Pancreatitis & Omega-3s: Shelley’s Story


Shelley had been a patient of mine for more a decade. After her career as a flight attendant ended, she decided to follow her lifelong dream of learning how to fly her own plane. With the full support of her husband, Paul, Shelley took flight lessons, and graduated with flying colors, if you’ll pardon the pun. Just a few days later, I had a call from Paul telling me that Shelley had just landed in the emergency room with a suspected heart attack.

I knew from her last physical that Shelley did not have heart disease and there was nothing in her blood work suggesting that she was headed for a heart attack, so I was eager to hear what her test results showed. Fortunately, they revealed that Shelley did not have a heart attack. Instead the blood tests showed a problem with her pancreas.

On one hand, it was good to know that Shelley’s heart was fine. But her younger sister had recently died from pancreatic cancer, one of the more lethal forms of the disease. So you can imagine how upset Shelley was when she learned that her pancreas was not working properly. I tried to reassure her, and suggested she wait for all the test results before panicking, but she was in pain and not thinking clearly.

Ultimately, the test results showed that Shelley was suffering from pancreatitis, or inflammation of the pancreas, a treatable condition. As we discussed various remedies, I mentioned omega-3s fatty acids, because of their ability to soothe inflammation. This was something Shelley and I had discussed during earlier visits. She had always rejected the idea of taking omega-3 supplements. “I took fish oil once,” she said, “and it was awful. The fishy taste made me gag and the stuff gave me indigestion – with fish burps! – for the rest of the day. I’m not doing that again.”

This time, when I suggested omega-3s as a good remedy for her inflammation, Shelley made an awful face. But after I told her that the products have improved greatly, she did agree to give them another try. Two weeks later, Shelley called my office to say that she was having no trouble digesting the omega-3s and she was feeling much better. A month later, a blood test revealed that her inflammation markers were back to normal.

“I can’t believe what a difference the omega-3s have made,”

she told me. “Even the arthritis in my hands and knees has improved. I’m so glad you convinced me to give it another try. This has really changed my life.”

Last I heard, Shelley was looking to buy a share in a small plane she and Paul could take out a couple days a week. And I have no doubt she’ll be flying as long as she chooses to.



Last Updated: August 16, 2018
Originally Published: April 17, 2013