Saturday, April 30, 2011

Pancreatic Cancer PSA

While the below video is definitely the current state of pancreatic cancer statistics and incredibly gloomy and dismal, at best, just remember that there is NO cure for pancreatic cancer. We just haven't found it yet!

If there is something you can do to help us toward finding a cure I'd really appreciate your help... because I'm not ready to die!

Further, I'd like to note that as sufferers of Pancreatitis we can work together to discuss what works for us, what trigger points are and what steps we are taking to decrease the pain.

I do not personally take pain killers or see a medical physician for my diagnosed chronic pancreatitis. This is because I do not want to be a lab rat. Rather, I read, research and sparingly use my best judgement based on my findings to live one day at a time for as long as I can. I went into the emergency hospital for acute severe pancreatitis on March 26, 2008. Most days, I live pain free or with little discomfort.

I believe that together - as sufferers of this disease - we can work faster and more efficiently at maintaining our longevity than doctors can. The reason is because doctors have no cure and seem more inclined to believe we are the 'walking dead' and 'beyond help'. I believe that we can prolong enjoyable life and learn healthy pain-free alternatives, if we so choose. One day at a time, I choose life!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Living With Pancreatic Pain

The longer I have pancreatitis the more I realize the pain is largely based on what I eat and drink. If I stay away from fatty foods and too much juice (I don't drink any alcohol or soda) and if I don't overeat then discomfort in my pancreas seems to be rather minimal.

When I eat until I'm 'stuffed' or eat beyond the time I've honestly had enough, then it hurts my pancreas and makes it more vulnerable to pain and a flare-up.

too much food and pancreatitis

I don't eat fatty foods. Or, at least I don't eat
junk food and pancreatitis
nearly as much fatty food as I used to. Now, I drink Fat Free Half and Half. Although, I still eat regular cheese. I just don't eat a ton of it. I stay away from rich soups and sauces. I don't eat cake because I don't eat sugar but not entirely sure how a fat free cake would affect my pancreas. I like German Chocolate Death Cake, whereas my pancreas does not. So, I don't eat it. Spicy foods hurt my pancreas. But Tumeric and Ginger are great friends of the pancreas. Salt and pepper seem absolutely fine. You might try some homemade ginger tea!

stress and pancreatitis
Stress is a killer. Stress, like food, can cause a pancreatic flare-up. This can be life threatening just like with foods.

Pain killers can hide the pain allowing the problem that is causing the pain to continue. Whereas, if I eliminate what is causing the pain I will most likely help toward increasing my overall lifespan. Some doctors adhere to morphine and other addictive pain killers. I adhere to eliminating the things that cause the pain. If I don't get to the root of the problem then the problem can escalate, get worse and kill me. It is all too easy to die from pancreatitis. I don't want to hide the pain. I want to fight against it in the first place and increase the odd of living long enough for there to be a cure.

I am not perfect. Sometimes I eat the wrong things. Sometimes I learn the hard way what bothers my pancreas and what doesn't. But I'm learning... and I'm living.

honey and pancreatitis
If you are hungry a lot because you're recovering from one of your first flare-ups know that it will pass whether you eat or not, so don't eat before you pancreas is ready for you to do so. Allow your pancreas to heal. Can you eat jello? Tapioca? What about drinking tea? How about a couple potato chips? Baby cereal with honey? If you think these things sound less than appealing let me ask you this, do they sound less appealing than death? With the pain you are feeling you are probably aware that death is a real option with this disease. I'm sorry you are going through this. It's a horrible and scary feeling on so many levels and when you get so skinny it's probably fairly common to hear that 'you should eat something'. Hang in there.

It gets easier. In time, you will learn what works and doesn't work for your system. Eat small
ginger root and pancreatitis
quantities. Drink water and tea. Maybe a few saltines if your pancreas can handle it. How about popcorn? Go slow. Keep it simple. Ginger decreases inflammation. Honey soothes my appetite and doesn't seem to hurt my pancreas.

Sometimes when I haven't been as kind to my pancreas as perhaps I should have been or if I'm going to do something I think might bother it - like have steak for the 3 time in 3 days - I will start taking 3 Pancreatin before I eat. This seems to help my pancreas digest the food easier. Perhaps I shouldn't eat the meat, but I like steak. I have cut down on the size of steak I will eat which does mean that often I experience absolutely no irritation after eating. Joy!

pancreatitis and stressPlease remember that each person suffering from pancreatitis is different and what you experience may be different from what I have and am experiencing. Listen to your body. Listen to your pancreas. This is your battle for life. Please do not drink alcohol no matter what. Your pancreas cannot handle it and will never be able to handle it again. Period! Respect your body. Enjoy your life!

