What is EPI?

Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI)

EPI is when someone can't digest their food normally because their pancreas isn't making enough enzymes. The enzymes help break down the food you eat, so it can be absorbed into your body. If your body is not making enough pancreatic enzymes then this can result in the inability to digest food properly, or maldigestion.1-4 That's an important job!

EPI occurs when the pancreas doesn't make enough of the enzymes necessary to digest the food you eat. The pancreas produces the main digestive enzymes lipase, protease, and amylase.

Signs & Symptoms of EPI

When you have EPI, your body cannot properly absorb nutrients from fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. People with EPI suffer from a number of gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms and may not get the necessary nutrition from their diet. Because the signs and symptoms of EPI are similar to those of other GI diseases, EPI may go undetected.5

Symptoms of EPI may include

  • Stomach pain/cramps
  • Weight loss
  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Loose, oily, foul-smelling stools that are difficult to flush (steatorrhea)
  • Diarrhea

Do you have any of these symptoms?

Be sure to talk to your doctor about all your symptoms. Your doctor may be able to provide an accurate diagnosis and discuss treatment options, or refer you to a doctor who specializes in treating disorders of the GI tract.

Download the EPI Doctor Discussion Guide

How is EPI Diagnosed?

EPI can be tough to diagnose since symptoms are similar to those of other GI diseases. The following tests are commonly used to help diagnose EPI:

Stool Test

Fecal elastase test: Measures the amount of an enzyme (elastase) produced by the pancreas, in your stool

Fecal fat test : Measures the amount of fat in your stool

Blood Test

Measures the concentration of a protein (trypsinogen) produced by the pancreas that is found in your blood

Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)

Takes pictures of the pancreas to look for damage, using a flexible tube that is inserted through the mouth and travels through the stomach

Goals for EPI Management

Your doctor may take a number of approaches to manage the symptoms of EPI. Your doctor may recommend the following ways to manage your condition:

Lifestyle and dietary modifications

Vitamin and nutrient supplementation

Pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy