Eating After Whipple Surgery


Is there a specialized diet recommended for people who have had the Whipple procedure for pancreatic cancer?


A pancreaticodudectomy (PD) or Whipple is a demanding procedure.  It involves the surgical removal of part of the small intestine, pancreas and sometimes part of the stomach.  As a result, patients who have had this procedure may need to make some dietary changes following surgery.  These dietary changes may be temporary or life-long. The Whipple procedure can alter digestion of important nutrients and may change the rate that food passes through the digestive system. 

Each surgery is different because each patient’s disease status (e.g. location of the tumor, size of tumor, and whether the tumor has metastasized) is different. Therefore, each patient will have different nutritional needs.  A registered dietitian (RD) can assist with this by monitoring the patient’s post-operative medical status, laboratory values, and reported symptoms to help create an appropriate diet for the patient.

General diet recommendations after this surgery are:

  • Eat 5-6 small, frequent meals during the day to ensure adequate nutrition

  • Avoid high fat, high sugar, and high fiber foods, as your body may not be able to tolerate these after surgery

  • Choose foods high in protein to help promote healing

  • Avoid large amounts of fluid with meals, as this may affect how much food you can eat. Small sips with meals are okay.

After fully recovering from surgery, patients may be able to slowly add back foods that they have been avoiding.  These foods should be tried one at a time to determine if they are tolerated well.  Many patients are eventually able to eat regular sized meals and can handle more fiber in their diet.  Most patients may have difficulty tolerating large amounts of fat (such as fried foods) long term after Whipple surgery.

With the removal of the pancreas, digestive enzymes may no longer be produced to help with the absorption of fat, carbohydrate, and protein.  Talk to your medical provider regarding assistance with this.

Ask to visit with a Registered Dietitian to help with managing any diet restrictions.  Appropriate diet management can help you feel better.