Oh yeah, one more thing... roller coasters hurt my pancreas. :-(

Monday, April 25, 2011

How Can You Tell if Your Pancreas is Flaring Up?

inflamed pancreasThe health of my pancreas is always on my mind. Recovering from a pancreatic flare up can be a difficult task both on the body and the emotions.

Here are some of the ways I try to prevent flare-ups. I don't eat rich foods anymore. Chocolate is pretty much out since about a no chocolate pancreatitisyear ago when a triple-layer double death German Chocolate Cake pretty much set the ball rolling for a pancreatic crisis that lasted a couple of months and from which it took several months for me to regain the weight.

I can feel when my pancreas begins to swell. I know if I've had one too many too much coffee pancreatitiscups of coffee or if I need to lay off the steak a bit, or simply switch to smaller slices - the easiest way, for me, is to just buy smaller pieces of meat. Can't eat what isn't on the plate.

Stress can take a hard toll on my pancreas. I try to keep things that cause stress out of my life. Nothing is such a big deal that I need to die over it. Nothing. When I get stressed out my pancreas becomes more volatile and more sensitive to foods. Generally if this happens, I will eat less but perhaps up my intake of teas, broths and perhaps baby food and tapioca baby food pancreatitispudding or simply a spoonful of honey and a few potato chips. It is important to have enough potassium or you could run into problems with your kidney and heart. Yes, I learned this the hard way. Heart failure would be the big problem. But a decent amount of potassium seems to do the trick!

no food pancreatitisSometimes, I need to stay off food for days on end. When I'm feeling this bad I'm usually more than willing to stay away from food since I know how bad it can hurt, how long it can take for me to recover and the very real threat that I may not recover at all. That being said, my body cannot due without potassium for that long so ensuring enough potassium enters my body is absolutely essential. Mango Juice (just an ounce or so a couple times a day is probably okay. If it hurts, STOP), dried apricots (eat a half or one, or one, or two... whatever feels comfortable. Dried apricots are very high in potassium so a little will be helpful. Who would have thought that tomato sauce could be such an incredible source of potassium. Buy the plain cheap stuff rice cakes pancreatitiswithout any sugar or spices.) and tomato sauce (have a spoonful! Maybe another spoonful in a few hours if the first spoonful was okay) both have high levels of potassium. Remember that it can take an hour or an hour and a half before your pancreas feels the effects of whatever it is you just ingested, so take it easy. Take it slow.

Don't drink alcohol. Alcohol can set off a pancreatic attack. It can kill you. Don't mess around with it. If you really want to drink then you are most likely an alcoholic. No problem. Just accept no alcohol pancreasit, get help for it... and don't drink today! I hear some people go to Alcoholic Anonymous when they have a problem with drinking... or not drinking. You could always try that. It's free, available and all over the world. I bet if you called them right now someone would be able to answer any questions you might have!

If you're in the midst of a flare up... I'm so sorry you are going through this. Take it easy. Rest. Sleep. Back off on the food and anything that is hurting your pancreas - like stressful situations. It takes a while. Patience is essential. Sometimes months of patience... but hey, it beats the alternative!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Chronic Pancreatitis and Tea

chronic pancreatitis and teaI don't talk much about tea. It's a liquid my doctor recommended while I was in the hospital. You'd think I'd mention it more.

I used to drink a lot of wellness teas but found that many of them upset my pancreas and would cause irritability to the pancreas. So, after retrying the teas I finally decided that my pancreas and the teas - I would so readily drink regularly before the chronic pancreatitis - were no longer good friends.

Recently, while visiting my daughter in NYC I ventured into Chinatown where I purchased several herbs for tea. I've been on a 'let's make tea' journey ever since.

This morning I made my favorite so far. Just for the record, it taste like Celestrial Season's Apple Orchard. The tea must be healthy for me and doesn't seem to bother my pancreas at all.

  • one green applepancreas and tea
  • several strawberries
  • several blueberries
  • a squirt of lemon
  • a few slivers of ginger
  • honey to taste
  • salvia (at least that's what it looks like - the writing on the container is in Chinese)
  • artemisia capillaris (good for the GI system - 16 oz for $5 in Chinatown, a large bag)

Just put it in a pot and boil it. For all I know it might hold the nutrients if only simmered rather than boiled but either way, it sure tastes good!

