Alcohol can have toxic effects on the pancreas. It can cause dysfunction and inflammation, which may lead to pancreatitis. It is advisable for people with pancreatitis to avoid alcohol altogether.
Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas, the organ situated behind the stomach. The pancreas has two main functions — making insulin to manage blood sugar and making enzymes and fluids to aid digestion.
However, the enzymes that digest food can also sometimes damage the pancreas and cause inflammation. This is known as pancreatitis.
This article discusses the connection between alcohol and pancreatitis and how consuming excessive alcohol may lead to adverse effects.
Acute pancreatitis occurs suddenly and is a short-term condition that usually improves after several days of medical treatment. However, chronic pancreatitis is a long lasting condition that worsens over time, leading to permanent damage to the pancreas.
Health experts may refer to this as
Learn more about the difference between acute and chronic pancreatitis.
The NIDDK explains that doctors
It notes that continuing to drink alcohol can lead to an increased incidence of acute pancreatitis or, eventually, chronic pancreatitis. Additionally, NIDDK warns that not giving up alcohol may lead to severe complications of pancreatitis.
Learn more about dietary advice for individuals with pancreatitis.
Alcohol consumption produces fatty acids ethyl esters (FAEEs). These fatty acids persist for at least 24 hours after the body has eliminated the alcohol and cause a 20–50-fold increase in circulation during alcohol-induced pancreatitis. These FAEEs have direct toxic effects on the pancreas.
Additionally, alcohol can cause inflammation, oxidative stress, and metabolic dysregulation of the pancreas. The combination of smoking, consuming alcohol, and possibly genetic variations can cause stress to the membranes in the cells of the pancreas, which can trigger adverse effects.
Evidence suggests that alcohol-induced pancreatitis
- drinking excessive alcohol
- having gallstones or pancreatic cancer
- injury to the abdomen
- infections such as viruses or parasites
- genetic disorders of the pancreas
- some medications
- pancreas divisum, which is a congenital condition
- a procedure called endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) to treat another condition
- high levels of fats or calcium in the blood
- pancreatic duct blockage
Other symptoms someone with pancreatitis may experience include:
If people experience sudden pain in the mid to left part of their upper abdomen, below the breastbone, it is advisable to contact a doctor. The pain may intensify and become severe and may spread into the back.
Additionally, if people notice other symptoms that relate to problems with the pancreas, such as nausea, vomiting, and issues with digestion, it is advisable they seek medical care.
Pancreatitis can develop if someone consumes excessive alcohol. Alcohol affects the cells and functions of the pancreas, which can lead to inflammation.
Health experts advise that someone with pancreatitis avoids alcohol completely or potentially risks further complications.
If a person experiences severe abdominal pain and other symptoms such as vomiting and digestive issues, they should contact a doctor immediately.