Does Pancreatitis Cause Gas & Bloating?

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Gas and bloating are more common with chronic pancreatitis due to malabsorption. The gas and bloating may be present with acute pancreatitis but often masked by the severe pain with the acute type.

1. Does acute pancreatitis cause gas and bloating?

Acute pancreatitis is a serious disease in which your pancreas is acutely inflamed.

The pancreas secretes digestive enzymes to help digest proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. However, these enzymes may not reach the digestive tract when acute pancreatitis occurs.

Acute pancreatitis can cause gas and bloat due to associated maldigestion. However, gas and bloating are not often the disease’s presenting symptoms.

That’s because acute pancreatitis causes excruciating abdominal pain. Isolated gas and bloating are unlikely due to acute pancreatitis (but it can be a sign of chronic pancreatitis, See Later).

One study (the screenshot below) found that patients with acute pancreatitis have significantly more gas in their digestive tract than healthy control.

Also, The study found that the amount of gas is directly proportional to the severity of acute pancreatitis.

Symptoms of acute pancreatitis (reference):

  • Pain in the upper central abdomen (epigastric area). It is often severe and persistent.
  • The pain often radiates to the mid-back area. And is often relieved by leaning forward.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Complete loss of appetite (anorexia).
  • Sometimes, Jaundice, dark urine, and clay stool (in cases of combined biliary obstruction).
  • Elevated temperature (fever).
  • Fast heartbeats.
  • Sometimes, shortness of breath.
  • Rarely bruising around the umbilicus (Cullen’s sign).

2. Does chronic pancreatitis cause gas and bloating?

Chronic pancreatitis is a mild and more prolonged form of pancreatic inflammation.

The chronic inflammation of the pancreas cause destruction of its tissues. Consequently, the pancreatic enzymes often decline significantly.

The decrease in pancreatic enzymes with chronic pancreatitis is known as Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI).

Due to EPI, people with low digestive enzymes often suffer from chronic indigestion, malabsorption, gas, and bloating. In addition, the deficiency of the enzyme lipase causes fatty or greasy diarrhea with gas and bloating.

Supplementing pancreatic enzyme replacements in patients with EPI may help decrease gas and bloating.


How to know if your gas and bloating are due to chronic pancreatitis?

Chronic pancreatitis occurs due to chronic injury or inflammation of the pancreas, as in people with alcohol abuse or cystic fibrosis.

The symptoms of chronic pancreatitis may not be prevalent as acute pancreatitis. The pain is often minimal or mild. Mild pancreatitis may have non-specific symptoms such as chronic gas, bloating, and loose stool.

Symptoms suggestive of chronic pancreatitis:

  • Intermittent attacks of abdominal pain over a long period. The pain is usually moderate to severe but less severe than the pain of acute pancreatitis.
  • The pain is in the upper central abdomen (epigastric area).
  • Some patients may not have pain at all. For example, only 77% of patients with alcohol-induced chronic pancreatitis experience pain (reference).
  • Chronic diarrhea or steatorrhea (may be greasy or oily and offensive in severe cases).
  • Gas and bloating.
  • Weight loss due to malabsorption.

Diagnosis of chronic pancreatitis:

  • Abdominal CT or MRI.
  • A special type of MRI (secretin-stimulated MRCP).
  • Blood (serum) lipase and amylase levels are often slightly elevated.
  • Low serum Trypsin.
  • Stool tests such as fecal chymotrypsin and pancreatic elastase one.

Best treatments for gas and bloating with chronic pancreatitis:

  • Decrease fat in your diet.
  • Pancreatic enzyme supplements.
  • Increase protein in your diet.
  • Avoid alcohol and tobacco use.

3. Causes of gas and bloating sensation in the upper abdomen.

Many diseases may cause chronic or recurrent gas and bloat resembling chronic pancreatitis.

Common examples include:

  • Food intolerances such as lactose intolerance (in milk and dairy products).
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (FODMAP intolerance)
  • Functional dyspepsia.
  • SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth).
  • Celiac disease.
  • Crohn’s disease.
  • Ulcerative colitis.
  • Eating too many gassy foods or drinks.
  • Chronic constipation.
  • Gastroparesis.
  • Chronic intestinal infection.

We’ve discussed all the possible causes of gas and bloating in this in-depth article.

4. Can pancreatitis cause burping?

Both acute and chronic pancreatitis can cause burping (bleaching) due to maldigestion, irritation of the digestive tract, and excess gas. However, burping (bleaching) is not a specific symptom of pancreatitis.

Pancreatitis is unlikely if you have excess burping and gas without significant abdominal pain.

It is better to think of the more common causes of burping, such as:

  • Eating too quickly.
  • Talking while eating.
  • Excess carbonated drinks.
  • GERD (Acid reflux).
  • Chronic gastritis and peptic ulcer disease.
  • Stress and anxiety situations.
  • Medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

5. When to worry about gas and bloating? (warning signs)

You should worry about gas and bloating when it is associated with other red flags such as:

  • Severe pain (particularly in the upper central abdomen).
  • Chronic diarrhea.
  • Bloody or blackish stool.
  • Weight loss.
  • Complete loss of appetite (anorexia).
  • Fever.