I put the artemisia capillaris and the salvia in the strainer in the teapot. Everything else I boiled to bring out the flavor.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Baby Food and Pancreatitis

Baby Cereal and PancreatitisSomeone came to the Living With Pancreatitis blog wondering if Baby Food was okay for the pancreas.

Personally, I have found that baby food is fabulously easy on the pancreas. Like purees, apple sauce and tapioca, baby food is easy for the pancreas to digest. I would assume that baby food is like most other foods in that spicy is not good... but then again, who makes spicy baby food!?!

My favorite baby food is Gerber's Rice Cereal! I eat it with a little honey. It's delicious!

Great question and I'm happy to have had the opportunity to share my baby food and pancreatitis experience with you!

I would assume most baby foods including the jars of bananas and peas would be easy on the pancreas. I'm just not very adventurous and haven't tried them. If you have, I'd love to hear about your experience with them!

Pancreatitis & Juice

Odwalla Juice and Pancreatitis
One of the things I learned early on after being diagnosed with acute severe pancreatitis was that I didn't have a well-rounded diet and that it was probably important to change my and improve my diet to promote better overall health.

Initially, this seemed as though it would force me to eat more which would be in direct conflict of what I was capable of doing without hurting my pancreas. There were so many fruits and vegetables I really needed to include in my diet if I were to increase the overall nutrients.

Bolthouse Juices and Pancreatitis
Juice. Bolthouse is one of my favorites but Odwalla and Naked drinks are very good as well. There are so many juices out there that have a multitude of fruits and vegetables in them. My job now seems to be more about choosing red, green, yellow and blue juices than any one particular fruit juice or berry. As a result, the process if fun and easy!
Naked Juices and Pancreatitis

One thing to note is quantity. I can't drink very much juice at one time because it can hurt my pancreas. That isn't an issue. An ounce or two of any particular kind of juice is probably plenty for my system to receive the varied nutrients it needs from each of the color categories. No. They aren't really color categories but if I get green, red, purple and yellow/orange juices then I've probably covered the spectrum of the fruits and veggies my body needs to be well-balanced.
POM Juice and pancreatitis
So even if I only have a total of 6-8 ounces of juice throughout the day but I'm taking in a wide variety of fruits and vegetables as a result I feel as though I'm giving my body the varied nutrients it needs from these food sources without hurting my pancreas by overeating or over drinking.

If you live on your own, you might want to buy the smallest bottles available. I used to buy the largest bottles available because my daughter drinks so much juice but after she moved out I found that I was either trying to finish the bottle (which inevitably would overwork the pancreas) or half the container would be thrown out. Now, I don't sweat it. I buy small quantities and toss it when need be. The whole idea is to help the pancreas not to cause stress to it. Therefore, tossing old juice is always better than drinking it at the risk of overworking the pancreas. While I tend to be thrifty it is important to prioritize, as well. The health of the pancreas comes first!

How to Stop the Inflammation of the Pancreas

Inflamed PancreasSomeone recently came to this site, Living With Pancreatitis, looking for information on 'How to Stop the Inflammation of the Pancreas'.

This is probably one of the most important questions a person suffering from chronic pancreatitis could ask. The question delves at the root of the problem. Without dealing with the inflammation itself it is probably not possible to keep the pain and related problems of the pancreas under control.

Aspirin and Pancreatitis
I try to deal with pancreatitic inflammation head on. I don't take painkillers because painkillers mask the pain which would allow you to continue causing and creating the pain without realizing it which can make the problem much worse even throwing the system into a state of acute severe pancreatitis leading to
hospitalization or worse. Therefore, painkillers are bad and not a friend to my pancreas.

When the pancreas is tender, sore or inflamed you know it. You can feel it. Therefore, start looking at the foods you've eaten recently (about an hour and a half ago) and if you've been eating some richer foods over the course of a longer period, perhaps a
few days, that could create pancreatic pain and vulnerability as well.

If there is a lot of stress in your life you might try to reduce the stress levels immediately. I had a very bad pancreatic episode a several months ago which took a couple months to recover from.
The pancreatic attack resulted from high stress levels as well as poor eating habits.

When I say I try not to take painkillers when the pancreas hurts I am mostly referring to over-the-counter medications such as Tylenol, Advil and Asprin. I don't generally go to the doctor and am known for not filling narcotic prescriptions so do note that I am referring to a total lack of absence both over-the-counter and prescription when it comes to taking painkillers for

Many doctors seem to favor morphine and other hardcore narcotics for pancreatitis. Perhaps the
reasoning is that people with chronic pancreatitis don't live long so who cares if they become addicted?

