Ah, the holidays. The festivities, the family, the fun…and who can forget about the food? Pumpkin pie, eggnog, creamy mashed potatoes with gravy – anyone getting hungry yet? For people with pancreatic cancer, holiday foods can be a concern since pancreatic cancer, at any stage, can create challenges in a patient’s diet and change nutritional needs.

The Fix asked contributor Maria Petzel for her top tips for managing nutritional needs during the holidays. Petzel is a senior clinical dietitian at MD Anderson Cancer Center and an emeritus member of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) Scientific and Medical Advisory Board. She recommends that pancreatic cancer patients consider taking enzyme supplements at all times of year, including during the holidays.

Here’s what she said:

  • Patients should be aware that there are often lots of “hidden fats” (think nuts, whole milk, cheese, etc.) in holiday foods, so if you require pancreatic enzymes, you may need more during holiday meals. Please speak with your doctor or dietitian to determine which pancreatic enzyme product – and dosage – is right for you.
  • If eating socially, you may not be eating more food, but you may be taking longer to eat a meal or eat food. If you do not usually spread your enzymes across a meal, you may need to do so.
  • If you usually spread your enzymes, you may need to take them based on time – not stage – of meal. For example, if you take a capsule every 15 minutes, this may result in taking more capsules over the course of the meal/party but will ensure better digestion and minimize unpleasant symptoms.
  • Alcohol does not require pancreatic enzymes for digestion but some “mixers” do. If you are enjoying a glass of wine or a beer, you do not need additional enzymes, but you may with eggnog because of the cream and eggs.

And one final note from Petzel, for patients with taste changes/dullness, turn to cranberries to perk up not only the color on your plate, but your taste buds, too. They can have the same effect as pickles or lemons, and they’re festive and holiday-ready, to boot!

Good nutritional care improves outcomes and is critical for your quality of life. PanCAN strongly recommends that patients have access to pancreatic enzymes and see a registered dietitian.

Contact a Patient Central Associate
Contact PanCAN's Patient Central for comprehensive disease information – including our diet and nutrition booklet, nutrition tips and recipes – and help finding a registered dietitian in your area.