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How should I eat after pancreatic surgery?

After pancreatic surgery, most patients will go back to their usual diets.

Dr. Ajay K. Sahajpal, MD
Transplant Surgeon

Typically in the first few months one should eat smaller meals more often and avoid large meals. Also, separating liquids and solids can help. Some patients may have the whole pancreas removed, or a significant portion, and may require pancreatic enzyme supplements and if they become diabetic, a diabetic diet.

In general, your goal should be to eat small meals throughout the day. In other words, have a light breakfast, a mid-morning snack, a light lunch, a mid-afternoon snack, and a reasonable dinner. Many patients have also told us that they cannot tolerate late night snacking, feeling bloated or nauseated during the night.

Important points:

  • If you are feeling bloated or nauseated, the key is to slow down, chew your food well, and eat small amounts.
  • If the smell of food bothers you, try eating it at room temperature.
  • Getting enough fluids is very important, but the majority of liquids should be taken in between meals, not with meals. High caloric, nutritious drinks such as juices, Gatorade, milk – not soda.
  • Protein is very important in the healing process. Look to finish the protein portion of the meal first, saving the carbohydrates for last, in case you get too full.
  • One or both between-meal snacks can be a liquid supplement such as Ensure or Carnation Instant Breakfast.
  • An over-the-counter multivitamin is also a good idea.
Intermountain Registered Dietitians
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

Side effects of the Whipple Procedure (one surgical option for pancreatic cancer) vary by patient and some may only be a problem for the first few weeks after surgery. In general patients should limit high fat or high sugar foods and eat 4-6 small meals per day. A multivitamin may be helpful while your body adjusts to the changes in its ability to absorb nutrients.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.