What is EPI?
EPI (exocrine pancreatic insufficiency) is the medical term for a condition that occurs when the pancreas doesn’t make enough digestive enzymes. As a result, the body cannot properly digest food and absorb nutrients.
EPI and digestion
See how EPI can affect the way your body digests food.
EPI is a condition that affects the pancreas
The pancreas is an organ behind the stomach that makes 3 types of enzymes—lipase, protease, and amylase. These enzymes help the body digest food into nutrients.
Food isn’t digested properly with EPI
In people with EPI, the pancreas does not make enough enzymes to properly digest food. Fats, in particular, are hard for people with EPI to break down. Also, the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K may not be properly absorbed.
Consequences of EPI
When there aren’t enough enzymes to break down food due to EPI, nutrients may not be properly absorbed by the intestines. Unabsorbed food in the intestines can lead to diarrhea, gas, bloating, stomach pain, unexplained weight loss, and oily, foul-smelling stools (steatorrhea).
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Answers to frequently asked questions
The signs and symptoms of EPI include diarrhea, gas, bloating, stomach pain, unexplained weight loss, and oily, foul-smelling stools (steatorrhea). If you have EPI, you may experience one, some, or all of these symptoms. It’s important to tell your doctor if you have any of these symptoms and let them know about your medical history because EPI is due to an underlying condition or surgical procedure. Only your doctor can determine if EPI is the cause of your symptoms.
Because EPI affects your body’s ability to break down food, it may prevent you from absorbing enough nutrients, resulting in serious complications, such as malnutrition. That’s why it’s important to talk to your doctor if you think you might have EPI. If your doctor diagnoses you with EPI and prescribes a treatment, it’s important to continue taking it exactly as your doctor tells you.
Pancreatic enzyme replacement therapies (PERTs) are the standard of care for EPI. PERTs replace digestive enzymes that your body may be missing. Because PERTs help you digest food, they need to be taken every time you eat—with every meal and snack.