Alcohol and the Pancreas


Alcohol can damage the pancreas. Alcohol stops the pancreas from releasing digestive enzymes properly, causing the pancreas the inflame and the enzymes to leak and attack the pancreas, which is located behind the stomach in the upper abdomen.

When the pancreas swells up quickly it can result in acute pancreatitis, commonly caused by heavy drinking. Although alcohol is a common cause, pancreatitis can also be brought on by drugs, trauma and gallstones. Alcohol-related pancreatitis sufferers are at a greater risk of getting pancreatic cancer.

Pancreatitis symptoms include pain in the abdomen and back, vomiting and nausea, heavy perspiration, anxiety and feeling weak. Some cases of pancreatitis can require hospitalisation and the condition can be fatal.

Studies suggest that as many as two-fifths of pancreatitis cases are brought on by heavy drinking. It most commonly affects men aged between 40 and 50 who have been heavy drinkers for over ten years. Only around a tenth of heavy drinkers develop chronic pancreatitis.

Pancreatitis sufferers must stop drink alcohol altogether. Even if something else has brought on the pancreatitis, no alcohol should be consumed. Medical treatment and a careful diet can often treat pancreatitis but some cases require surgery. If alcohol is not completely abstained from, complications and other serious illnesses can result.

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