This is not my train of thought. First off, I'd like to live as long as possible. Masking the pain will probably kill me a lot sooner. So no painkillers for pancreatitis. Besides, they simply don't work as well as addressing the pain head on and making it go away through food intake and lack

Ginger the Anti Inflammatory
One day, I ate some ginger and almost immediately noticed a decrease in swelling in my pancreas. Ginger is a known anti-inflammatory.

I love steak! But too much steak will inevitably hurt my pancreas and yet I really don't want to eat a 4 ounce portion of steak. I want more! Therefore, I now add a very substantial amount of freshly cut up ginger to the leanest meat I can find.

While these are solid solutions for decreasing the risk of pancreatic inflammation these solutions aren't going to work if your pancreas is already swollen.

For a currently swollen pancreas. Ginger is good. Feel free to have a little ginger tea. Or buy the pink marinated ginger in a jar which can generally be found in the Asian Cooking section or near the fresh seafood section of the grocery store. I eat it by itself. Honey also tastes great and seems to calm my pancreas and fill me up when my pancreas is inflamed.

There are times when food is simply not a reasonable option. Honestly, not eating probably won't
Dried Apricots and Pancreatitis
hurt you for a day or two or even longer. That being said, I can easily fall into a routine of not eating and have found that since I often don't eat a lot anyway I need to watch my potassium levels. Potato chips, tomato juice, dried apricots, lima beans and raisins are all very high in potassium. A couple chips here, a few dried apricots there, an ounce or two of tomato juice and a few raisins will probably keep your potassium levels high enough to keep you out of a danger zone (kidney and heart problems seem to be the most prominent issues related to low potassium levels from my personal experience).

So remember, while no food really makes the pancreas feel much better there are some very scary side effects which are unacceptable. Therefore, if food hurts and you need to allow your
pancreas to heal but you're at home and able to eat a little try foods that can benefit the
pancreas and the overall health of the endocrine system while you are healing.

I've had to switch to a fat free diet. I love fatty foods. LOVE THEM! I like fatty steak, half and half. Rich is good! Well.... no. Actually, rich is no longer good and that is no longer a motto that works for me.

Honestly, I feel a lot better and can eat more regularly and more like a normal person when I simply keep fat out of my diet. Fatty foods are incredibly hard on the pancreas. By the way, Honey is Fat-Free! Isn't that fabulous!

Broth is good. I like chicken bouillon. Tea. Tapioca pudding. A little yogurt is okay with a few blueberries and a little honey. There are tons of great foods that might suit you when you are working toward stopping the inflammation of the pancreas.

No meals. Certainly, no big meals. Nibble size meals of yummy foods is good if you're able to eat. At least that has been my experience. No chocolate. I learned this the hard way. Yikes! Sweets just aren't that sweet when then hurt that bad and potentially can send your pancreas into
No Drinking with Pancreatitis
severe inflammation for weeks.

No alcohol. Ever. No exceptions. If this is a problem for you then you are an alcoholic and perhaps might want to take a look at some recovery options or just stop drinking. PERIOD! Remember, people who don't have a problem with drinking don't have a problem with putting the drink down particularly when it's a life threatening issue!

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Friday, April 8, 2011

Letter From Troy

Sent on Wednesday, April 6, 2011

I was reading your page on pancreatitis I hate having to spell that work even tho I should know how to after all this time. Anyway around 12 years ago now I had a sudden attack of necrotising pancreatitus, with pancreatic cysts caused by excessive drinking. All the warning signals were there but even tho I saw a doctor about the pain etc he basically ignored it and didn't test for it. After the pain set in I called an ambulance and that was the last thing i remember for the next month as the cysts had burst and sent me into toxic shock and coma I woke from the coma on life support and didn't know what had happened till I was told later on they hadn't expected me to survive and amazingly my other organs hadn't died or failed somehow. After another month and a half they basically kicked me out of the hospital still with a gaping hole in the center of my neck from where they had inserted the respirator which still hadn't healed up. They almost didnt let me onto the plane to get back home due to how i still looked and having problems staying upright after losing 20kg and weighing in now at a massive 50kg.

After arriving home I went and saw my local doctor that day who put me back into a local hospital for a couple more months till i was much more recovered. LOL that's the hospitals in this country for you. kick you out soon as you can walk basically.

So now Ive lived with chronic pancreatitus for around 12 years i rarely take painkillers unless Im in agony and have found that my dietary habits are much different now. When I feel my pancreas playing up I immediately stop eating and only drink water and eat very light food it seems to help that i only eat once a day also less work digesting casseroles stews etc are good also less work for your stomach and pancreas to do. Sounds like you got off a bit easier since I am in pain 99 pecent of the time and really hope they work out how to fix it for good since Im only in my mid 40s now and get sick of the lifestyle I need to live now :P hopefully they will get that stem cell research heading that way.

