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Pancreatic enzyme deficiency symptoms

Updated July 19, 2017

Pancreatic enzyme deficiency is marked by distinct digestive symptoms. Treatment is simple and painless.

The Pancreas

The pancreas secretes insulin and digestive enzymes into the digestive tract. Insulin regulates blood sugar, and enzymes break down fats, proteins and carbohydrates so the body can use them. If the enzymes do not reach the digestive tract, the body cannot process most foods. This problem is called pancreatic enzyme deficiency.

Symptoms

The symptoms are: - Pale-coloured, foul-smelling stools - Bright orange oil droplets in toilet after bowel movement (steatorrhea) - Abdominal pain - Gas - Bloating - Muscle cramps - Easy bruising

Causes

The most common causes of pancreatic enzyme deficiency: - Cystic fibrosis - Chronic pancreatitis - Surgeries in which part of the stomach and/or pancreas is removed

Some less common causes: - Stomach ulcers - Coeliac disease - Crohn's disease - Autoimmune disorders

Treatment

Not all forms of pancreatic enzyme deficiency must be treated. Only a doctor can determine the severity of each case.

Severe cases might lead to malabsorption, meaning the body cannot use the nutrients in food. People suffering from malabsorption are thin and sickly, and they suffer from severe abdominal pain. This condition must be treated.

Pancreatic enzyme deficiency is treated with artificial enzymes. These come in pill form. Simply swallow the prescribed number of capsules before eating. These enzymes have the same effect as the enzymes produced by the pancreas--they break down complex foods, allowing the body to absorb the nutrients.

Some of the most common brands of artificial enzyme are Creon, Pancrease MT, Lipram and Viokase. Each has its advantage. Your doctor will prescribe the best option for you.

What You Can Do

While artificial enzymes are necessary to correct pancreatic enzyme deficiency, eating a low-fat diet will reduce steatorrhea and abdominal discomfort.

Unfortunately, pancreatic enzyme deficiency cannot be cured, but avoiding alcohol and smoking will help prevent further damage to the pancreas.

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About the Author

Sadie Anderson is a graduate of the University of California, Santa Cruz and holds a bachelor's degree in literature. She has written extensively for Demand Studios; her articles have been published on eHow.com and LIVESTRONG. Anderson has cystic fibrosis and uses her acquired knowledge to help other patients navigate the medical world.