When to Take Pancreatic Enzymes

OncoLink
Last Modified: May 8, 2012

Question

When is the best time to take pancreatic enzyme tablets- before, during, or after a meal?

Answer

Lauren Ginipro, Registered Dietician at Penn Medicine responds:

Pancreatic enzymes should be taken at the beginning of the meal or snack. This is very important for proper enzyme functioning. When taking multiple enzymes, take some at the beginning of the meal and the rest at various points throughout the meal. Enzymes generally do not work well if forgotten and only taken at the end of the meal.

Answer

Ursina Teitelbaum, MD, Medical Oncologist at Penn Medicine adds,

Digestion is certainly altered after Whipple surgery. I would ask your oncology care giving team to meet with a nutritionist familiar with post-Whipple anatomy. Pancreatic enzymes can be given orally (before, during, and after a meal) that can help with fat absorption. Symptoms of fat malabsorption can include diarrhea, foul smelling stool or increased, malodorous gas, or slick, oily stools. Some patients describe "popcorn stools' which float.

Not all patients suffer from malabsorption so do not be alarmed if you do not have these symptoms. It is very individual. It can also get better over time although usually by six months you will know what your new baseline will be and whether you will continue to require pancreatic enzymes to aid your digestion and absorption.

This question and answer was part of the OncoLink Brown Bag Chat Series. View the entire transcript from the Focus on Pancreatic Cancer Webchat.

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