This booklet contains information about how pancreatic cancer can affect your diet and nutrition. Provides information on managing dietary symptoms such as malabsorption, enzyme replacement, poor appetite, weight loss and managing diarrhoea. Contains a section about dietary supplements and information about diabetes and diet.
Diabetes and Nutrition
Diabetes is when the body is not regulating its blood sugar levels properly.
When we eat fat and carbohydrates this is converted into glucose (sugar). Blood sugar levels are regulated by insulin, a hormone found in the pancreas. Insulin converts the glucose into energy, if your body cannot make enough insulin, or use its own effectively, you have diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes is a risk factor for pancreatic cancer. Type 3c diabetes can be caused by pancreatic cancer or pancreatic surgery. The risks of developing diabetes can increase with time, so if you experience a dry mouth, increased thirst, feel the need to get up in the night to pass urine or lose weight suddenly you should ask your doctor to check your sugar levels.
You may get diabetes after pancreatic surgery as hormone and digestive enzyme production will be affected by removing all or part of the pancreas.
Pancreatic cancer patients and diabetes
It is important to get advice relevant to your own circumstances. Some people may need tablets to manage their blood sugar levels, others may need insulin injections to replace the insulin the pancreas would have normally produced. You may be referred to a diabetes specialist nurse who will help you manage your diabetes; by giving help and advice on any medications and managing your diet.
Maintaining blood sugar levels
You can help maintain your blood sugar levels as close to normal as possible by maintaining a good balance between a nourishing healthy diet, nutritional supplements, medications and physical activity. This not only helps improve blood sugar control but also has an impact on physical healing, weight maintenance and quality of life.
However, it is important that you get the balance between healthy eating and maintaining your weight. If you are struggling to maintain your weight, you should not restrict your diet further to try and reduce your blood sugar levels. Ask your doctor, dietitian or diabetes nurse for advice.
No single food will supply all the nutrients a body needs, so good nutrition means eating a variety of foods. It is important to eat foods from each group throughout the day.
Foods are divided into five main groups:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Whole grains, cereals, and bread (wheat, rice, oats)
- Dairy products (milk, cheese, and yoghurt)
- Meat, fish, eggs & beans, pulses and nuts
- Fats, oils and sugars
Try to ensure you eat regularly and have a mix of foods throughout the day, to ensure the body has a proper balance of all the nutrients it needs to function. Eating meals and snacks at regular times is also necessary for controlling blood sugar levels.
Bread, rice, potatoes and pasta contain carbohydrate, which is broken down into glucose and used by your cells as fuel. Choose carbohydrates with a lower glycaemic index (GI) which are more slowly absorbed. These won’t affect your blood glucose levels as much and they’ll keep you feeling fuller for longer.