The pancreas is a gland, about six inches long and sits across the back of the belly, behind the stomach. It is surrounded by other organs including the small intestine, liver, and spleen.
How does alcohol damage the pancreas ?
Alcohol damages the pancreas via a number of mechanisms
- direct damage to pancreas cells
- Blockage of duct of pancreas, leading to accumulation of juice within pancreas
- Change in composition of pancreatic juice, producing more thick fluid.
- Production of calcium stones within pancreas duct
What are problems caused by Alcohol ?
- Acute Pancreatitis or swelling of pancreas
This is a disease which has faster onset of action. This occurs after heavy intake of alcohol. Patient has severe pain in the upper part of the belly associated with vomiting & sometimes fever. In 80% of cases the disease is controlled by medicines. But in others it may require prolonged hospital & ICU admission. It may need operation to remove the dead pancreas tissue.
- Pancreas stones or chronic pancreatitis
This is caused by years of alcohol intake. There is formation of stones within the pancreas & pancreas duct. The patient develops repeated attacks of severe pain in abdomen, occurring every few days. The pain is so disturbing that the routine activities, work & food intake is hampered.
What amount of alcohol intake leads to pancreas disease ?
Large amounts of beer, wine or vodka intake can damage the pancreas instantly & leads to swelling in pancreas. More than 50-80g of alcohol intake on a daily basis for more than 5 years causes chronic pancreatitis. This amounts to >500 ml of wine per day.
What should I do if I develop problems with my pancreas due to Alcohol ?
- You should consult a pancreas specialist
- Stop alcohol intake immediately
- Consult rehabilitation center for alcohol withdrawal symptoms
- Avoid fat & spicy food in diet
- Take pancreatic supplements as advised by the doctor.
Read More on :
Dr Harsh Shah
Liver, Pancreas & Cancer specialist in Ahmedabad, India