Eating, Diet, & Nutrition
How does EPI affect nutrition?
If you have exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI), your small intestine can’t digest food normally because of problems with enzymes produced by the pancreas. When the small intestine doesn’t digest food as it should, it may not absorb enough nutrients—a condition called malabsorption.
Malabsorption can lead to
- low levels of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K
- low bone mass, called osteopenia, and osteoporosis
- problems with growth in children
EPI treatment can help correct malabsorption.
What should I eat if I have EPI?
Your doctor may refer you to a registered dietitian to help you create a healthy meal plan. Check on the cost of a dietitian’s services and whether your health insurance may pay for some or all of these services.
Your doctor or dietitian may recommend changes to eating and nutrition, such as
- eating small, frequent meals
- taking pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy (PERT) when you eat
- taking dietary supplements for low levels of fat-soluble vitamins or other nutrients
- avoiding alcohol and quitting smoking
Your doctor or dietitian may recommend additional changes to eating, diet, and nutrition to treat the cause of EPI.
This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
(NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.