Diet and Nutrition

People with pancreatic cancer have many nutritional challenges to overcome. A dietitian can be an extremely valuable resource for patients living with pancreatic cancer. A dietitian will work with you to develop an eating plan catered specifically for your needs and will typically involve keeping fat intake low and carbohydrate intake high. In addition, it is important to develop meal plans that incorporate a broad range of foods and to eat small meals frequently that are nutritionally balanced.

You must consume a diet that contains a wide variety of nutrients so you can maintain your weight and have energy to be active. Your diet should be rich in protein and calories. You should also drink eight glasses of fluid each day to combat dehydration and improve appetite. Try to eat five to six small meals each day. Avoid consuming the empty or unhealthy calories found in sweets and junk food. Eat fish and lean meat. Eat red meat sparingly. Milk products are a good source of protein also. Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables as long as they do not trigger diarrhea.

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In August of 2015, we launched Cookin'in the Kitchen to address the many nutritional and dietary challenges facing patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Click here to view videos and for more information

Loss of Appetite

This can be a difficult problem to manage. Often the physician will suggest that issues with nausea can be controlled with drugs such as Olanzapine, Metoclopramide or Domperidone Dexamethasone (a steroid) may benefit some patients but prolonged use is not recommended as there can be a number of potentially serious complications. Nutrition supplements and nutrition via I.V. called enteral tube feeding (if appropriate) may be part of the plan.

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Diarrhea is a common problem with pancreatic cancer patients and if it is posing a serious issue, the diet should be limited to simple, easy-to-digest food, then expanded as the diarrhea begins to subside. A diet consisting of bananas, rice, applesauce, toast (called the BRAT diet), and clear liquid can help with severe diarrhea. Imodium® (loperamide) can be easily obtained at a pharmacy. This drug slows the gastrointestinal system and reduces the amount of fluid lost in the stool. Loperamide is effective for managing mild to moderate diarrhea, though it may not work for severe diarrhea.

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Fluid Intake

Staying hydrated is very important in the management of diarrhea. It is essential to consume enough clear liquids to make up for the volume of fluid lost due to the diarrhea. This amount is in addition to the usual daily intake. If the diarrhea is severe, 12 to 16 cups or more of fluid per day is recommended. In addition to plain water, you should include beverages that contain some sugar and electrolytes, such as over-the-counter formulations for diarrhea or Gatorade. If diarrhea persists, it is important to seek medical attention.

Loss of Pancreatic Digestive Enzyme Production

Patients with pancreatic cancer, especially after surgery may have digestive enzyme deficiencies which means that it is difficult to break down one or more types of food components into an absorbable form. The undigested food, therefore, provides no nutrient or caloric value to the patient, and unintentional weight loss results. The diarrhea that commonly accompanies digestive enzyme deficiencies further contributes to weight loss. To treat this problem, supplemental digestive enzymes may be prescribed and should be taken with your meals or snacks. The dosage is different for each person. It may take several adjustments before the most appropriate dosage is determined.

In This Section:

Information About Enzymes - PanCan
What Is Pancreatin Used For?
Digestive Enzyme Difficiency Symptoms - Live Strong 
Dietitians of Canada Link 

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