EPI Medical Term – Overview
The human digestive system is responsible for a healthy life. If your digestive system is weak or faces difficulties, you will start experiencing health-related problems. The digestive system works with multiple organs, of which the pancreas is one of the essential organs.
The role of this small organ is to produce enzymes for the digestive system to break down food.
EPI is a serious condition. It occurs when your pancreas is not functioning well. EPI stands for Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency. In this condition, the pancreas doesn’t produce enough enzymes.
As a result, it disturbs the entire digestive system, as whatever you will not be converted into nutrients due to enzyme shortage. In this article, we will talk about everything you want to know about this condition- EPI along with its symptoms and treatments.
What Causes EPI?
There is no specific reason behind developing EPI. However, due to some events, your pancreas might get damaged and unable to produce enough enzymes that disturb the entire digestive system. As a result, you will start experiencing multiple health-related problems.
Here, we have compiled a list of conditions or events which might be the reason behind developing EPI.
Pancreatitis is a severe condition where this small organ’s functionality is affected due to cell damage. There are two types of pancreatitis- acute pancreatitis and chronic pancreatitis. Let’s find out more information about both these types.
2. Acute Pancreatitis
Acute pancreatitis is when a pancreatitis attack comes for a short period and then goes away. However, if not treated promptly, it might become chronic pancreatitis.
3. Chronic Pancreatitis
Chronic Pancreatitis is a more serious condition where the original cells of your pancreas are damaged due to inflammation. This condition remains for a longer time.
In most cases, EPI is caused by chronic pancreatitis, as the pancreas cannot produce enzymes due to damaged cells.
4. Autoimmune Pancreatitis
Autoimmune pancreatitis is a condition associated with your immune system. If your immune system becomes weak, it will start showing its effects on the pancreas. Then, gradually, it converts into EPI.
5. Surgical Activities
Studies have shown that people undergoing stomach, liver, pancreas, or intestine surgery are likely to experience EPI. If a small portion of the pancreas is removed due to surgery or for any other reason by the surgeon, it will affect the production of the enzymes. Any other surgeries might disturb the functionality of this organ.
Diabetes is one more reason behind the development of EPI in humans. It is due to hormonal imbalance that occurs due to bloodstream disturbance by diabetes disease. Hormonal imbalance affects not only the pancreas’s functionality but also other organs.
7. Pancreatic Cancer
Pancreatic cancer is one more common reason behind developing EPI. Due to cancer cells, the original cells of the pancreas are replaced or damaged. Moreover, due to cancerous tumors, produced enzymes might not enter the digestive stream, which affects its functionality. Gradually, the person started developing EPI.
Besides this, other reasons, like celiac diseases and inflammatory bowel diseases, are common for developing EPI in humans.
What Are the Symptoms of EPI?
People with EPI condition face difficulties digesting food as their bodies cannot absorb fat and other nutrients. Moreover, fewer enzymes mean a slower or poor digestive system. As a result, it affects the entire digestive system, which makes people uncomfortable.
Here’s a list of symptoms seen in people with EPI.
- Weight loss
- Abdominal pain
- Oily stools
- Muscle cramps
- Rashes on skin
- Swelling in lower legs
You will become malnourished as your body will not get enough nutrients due to an imbalanced digestive system. As a result, you will start feeling weak or face problems while walking, etc. Sometimes your legs and hands will become numb for seconds.
How Is EPI Treated?
As noted above, EPI occurs when some events or condition damages the cells in your pancreas. It is a lifelong condition and can’t be treated by surgery or medications. However, you can manage its condition by offering enough nutrients to your body.
So let’s find out how EPI is treated or managed!
1. Improved Diet
EPI is a condition where your digestive system cannot absorb fat and other nutrients. For that reason, you need to improve your diet by adding more fat and extra calories. Discuss your condition with your dietician, who will prefer you the best diet to manage this condition.
PERT stands for Pancreatic Enzyme Replacement Therapy. It is a medication that provides enzymes that are unable to produce by your pancreas due to EPI.
PERT is recommended to take with your meals to break down the food into nutrients so the body can get the essential nutrients from it. This way, one can manage the EPI condition.
EPI disturbs your body’s nutritional requirements. EPI doesn’t allow your body to absorb vitamins and other nutrients from food. To get the required nutrients to your body, you need to take prescribed vitamins by your physician along with the meals.
Fat-soluble nutrients such as vitamins A, D, E, and K cannot absorb from the food. For that reason, you need to take them additionally.
What Types of Food Should You Avoid?
People with EPI need to focus on their diet. Ensure you avoid the listed drinks and foods if you want to live a healthy life while having the EPI condition. If you don’t follow a proper diet, you will start experiencing unwanted health conditions.
- Sodas with sugar and salt
- Red meat
- Fast foods such as french fries, hamburgers, etc.
- Processed foods such as potato chips, etc.
- Cheese, butter, margarine
- Cakes and pastries
What Types of Foods Are Good?
If you want your liver and pancreas to function normally, start adding the foods below to your diet. Plant-based fat and green veggies are suitable for a healthy life. Check out the list of food that you must add to your meal to live a healthy life.
- Green vegetables
- Pulses such as lentils and beans
- Fish and white meat
- Grapes, etc.
The Bottom Line:
EPI condition is incurable. However, you can manage the effects of this condition by maintaining a diet. The condition can be managed by taking enzyme replacement therapy, where you will be prescribed some medications that will add the required enzymes to your body.
Consult your dietitian for the best advice on what foods are good for you and what foods to avoid.
The above article includes all the required information about the EPI condition in humans; go through the article and follow the advice to manage or prevent EPI conditions.
I am a dedicated healthcare researcher and an enthusiast specializing in medical grants, medical education and research. Through my articles, I aim to empower healthcare professionals and researchers with valuable insights and resources to navigate these critical aspects effectively.