What other names is Pancreatin known by?

Enzyme Therapy, Fungal Pancreatin, Pancreatina, Pancréatine, Pancréatine Fongique, Pancreatinum, Pancreatis Pulvis, Thérapie Enzymatique.

What is Pancreatin?

Pancreatin is usually obtained from the pancreas of pigs or cows. The pancreas is an organ in animals and people that makes chemicals - amylase, lipase, and protease - that are needed for proper digestion. Pancreatin is used as medicine.

Pancreatin is used to treat digestion problems that result when the pancreas has been removed or is not working well. Cystic fibrosis or ongoing swelling (chronic pancreatitis) are two of the conditions that can cause the pancreas to function poorly.

Pancreatin is also used for intestinal gas (flatulence) or as a digestive aid.

Effective for...

  • Inability to properly digest food (pancreatic insufficiency). Taking pancreatin by mouth seems to improve the absorption of fat, protein, and energy in people with who are unable to digest food properly due to cystic fibrosis, pancreas removal, or an pancreas swelling (pancreatitis). Most studies have evaluated pancrelipase products, which contain more lipase enzyme than normal pancreatin. Lipase enzyme helps the body break down fat.

Possibly Ineffective for...

  • Diabetes. Some research suggests that taking pancreatin or a specific pancrelipase product (Creon) does not improve blood sugar control in people with diabetes who are unable to digest food properly. Also, taking pancrelipase might increase the risk for blood sugar going too low (hypoglycemia), as well as a condition called diabetic ketoacidosis, in people with diabetes and pancreas swelling (pancreatitis). It is not clear if these effects also occur in people with diabetes who are able to properly digest food.

Likely Ineffective for...

  • Digestive problems. Research shows that taking pancreatin by mouth is not effective for treating digestive problems, including intestinal gas, in people without pancreas problems.
  • Pancreas swelling (pancreatitis). Research shows that taking pancreatin does not improve stomach pain in people with pancreatitis.

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...

  • Hernia (hiatal hernia). Early research suggests that taking a specific blend of pancreatin and the chemical dimethylpolysiloxane (Pankreoflat) for one month might improve stomach swelling, intestinal gas, and flatulence in people with hiatal hernia.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of pancreatin for these uses.

Quick GuideDigestive Disorders: Common Misconceptions

Digestive Disorders: Common Misconceptions

How does Pancreatin work?

Pancreatin contains amylase, lipase, and protease - chemicals that help to digest food. These chemicals are normally produced by the pancreas.

Are there safety concerns?

Pancreatin is LIKELY SAFE when taken by mouth by people with pancreas problems who cannot digest food properly. However, some pancreatin products contaminated by Salmonella bacteria have caused illness. Be sure to get pancreatin from a trusted source.

Pancreatin can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, mouth and skin irritation, and allergic reactions. High doses can cause problems such as high blood levels of a substance called uric acid, as well as colon damage.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There isn't enough information about the safety of using pancreatin during pregnancy and breast-feeding. It's best to avoid use unless you have been diagnosed with pancreas problems that make use of pancreatin essential.

Are there any interactions with medications?

Acarbose (Precose, Prandase)
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

Acarbose (Precose, Prandase) is used to help treat type 2 diabetes. Acarbose (Precose, Prandase) works by decreasing how quickly foods are broken down. Pancreatin seems to help the body break down some foods. By helping the body break down foods pancreatin might decrease the effectiveness of Acarbose (Precose, Prandase).

Dosing considerations for Pancreatin.

The following doses have been studied in scientific research:

  • For helping digestion when the pancreas has been removed or isn't functioning properly (pancreatic insufficiency): the starting dose of pancreatin is usually 8,000 to 24,000 USP units of lipase activity taken before or with each meal or snack. Lipase is one of the chemicals contained in pancreatin that helps with digestion. To control fatty stools that are sometimes associated with pancreatic insufficiency, the dose can be increased as needed or until nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea occurs. These side effects of treatment indicate that the highest tolerable dose has been reached. Pancreatin is available as tablets that are treated to resist breakdown by stomach acids (enteric-coated), powder, or capsules containing the powder or enteric-coated granules.
Note that each mg of pancreatin contains at least 25 USP units of amylase activity, 2 USP units of lipase activity, and 25 USP units of protease activity. Pancreatin that is stronger is labeled as a multiple of these three minimum activities, e.g., pancreatin 4X.

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).

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Last Editorial Review: 3/29/2011