep your spirits high. At least that was often my experience throughout that timeframe. The pain can be debilitating for months on end with hardly ever a pain-free day which can make a person feel feeble. Maybe that isn't or wasn't your experience but it certainly was mine. I want you to know that the feeling can pass and that you can get better.
I wrote an article about tanning. I did tan for a little while. I'm lucky enough to have lived long enough that those two summers (during years 3 and 4 after my pancreatic attack) have done horrible damage to my arms. I don't recommend a convertible in really sunny places...duh! So, for now, I'm still growing older. Sun damage is the gift of still being alive.
It's been over two years since my last pancreatic attack and over 7 years since my first attack. I am very grateful and I truly hope that sharing this information helps you and or the one you love on your road to recovery.
I was told on my first day in the hospital that I would never be able to drink again. I have not had a drink since then. I wanted my life and I didn't want a drink to kill me.
Be kind to yourself.
Note: To be clear, I am not in the medical profession and this blog and this post is based on my experience and opinions as someone who has suffered from pancreatitis.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Pancreas & DIY Cancer Survival

Carol Morrison-Kelley, M.D believes that cancer is not even addressed by doctors - whom she refers to as 'quacks'. She believes people must be in charge of their own recovery, that it is a process to acquire the disease and a process to rid oneself of it.

There is a link to her article Understanding Cancer.

Kelley believes cancer is caused as a result of the pancreas not working properly. If this be the case, it would explain why so many people with Chronic Pancreatitis die from the failure of other organs such as the liver. She claims her husband healed himself from Pancreatic Cancer and that they have had success helping others live who had been diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer.

Take it for what you will. A lot of her assertions run along the same lines of what is discussed on this site -- dealing with the process as a way to dictate or change the outcome. Diet, lifestyle and herbs. An example is to eat ginger to help decrease the inflammation during a pancreatic flare-up or attack. Another example is changing one's diet to exclude fatty foods to decrease the likelihood of one's diet bringing on an attack while helping to increase the likelihood of one's lifespan. Another example is changing one's lifestyle to decrease the likelihood of stress on one's life because stress weakens the adrenal glands which are part of the endocrine system which the pancreas is also a part of.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Pancreatitis and Rubbing Alcohol

I've been cleaning some things with rubbing alcohol. Around the same time I started feeling discomfort in my pancreas. I wrote it off as being the scrambled eggs with cheese. I figured it was the food beause I usually don't eat anything that heavy and the timeframe was a match.

Over the next few days I continued cleaning things with the rubbing alcohol not getting the connection. Finally about 4 days into it I started re-evaluating whether or not it was the food that was hurting my pancreas. It simply didn't seem like a match. I felt like my pancreas should be feeling better, but it wasn't. Yet, I was being better with the food.

Then I wondered if it was possible for the alcohol from the rubbing alcohol could be seeping into my system topically. I started using latex gloves and my pancreas felt better almost immediately. The pattern was that my pancreas was hurting in the evenings. I was also using the rubbing alcohol in the evenings. Basically, it was having an immediate effect. As soon as I started wearing the gloves the pancreatic discomfort subsided.

The lesson to be learned is this: Be aware of everything you come in contact with. Realize you can help to ease discomfort to the pancreas but what you allow - and don't allow - in your system. You can make a difference if you choose to be aware, proactive and act responsible.
We all make mistakes. We aren't perfect. Many lessons we can't learn without going through the process or hearing the stories from other people. Now, you've heard my rubbing alcohol story. I hope it helps you avoid the same discomfort.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Pancreatitis & Eating Proactively

On a daily basis, I both work toward maintaining a diet that is beneficial to my pancreas while at the same time destroying it with... uhhh... crap foods I shouldn't be putting into my system.

I'm human. This means I'm not perfect, so I don't beat myself up for it. Although, I do try to keep my foot downfalls at bay and to a relative minimum.

There are some things I do for my body on a regular basis  - especially when I haven't been eating as well as I could - to help maintain a decrease in inflammation of the pancreas.

- Proper dietary intake (necessary for living without pain)
- Decreasing stress levels (huge for decreasing pancreatic attacks)
- Sunshine (for Vitamin D)
- Gently detoxifying the body through teas (such as Chrissy's Tea)
- Brazil Nuts (the level of selenium is very cleansing)
- Oatmeal (great cleanser for the liver)

Two of my favorite friends that fight off pancreatitic inflammation are ginger and turmeric. Both roots are all natural and can be bought in any store. I have turmeric powder and buy ginger in the bottle both sliced and minced, by the root, and as a tea. Both are great for cooking and can be very helpful in intercepting inflammation at the time food is eaten since the spice is on the food at the time you are eating it. Now that is proactive!

It doesn't mean I can eat anything with a little ginger on it and all of a sudden I get to go hog-wild. It means that if I eat a limited amount of something with ginger or turmeric I find that the food intake is far less likely to cause me pain. Again, moderation is always essential for me since overworking the pancreas is now always a very real problem that causes very real pain.

Small meals are always a must. Never eating until full is always a must. Then, on top of that, eating foods with anti-inflammatory benefits such as Broccoli with minced ginger and paprika (another anti-inflammatory spice) in limited quantities makes the process of eating easier.

