A pancreaticodudectomy, otherwise known as the Whipple Procedure, is a demanding surgical operation on your pancreas.
Used for the treatment of pancreatic cancer arising from the head of the pancreas, bile duct, or duodenum, this procedure has been proven as promising so long as the cancer has not spread to any other areas of the patient’s body.
During the performance of the Whipple Procedure, the head of the pancreas, duodenum, and common bile duct are removed and reconstructed.
Sometimes, should the need arise, patients who undergo the Whipple Procedure also have part of their small intestine, stomach, and lymph nodes removed in addition to the diseased pancreatic tissue in order to restore the patient’s health.
As a result, some dietary changes may need to follow the surgery. These changes may be short term but can also last a lifetime, depending on the severity of the procedure and the individual patient’s health.
Since each Whipple Procedure surgery is different, each person will have different nutritional needs post-op. However, there are some general guidelines that are recommended by your Whipple Procedure surgeon in Baltimore that every patient can adhere to, at least partially.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common requirements needed for your diet after the Whipple Procedure surgery.
What to Eat After Whipple Surgery
1. Eat Small Meals
Since your digestive system has undergone a major surgery post Whipple Procedure, you may not be able to tolerate large amounts of food at mealtimes like you had in the past.
Eating small, frequent meals (approximately 5-6 meals per day) will greatly reduce any digestive discomfort, such as gas, bloating, diarrhea, and nausea you may experience with large, full meals.
This will also prevent the feeling of being “overfull” and allow you to consume adequate nutrition throughout the day.
Remember, parts of your entire digestive system have been removed, including your stomach. There is not as much room for food as before and digestion of smaller meals will be a lot easier.
2. Aim for High Protein Foods
In order to promote the healing process after the Whipple Procedure you should aim to eat high protein foods such as meat, beans, eggs, nuts, and dairy products such as yogurt, milk, cottage cheese, cheese.
3. Avoid Dumping Syndrome
It is not unusual to experience food moving from your stomach into your small bowel too quickly, especially after an operation where part of your stomach has been removed.
To avoid this dumping syndrome, limit foods high in sugar, fat, and fiber. Slowly reintroducing these foods back into your diet will allow your body to adjust properly and give you an indication as to how much you will be able to tolerate of each food group in the future.
4. Watch What You Drink
Alcoholic beverages should be entirely off limits after surgery until you are fully healed and given the OK by your Baltimore Whipple Procedure surgeon. It is also advisable to avoid carbonated drinks initially after surgery to avoid digestive complications. Lastly, as lactose intolerance is a common side effect of the Whipple Procedure, try lactose free milk.
5. Limit Fluid Intake
Monitor how much liquid you intake, especially while eating. Liquids lacking the nutritional content necessary after surgery can fill you up quickly leaving no room for the healthy foods you should be consuming to regain your health.
While it is important to stay hydrated by drinking approximately 64 ounces of fluid per day, drinking the majority of this in between meals will help guarantee you eat the nutritious foods that you need.
6. Consider a Multivitamin
To keep your health at optimal levels, especially while recovering from such an invasive surgery as the Whipple Procedure, try taking a multivitamin to ensure adequate nutrition. This is especially useful if you are experiencing symptoms such as diarrhea that can quickly lead to malnutrition
7. Be Aware of Glucose Intolerance
Much like lactose intolerance, glucose intolerance is a common side effect post-op. If you experience symptoms such as increased thirst, frequent urination, blurry vision, or fatigue, you may not be able to tolerate refined or simple carbohydrates. Adjust your diet accordingly by avoiding this food group.
8. Supplement Your Post-Whipple Diet
With the removal of large portions of your pancreas during the Whipple Procedure, pancreatic enzymes that are normally produced to aid in the absorption of fat, proteins, and carbohydrates during the digestive process may no longer be produced. The result is poor nutrition and can lead to malnutrition quickly.
Here is a breakdown of the pancreatic enzymes necessary for digestion that may need to be supplemented into your post-whipple diet:
- Lipase – Working with the bile produced via the liver, lipase breaks down fat molecules to be absorbed and used by the body for energy. Lack of fat absorption results in the body’s inability to absorb fat and fat-soluble vitamins needed by the body, such as vitamins E, S, A, and K.
- Protease – This enzyme helps break down the proteins you consume in your diet. It also helps keep your intestines healthy and free of parasites such as bacteria, yeast, and protozoa. Protein is crucial for the muscle growth and tissue repair and is even more critical after the Whipple Procedure for healing purposes.
- Amylase – Used to break down starches into sugars for easy absorption into the body, Amylase is essential to providing our bodies with its major source of fuel: carbohydrates.
The Whipple Procedure is the most common operation for treating pancreatic cancer. It is a decision only you and your Whipple Procedure surgeon in Baltimore can make. However, it is comforting to know that there are many positive outcomes and guidelines to follow after your surgery to regain your health as quickly as possible.
Though patients who have undergone a Whipple procedure commonly experience many digestive issues, if educated about common diet complications and how to resolve them, patients can easily overcome these challenges and go on to live a normal and healthy life.
As every patient is different and will recover from surgery in different ways, it is important you discuss your nutritional needs with a specialized physician knowledgeable about your health needs, so you know what to eat after Whipple surgery.
If you or someone you know is a candidate to receive a Whipple Procedure, consider contacting Baltimore’s highest rated Whipple Procedure surgeon, Dr. Fraiman. Noted for his patient-oriented approach to pancreas disorders and his extensive experience performing the Whipple procedure, Dr. Fraiman can be relied on as the most trusted Whipple Procedure surgeon Baltimore has to offer.