Chronic alcohol abuse can result in a variety of concerning health conditions. In fact, nearly every part of the body is impacted by alcohol use. One potentially serious illness associated with alcoholism is pancreatitis. In short, if you are concerned about pancreatitis, alcohol should absolutely be avoided. Learn more about what pancreatitis is, how pancreatitis and alcohol are related, and what to do if you notice signs of this potentially life-threatening disorder.
The pancreas is a small but important organ located under the stomach in the abdominal area. Its main functions are twofold: The first is to digest food by secreting enzymes into the small intestines. This helps break down the food after it’s been in the stomach. The second is to control blood sugar, which the pancreas regulates by releasing insulin into the bloodstream. Without a pancreas, the body will develop diabetes and require medical assistance to digest food.
What Is Alcohol-Induced Pancreatitis?
Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas, a painful condition that ranges from mild to fatal. Pancreatitis is classified as either acute (short-term) or chronic (long-term) and can be caused by trauma to the area, gallstones, or alcohol consumption. Alcohol-induced pancreatitis is the name given to pancreatitis caused by alcohol use.
Chronic alcohol use disrupts the body in many ways. In this case, complications arise when the pancreas must repetitively digest alcohol, which damages the pancreatic ducts. When the ducts are damaged, the enzymes that should be assisting in food digestion cannot be released into the small intestine and can begin to break down the pancreas instead.
In general, short-term alcohol use or binge drinking will not cause this inflammatory condition. Rather, the pancreatitis and alcohol connection is usually defined by chronic alcohol abuse. In fact, an estimated 40-70 percent of chronic pancreatitis is due to long-term alcohol abuse. Acute alcoholic pancreatitis does occur, but it much less likely scenario.
*Chronic alcohol abuse is considered to be about four daily drinks for more than five years (the kind of drink was not relevant).
Alcoholic Pancreatitis Symptoms
Pancreatitis varies in duration and severity. Acute pancreatitis resolves fairly quickly, usually within a few days or weeks. And in general, gallstones are the culprit behind acute cases. However, pancreatitis from drinking is most likely to present chronically. In these cases, a series of acute pancreatitis that has led to scarring opens the door to this chronic condition, which can last for months or years. Alcohol abuse is the primary cause of chronic pancreatitis.
Symptoms of alcohol-induced pancreatitis include:
- Abdominal or back pain
- Loss of appetite
- Pale or oily stools
- Inability to absorb fat (chronic symptom)
- Diabetes (chronic symptom)
To diagnose pancreatitis, a gastroenterologist will usually run blood tests to evaluate digestive enzymes. In addition, they may order an endoscopic ultrasound or CT images of the abdomen.
Pancreatitis and Alcohol: How an Inflamed Pancreas is Treated
Pancreatitis treatment depends on the reason for the inflammation. For example, if the gallbladder is causing problems with the pancreas, then gallbladder removal may be recommended. Alternatively, dietary changes may be in order, which would focus on low fat/high nutrient meals. If necessary, nutritional assistance in a hospital setting will be performed while the pancreas heals.
Naturally, pancreatitis from drinking requires alcohol to be eliminated from the diet. In addition, a best practice in these cases is to recommend addiction treatment in order to treat an underlying alcohol use disorder. If pancreatitis does not resolve, organ failure may occur.
Alcohol Addiction Treatment in Ohio
The link between pancreatitis and alcohol is indisputable. Therefore, the best thing you can do to avoid chronic pancreatitis is to quit drinking. Alcohol rehab centers in Ohio can help you achieve this goal with addiction treatment. You don’t have to be physically dependent on alcohol to benefit from alcohol addiction treatment. In fact, you can benefit even if you’re just beginning to notice the signs of addiction.
At The Woods at Parkside near Columbus, Ohio, our treatment center offers a multitude of addiction programs to best suit your individual needs. A few of the programs offered at The Woods at Parkside include:
- Drug and Alcohol Detox
- Dual Diagnosis
- Residential Rehab
- Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP)
- Intensive Outpatient Program
If you have more questions about our treatment options, or about pancreatitis and alcohol, give us a call today at 614-471-2552. Alternatively, you can also contact us online using our confidential contact form. Whichever way you choose, The Woods at Parkside can help you start your recovery today.