EPI is a manageable condition

If you have been diagnosed with exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI), you should work with your doctor and nutritionist to make sure all your dietary needs are being met. If you are living with EPI, getting all of the nutrients you need may mean being prescribed pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy (PERT), following a nutrient rich diet, and taking vitamin supplements.

An EPI patient smiles while eating pasta
EPI is a manageable condition

If you have been diagnosed with exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI), you should work with your doctor and nutritionist to make sure all your dietary needs are being met. If you are living with EPI, getting all of the nutrients you need may mean being prescribed pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy (PERT), following a nutrient rich diet, and taking vitamin supplements.

Understanding PERT

If you have EPI, your doctor may prescribe PERT for you, so it's important to understand how it works. PERT is a medicine that replaces the digestive enzymes that your pancreas normally produces.

PERT contains 3 enzymes to help break down 3 essential nutrients:

When to take PERT

PERTs replace the enzymes that are missing in digestion due to EPI. When taken with food, PERTs help break down the nutrients in food.

Your doctor will determine the dose that is right for you.

Learn more about a PERT treatment option Click to find out about conditions associated with EPI

PERT contains 3 enzymes to help break
down 3 essential nutrients:

A diagram shows how pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy works to treat EPI by replacing the enzymes missing in digestion - lipase (which break down fat), amylase (which break down carbohydrates) and protease (which break down proteins)
An EPI patient eats a sandwich

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.

  • Fat is found in foods like nuts and cheese.
  • Protein comes from foods like meat, poultry, and fish.
  • Carbohydrates 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. 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. And when you're grocery shopping, be sure to check out nutritional information to ensure you're getting the nutrients your body needs to stay healthy.

Shelving housing vitamins and supplements

Vitamins and supplements

Since EPI may affect your body's ability to absorb nutrients, getting all of the vitamins you need might take more than just eating well. Your doctor may prescribe vitamin and mineral supplements to help you maintain proper levels of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.

Sources: 1. Domínguez-Muñoz JE. Pancreatic enzyme therapy for pancreatic exocrine insufficiency. Curr Gastroenterol Rep. 2007;9(2):116-122. 2. Lindkvist B. Diagnosis and treatment of pancreatic exocrine insufficiency. World J Gastroenterol. 2013;19(42):7258-7266. 3. Fieker A, Philpott J, Armand M. Enzyme replacement therapy for pancreatic insufficiency: present and future. Clin Exp Gastroenterol. 2011;4:55-73. 4. Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Use of pancreatic enzyme supplements for patients with cystic fibrosis in the context of fibrosing colonopathy. Paper presented at: Consensus Conference; March 23, 1995. https://www.cff.org/UploadedFiles/Content/For_Caregivers/Clinical_Care_Guidelines/Nutrition_and_GI_Clinical_Care_Guidelines/Consensus-Statement-Pancreatic-Enzyme-Replacement-March-1995.pdf. Accessed August 20, 2018. 5. Youdim A. Carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Merck Manual Consumer Version website. http://www.merckmanuals.com/home/disorders-of-nutrition/overview-of-nutrition/carbohydrates,-proteins,-and-fats. Published 2016. Accessed October 9, 2018. 6. Ferrone M, Raimondo M, Scolapio JS. Pancreatic enzyme pharmacotherapy. Pharmacotherapy. 2007;27(6):910-920.