Living with EPI

Getting nutrition from food

The food you eat contains 3 main nutrients—fat, protein, and carbohydrates. Your body uses these nutrients to help give you energy to function.

is found in foods like nuts and cheese.
comes from foods like meat, poultry, and fish.
can be found in bread and pasta. Carbohydrates are broken down into sugars.

If you have EPI, your pancreas cannot properly break down foods, resulting in poor digestion of nutrients—especially fats. Eating healthy is important for all of us. But it's especially important that people with EPI eat a nutrient-rich diet—along with taking pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy with every meal and snack—since EPI interferes with nutrient absorption.

If you have been diagnosed with EPI, you should work with your doctor or nutritionist to make sure that all your dietary needs are being met.

Pancreatic enzyme
replacement therapies

Your doctor may start you on a prescription treatment called pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy, or PERT. PERTs are the main treatment for EPI—they replace the digestive enzymes that your pancreas isn’t producing anymore. When taken with food, PERTs help break down the nutrients in food.

and supplements

If you have exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI), your body may not absorb the nutrients from the food you eat. Your doctor may prescribe vitamin and mineral supplements to help you maintain proper levels of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.

Eating healthy
with EPI and
cystic fibrosis (CF)

A high-calorie diet with adequate amounts of fat is especially important to help patients with CF grow, develop, and thrive. Patients with CF should work with their dietitian or nutritionist to make sure their proper nutrition needs are met.

Sources: 1. Carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Merck Manual Home Health Handbook website. Accessed October 24, 2013. 2. Fieker A, Philpott J, Armand M. Enzyme replacement therapy for pancreatic insufficiency: present and future. Clin Exp Gastroenterol. 2011:4:55-73. 3. Domínguez-Muñoz JE. Pancreatic enzyme therapy for pancreatic exocrine insufficiency. Curr Gastroenterol Rep. 2007;9(2):116-122. 4. Ramsey BW, Farrell PM, Pencharz P, and the Consensus Committee. Nutritional assessment and management in cystic fibrosis: a consensus report. Am J Clin Nutr. 1992;55(1):108-116.