One of the problems with Western medicine is that it refuses to incorporate natures cures into it's prescriptions. Prescribing ginger instead of morphine doesn't buy their new house - so to speak.

In my recovery and longevity, I find it important to address my chronic pancreatitis with foods that heal and cure.

The other day, I read that turmeric heals tissues around tumors which makes tumors less likely to metastasize. As I understand it, a metastized tumor is one that has exploded which is when and how cancer happens. Therefore, the stronger the tissue around the tumor, cyst or fibroid, the less likely it will metastasize.

It is still necessary to decrease the size of the tumor (inflammation) which many say can be done through foods.

When a person has pancreatitis the pancreatitic enzymes are not working properly - and the pancreatitic enzymes help to decrease the likelihood of cancer - people with pancreatic issues need to be especially careful to decrease their chances of creating cancer in their bodies. Decreasing the risk of cancer can be done through better eating and mostly knowing what that means. Decreasing white flour, sugars and processed foods. I like the saying, "Read the ingredients. If you don't know what it means, don't eat it."

Friday, June 1, 2012

Preventing Pancreatic Attacks

Preventing Attacks of the Pancreas

The long-standing principle has been to try and rest the pancreas. This involves giving pancreatic supplements such as Creon (which contain pancreatic enzymes in high concentration) together with drugs which reduce acid secretion by the stomach. Patients should also follow a low-fat diet.

'Letting the pancreas rest' means no food and water (if hospitalized) - the patient is hooked up to an IV to simply bypass the pancreas. This bypassing of the pancreas means the pancreas does not need to function which essentially allows it to 'rest'. Hence the coining of the term.

While caring for the pancreas at home, there have been times that I have needed to let my pancreas rest. My diet during these times has included things like tea and broth only, or sometimes it means really running baby cereal and fat-free yogurt. For some people it means jello and tapioca. When the system is ready for it - which can be a couple days to several weeks or longer - toast and jam or other basics are often incorporated.

Following a low-fat diet was very difficult for the first couple years after I was initially hospitalized with severe acute pancreatitis. But gradually, I learned that I could decrease the pain and increase my quality of life if I decrease the amount of fat I allowed in my system. Fat-free cheese and lean meat makes a big difference. And now, I like foods that aren't as heavy... and my pancreas is always much happier when I take the easier, softer road for its recovery. Basically, when I refrain from eating fatty (or heavy) foods, my pancreas does not have to work as hard which decreases the overall pain I must deal with and most likely extends my life.

These measures reduce the presence of fat in the duodenum, reduce acid in the duodenum and reduce the need for pancreatic enzyme secretion. These measures are very successful in about a third of patients, moderately successful in a third and unhelpful in a third.

I have never really seen or felt any substantial or sustainable relief or positive results from Creon or Pancreatin.

Some eminent specialists have supported the use of antioxidants in the treatment of chronic pancreatitis. These antioxidants include selenium and vitamin C. You should take specialist advice (via your GP) before taking them.

Brazil nuts are very high in selenium. Some say that selenium helps to reduce the risk of cancer. I've read that chronic pancreatitis can turn into cancer. Therefore, I try to be proactive in staying cancer free. Years ago, I read the amount of selenium that was recommended. It worked out to be about 9 Brazil nuts per day. Sometimes, I go months without Brazil nuts. Sometimes, I can't handle more then 9 spread out over the course of a day. Recently, I ate about a 1/4 pound of them. It made me feel awful in a way that felt like the Brazil nuts were cleaning out and detoxing my system. I try to drink enough water at the same time to help flush my system... but honestly, I'm not very good at that.

Source for information in italics: NetDoctor

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

When Does Calcification of the Pancreas Occur?

According to the attached article calcification of the pancreas occurs 8-10 years after clinical diagnosis. Article: Pancreas Function

People live with chronic pancreatitis for a wide variety of years before it is diagnosed which makes the 8-10 year guess relating to Pancreatic Calcification seem questionable, at best. Nonetheless, information is information... and I'm looking for it.

My understanding is that if my pancreas becomes calcified it will no longer work. Therefore, I will read all I can about it and discern the information the best I can in hopes of prolonging the health of my pancreas.

The link above has a lot of basic and useful information about pancreatitis and how the pancreas functions. I hope you find this information helpful.

Best to you and yours!

What causes Pancreatic Calcification?

One of my biggest concerns regarding chronic pancreatitis is the calcification of the pancreas. The way I understand it, the calcification is perhaps parallel to petrified wood. It doesn't seem as though there is a way of fixing it once the pancreas becomes calcified.

I did a good search and come up with the following article, Spectrum of Causes of Pancreatic Calcification. I thought I'd share it with you.

My goal is to live as long as possible. The idea behind this research is to learn more about what causes the calcification of the pancreas in hopes of avoiding it altogether or perhaps, at least, slowing down the process.

Chronic alcoholic pancreatitis is the most common cause of pancreatic calcification. I no longer drink so hopefully my pancreas will benefit from the lack of alcohol in my system.