Peter Hibberd, M.D., is a doctor whose advice is based on more than 28 years of hospital outpatient and inpatient experience. He is an experienced emergency medicine physician, surgeon, and consultant. Dr. Hibberd is certified by the American Board of Emergency Medicine. He is also a fellow and active member of the American Academy of Family Physicians, an active member of the American College of Emergency Physicians, and a member and fellow of the American Academy of Emergency Medicine. Dr. Hibberd has earned numerous national and international professional certifications, memberships, and awards.
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Is Pancreatitis Effected By Vitamins And Herbs?

Tuesday, 29 Jun 2010 02:38 PM


Question: My son had severe pancreatitis and nearly died. Twenty-four surgeries later he is still with us, but now the doctors want to remove his gall bladder, which they suspect of causing the pancreas to become inflamed, and his spleen, which seems to be growing extra veins. What will be the effects on him, and what are the hidden dangers? Due to the disease, he has become a Type 1 diabetic. Are there any vitamins and herbs that could help?

Dr. Hibberd's Answer:

Pancreatitis is a devastating condition that is associated with a significant mortality rate. It is an inflammation of the pancreas characterized by pancreatic enzyme auto-digestion. (Pancreatic enzymes are unable to pass through the ductal structures into the small intestine to assist the digestion of food. Instead, they are instead redirected into the pancreas tissue which basically destroys and digests the adjacent tissue). Large pseudocysts and tissue destruction are common.
Pancreatitis can be triggered by pancreatic ductal obstruction by gallstones as they pass down the common bile duct past the pancreatic duct then into the duodenum (small intestine). Though these stones originate from the gallbladder, if they get caught adjacent to the pancreatic duct or the adjacent area of duct as it enters the small intestine (called the sphincter of oddi), they may trigger a disastrous, painful, and sometimes deadly, case of pancreatitis. Removal of the gallbladder will remove the source for these stones (that usually "grow" in the gallbladder), and hence prevent obstructive pancreatitis.

Enlargement of the spleen and the presence of Type 1 diabetes is unusual. This suggests to me that there has been enormous damage that will not be corrected by removal of the gallbladder. At this point, however, any factor that diminishes his risk for recurrence of pancreatitis may, in fact, be life-saving for your son. I'm not sure why this was not suggested before his many surgeries, but it implies to me that he may have indeed have had other reasons for his pancreatitis.
You are probably correct in being concerned about his surgical risk, but I don’t see any benefit to specific herbal /vitamin supplementation beyond that conventionally prescribed to victims of chronic pancreatitis to assist digestion and reduce pancreatic enzyme production.

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