How to Keep Your Pancreas Healthy

Chad Birt

Written by Chad Birt on Fri Aug 18 2023.

Couple jogging.

Your pancreas is one of the most important parts of your digestive system. It produces digestive enzymes that help break down food and releases hormones responsible for regulating blood sugar. 

Most people don’t think about their pancreas unless something goes wrong. But pancreas health is something to take seriously. Fortunately, there are plenty of things you can do to help your pancreas function at its best.

What You’ll Need

Keeping your pancreas healthy doesn’t require any special equipment. You might need to change some of your eating habits or exercise more regularly. However, both of these things can be addressed, even if you’re on a budget. 

Why Is Pancreas Health Important?

Pancreas health is important because the organ plays a crucial role in digestion. It breaks down the food you eat and absorbs the nutrients you need to function. 

“When your digestive system works well, it can process food, extract nutrients, and eliminate waste,” said Mary Sabat, MS, RDN, a registered dietitian and ACE-certified trainer. “This allows you to get the energy you need and maintain well-being.

Steps to Keeping Your Pancreas Healthy

Step 1: Eat a Healthy Diet

Eating nutrient-dense foods is one of the best ways to support pancreas health. Sabat recommends including the following ingredients in snacks and meals:

  • Fiber-rich foods. Fibrous foods include whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes. They bulk up and soften stool, help maintain regular bowel movements, and support digestive health.

  • Antioxidant-rich foods. Antioxidants are food compounds that eliminate free radicals. Free radicals are substances that damage cell membranes and other structures. Foods such as berries, spinach, and tomatoes reduce the risk of heart disease and inflammation, and help protect the pancreas. 

  • Foods rich in magnesium. “Magnesium helps regulate insulin sensitivity and promotes pancreatic health,” Sabat said. “Foods high in magnesium include nuts, legumes, leafy greens, and seeds.”

  • Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids support cognition, but they also have anti-inflammatory, pancreas-protecting properties. Omega-3 fatty acid-rich foods include fatty fish, like salmon, mackerel, and sardines. 

  • Probiotic-foods. Probiotic foods contain beneficial bacteria that support gut health. Consider adding yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, or other pickled foods to your diet. 

Step 2: Maintain a Healthy Weight

Excess weight takes a toll on your musculoskeletal system, including your spine and joints, but it can also strain your pancreas. 

“Being overweight or obese increases the risk of developing pancreatic diseases,” Sabat said. “Losing weight through a balanced diet and regular exercise can help reduce this risk.”

If you’ve tried to lose weight unsuccessfully, consider partnering with your doctor or a certified personal trainer. They can make recommendations that align with your health, physical capabilities, and goals. 

Step 3: Quit Using Tobacco

Smoking tobacco damages your lungs, but it can also affect your pancreas. One study found that smoking affects blood circulation, increasing the risk of inflammation. Another found that the nicotine in tobacco slows enzyme production, impacting digestion.

Quitting smoking isn’t easy. There are several free programs that can assist you on your journey, including:

Step 4: Moderate Alcohol Consumption

“Excessive alcohol use has been linked to pancreatitis and an increased risk of pancreatic cancer,” Sabat said. “Reducing alcohol intake is an easy and effective way to improve your pancreas’ health.”

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) says that women can safely have one alcoholic drink per day (or less) while men can have two drinks per day or less.

Step 5: Stay Physically Active

Exercise is key to a healthy lifestyle. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), recommends that all adults get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week. This equates to about 30 minutes of exercise Monday through Friday.

Carewell Tip

You don’t have to buy a gym membership or start training for a marathon. Even moderate physical activity, like walking or cycling, helps.

“Exercise helps maintain overall health, including digestive health,” Sabat said. “It can aid in weight management, improve insulin sensitivity, and promote better digestion.” 

Step 6: Keep Your Stress In Check

When you’re stressed, your digestive system produces more acid. This increases the risk of pancreatitis (pancreas inflammation). Regular stress can also affect the balance of bacteria in your gut, causing constipation, diarrhea, and bloating.

Sabat recommends engaging in stress-reducing activities, like meditation, yoga, or hobbies. For example, replacing bad habits with healthy ones, can ease stomach problems and improve pancreas function.

Step 7: Visit Your Doctor for Regular Check-Ups

Pancreas-related health problems don’t always present obvious symptoms. Regular visits to your doctor or healthcare provider can help monitor your digestive health and alert you to potential issues early on when they’re easiest to treat. 

There is no screening test for pancreatic cancer, but routine blood work and physical exams can provide peace of mind.

How to Keep Your Pancreas Healthy - Commonly Asked Questions

What are the symptoms of pancreas-related health problems?

Pancreas problems don’t always present symptoms. But there are signs to watch out for, including unexplained weight loss, nausea or vomiting, and changes in appetite. Digestive symptoms, like bloating, diarrhea, and fatty stools can also indicate something's amiss. 

How does aging affect the pancreas?

Getting older affects the pancreas in several ways.

“As you age, your pancreas may produce fewer enzymes, leading to decreased digestive function and potential nutrient deficiencies,” Sabat said. “It can also impact the production of insulin, which may increase your risk of developing conditions like type 2 diabetes.”

How common is pancreatic cancer?

Pancreatic cancer is one of the rarest types of cancer, accounting for about 3% of cancers diagnosed in the U.S. 

The American Cancer Society estimates that about 64,000 cases of pancreatic cancer are diagnosed each year. There’s no cure, but early detection and treatment can improve outcomes. 

“That’s why regular checkups and being proactive about your health are so important,” says Sabat.

How To Keep Your Pancreas Healthy - Takeaways

The pancreas is often overlooked, but it plays a vital role in various bodily processes. 

By eating a healthy diet, exercising, and visiting your doctor, you can reduce the risk of acute pancreatitis, chronic pancreatitis, pancreatic cancer, and other related problems.

You should also quit smoking, cut back on alcohol, and take steps to manage stress.

Need Help?

Taking action to improve your pancreas’ health is important, but it can also be confusing. If you have questions about nutrition or supplements, reach out to our friendly Care Specialists any time. 

Our team speaks English and Spanish and can answer your questions or make product recommendations. Call (800) 696-CARE or send an email to

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Chad Birt
Chad Birt

Chad Birt is a freelance medical writer who resides in Astoria, Oregon. When he isn't behind a keyboard, you can find him hiking, camping, or birdwatching with his wife Ella and their two dogs, Diane and Thoreau.