How exocrine pancreatic insufficiency impacts your physique and thoughts


During your regular visits, your doctor may order blood tests if you have symptoms that seem outside your norm. If they detect a deficiency, they may recommend taking a supplement to fill that deficiency, says Dr. Hart. Your doctor can help you determine the best dosage for a supplement and recommend products accordingly.

You may notice quite intense weight loss.

Nutrient malabsorption can also cause problems because these nutrients give you energy and help your body perform all kinds of essential functions. So, naturally, if you don’t consume enough of it, you might start losing weight unintentionally, Nuzhat Ahmad, MD, vice chief of gastroenterology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, tells SELF. It can be really confusing, especially if the weight drops quickly and you start to feel weak or very tired.

Again, it might feel a bit stressful if this happens to you, but there are solid treatment options to help you feel better. Dr. Ahmad discusses pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy (PERT). She says it is the “cornerstone” therapy for exocrine pancreatic insufficiency. The prescription drug works as a substitute for missing digestive enzymes in your body, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Essentially, you would take PERT with your meals to help your body break down food, so you can actually absorb the nutrients you need.

As a result, your weight should hopefully go back up. And if not, your doctor may recommend that you stick to a high-fat diet for a short time because high-fat foods are generally higher in calories, says Dr. Ahmad.

Your stools might seem a little out of whack.

For people with untreated EPI, diarrhea is to be expected, says Dr. Othman. You may notice loose, watery, or frequent bowel movements, and this tends to happen because the food you eat isn’t properly digested and passes through the gastrointestinal tract quickly. While it’s in your gut, « bacteria ferment this undigested food » and water builds up around it, he says. Cue diarrhea.

If you don’t have diarrhea, you’re likely to notice oily stools instead. (Think: pale, oily, and especially pungent compared to your usual, according to the Cleveland Clinic.) « Because fat isn’t digested, you may see droplets of fat or oil in the stool, » explains Dr Othman. There may even be an oily residue on the top of the toilet bowl after you leave, he says.

PERT should help with either of these issues because it helps your body break down the nutrients in your food, which should, in turn, regulate your bowel movements, says Dr. Othman.

You might experience stomach pain for various reasons.

Another potential side effect of poor digestion, according to Dr. Hart: gas pains or uncomfortable bloating. People diagnosed with EPI may also develop chronic pancreatitis, a condition in which digestive enzymes are trapped inside the pancreas instead of flowing into the upper intestine. This can cause severe stomach pain, pain in your upper abdomen that spreads to your back, or stomach pain that gets worse when you eat or drink alcohol.

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