An EPI patient in the kitchen with a look of concern on her face
What is EPI?

EPI stands for Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency—a condition in which the body does not have the right amount of pancreatic enzymes to properly break down food.

To better understand EPI, it helps to know what the pancreas does.

Located in the center of the abdomen, the pancreas has 2 important functions:

  • Endocrine function

makes insulin, a hormone that helps the body process the sugar we eat.

  • Exocrine function

makes enzymes to help digest food so the body can absorb it.

In people with EPI, it’s the exocrine function of the pancreas that is affected.

When you have EPI, your body doesn’t have enough of the pancreatic enzymes needed to break down the food you eat. As a result, EPI affects the way your body digests food, causes unpleasant gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms, and may prevent you from getting the necessary nutrition from the foods you eat.

Diagram showing the pancreas's orientation within the body, below the stomach and beside/above the intestines
Diagram of an Endocrine Cell

Endocrine cells make up 2% of the pancreas and secrete insulin into the bloodstream

Diagram of an Exocrine Cell

Exocrine cells make up 85% of the pancreas and secrete enzymes for digestion

When you have EPI, your body doesn’t have enough of the pancreatic enzymes needed to break down the food you eat. As a result, EPI affects the way your body digests food, causes unpleasant gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms, and may prevent you from getting the necessary nutrition from the foods you eat.

The symptoms of EPI may be similar to other gastrointestinal disorders, which can make it a difficult condition to diagnose. Only your doctor can determine if EPI is the cause of your symptoms.

Use our symptom checker to identify your symptoms and help start a discussion with your doctor.


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