Its a fast learning curve considering I had never heard of the condition til after it happened. Had to believe that such a small insignificant organ can cause such havoc and they cant do a thing for you except shove a drip in your arm and feed you painkillers.

Hope your gets better I know I wont anytime soon lol


Note to Troy - Thank you so much for your letter and sharing your experience. I completely understand that 'getting better' isn't something on anyone's list of options at this point. Hopefully, that will change. Twelve years! Wow! And you're still rockin'. Nice! My goal is to live ten years from the time I was diagnosed. My dream is to live 20 years. You're at twelve. I hope I'm so lucky. Again, thank you for sharing your story. Keep in touch! If you ever hear of any real progress that is made in this area, I'd love to hear about it... as would we all who suffer from this disease. It might not be the best lifestyle but it certainly beats the alternative!

As far as eating one meal a day, I guess for me it depends on the current condition of my pancreas. Sometimes living on broth and tea is the best I can do (now, when I am not really eating I am hyper sensitive to the level of potassium and Iodine I am bringing into my body since the kidney can fail and stop the heart without the potassium intake - which was something I learned the hard way a few months ago). Sometimes I can eat regularly within limits. Drinking coffee with cream, having yogurt with honey, maybe a little toast with butter and jam, or steak with ginger for dinner. But, whatever meal I have, I try to keep it small so that my pancreas doesn't have to work hard at any given time. Large meals are always out. Small meals on a semi regular basis is my goal.

12 years is so long! I recently read a statistic that said 50 percent of people diagnosed with pancreatitis die within two years - most of those people die from complications related to drinking or diabetes. Staggering statistic but not surprising. The reality is that with constant thought to diet and lifestyle it seems possible to continue down the road of happy living. You are proof of it. My hat is off to you!

Just for the record, I was hospitalized for severe acute pancreatitis in France, not the US. It was the French doctors that scared me off well enough to refuse to go back. That being said, I have done my research and full well understand that our doctors anywhere do not understand the disease nor do they know of a cure. Therefore, I simply distance myself preferring to pay attention to what my body is telling me, doing a little research into foods and symptoms and taking my health into my own care. Because, if nothing else, at least I care about it and that was not the experience I had with the doctors, nurses or hospital in France.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Potassium Iodine, The Thyroid and the Endocrine System

kelp rich in iodineThis topic might seem off-topic but I believe it is directly related to the health of my pancreas. The pancreas is part of the endocrine system. So when other parts of the endocrine system are weakened perhaps it is possible for the pancreas to also become more vulnerable.

The radiation contamination issues in Japan lead me to wonder which foods were rich in iodine potassium. I have heard that everyone is sold out of it, fake pills are being sold and that it will take perhaps even months before new iodine potassium tablets are available on the market.
strawberries and Iodine
I'm not very big on pills anyway and prefer getting my nutrients through food. So I looked it up and found these foods to be richest in potassium iodine.

1. Kelp (hellaciously high)
2. Low-Fat Yogurt
3. 2% Cow's Milk
4. Egg, whole, boiled
5. Stawberries
6. Mozzarella Cheese

Kelp has the highest amount of iodine with Mozzarella Cheese coming in last... but still containing a valuable amount.

It is important to note that too much potassium iodine can cause a body great harm. So, don't over do it.

eggs and iodine
Previously, my thyroid gland was swollen - perhaps for a few years. I have since changed the things I eat and the swelling has gone down. It seems quite possible that a lack of iodine could have been the culprit. Due to my milk allergy I usually pass on milk and yogurt. It's safe to say I
eat very few eggs, often go without salt (which contains iodine), can assume kelp is not high on my intake list and while I love strawberries and mozzarella cheese, I probably don't generally consume enough of either to meet my needed allowance of iodine.

A lack of iodine can cause thyroidism which is what I have suspected was caused by a potassium deficiency. Apparently, both could have caused an issue in this area.

So, in conclusion, I believe that caring for all the organs in my endocrine system will help ensure that my pancreas isn't overburdened by weakness coming from a different area of my body.
Second, if the issues at Japan's nuclear plants aren't dealt with it may become increasingly important for people to ensure they have enough potassium iodine in their system to fight off the ill effects of radiation in relation to staving off cancerous effects to the thyroid as impacted by the iodine issues. If you can't find potassium iodine pills you can always just eat the foods rich in it!