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Alcohol's effects on the pancreas


Alcohol causes the pancreas to produce toxic substances that can leading to dangerous inflammation, pancreatitis, and swelling of the blood vessels in the pancreas that prevents proper digestion. Pancreatitis can be very painful. There are two types of pancreatisis: acute pancreatisis and chronic pancreatisis.

Acute pancreatitis

Acute pancreatitis comes on suddenly and usually gets better within a few days. Acute pancreatitis can cause pain in the stomach area (abdomen), just behind the ribs and spreading through the back, as well as nausea, vomiting and fever.


Chronic pancreatitis

Chronic (long lasting) pancreatitis is when the pancreas becomes inflamed and stays that way, causing it to stop working properly. Symptoms include recurring, severe pain behind the ribs and through the back, weight loss, greasy, foul-smelling faeces (bowel motions).

Chronic pancreatitis is hard to treat and may cause complications that can be life threatening, such pancreatic cancer.

Alcohol and diabetes

Drinking more than the low-risk guidelines greatly increases your risk of developing diabetes. A third of people with pancreatitis develop type 2 diabetes.¹

If you are diabetic already, drinking alcohol makes it's harder to manage your blood sugar.

Read more about alcohol and diabetes

What can I do to reduce my risk?

Cut down or give up alcohol

Stay below the low-risk drinking level to avoid damaging your pancreas. If you already have pancreatitis, giving up alcohol can slow down the development of the disease and reduce its painful symptoms. The effects of alcoholic pancreatitis can be managed, but not easily reversed.

Video: Alcohol and digestive cancers


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