As acute pancreatitis is often caused by gallstones or excessive alcohol consumption, a healthy lifestyle can reduce your chances of developing the condition.


The most effective way of preventing gallstones is eating a healthy, balanced diet that includes plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables (at least five portions a day).

Your diet should also include wholegrains, found in wholemeal bread, oats and brown rice. This helps lower the amount of cholesterol in your body. 

There is also evidence that regularly eating nuts, such as peanuts or cashews, can help reduce your risk of developing gallstones.

Because of the role cholesterol appears to play in the formation of gallstones, it's advisable to avoid eating too many fatty foods with a high cholesterol content.

Foods high in cholesterol include:

  • meat pies
  • sausages and fatty cuts of meat
  • butter and lard
  • cakes and biscuits

Being overweight also increases your chances of developing gallstones, so maintaining a healthy weight by eating a balanced diet and taking plenty of regular exercise can also help reduce your risk of developing the condition.

See exercisehealthy eating and losing weight for more information and advice.


Limiting the amount of alcohol you drink can help prevent your pancreas being damaged, and reduce your risk of developing acute pancreatitis. It can also lower your chances of developing other serious conditions, such as liver cancer.

  • men and women are advised not to regularly drink more than 14 units a week
  • spread your drinking over three days or more if you drink as much as 14 units a week

A unit of alcohol is equal to about half a pint of normal-strength lager or a pub measure (25ml) of spirits. A small glass of wine or an alcopop is 1.5 units.

Read the pages on drinking and alcohol for more information and advice.

Page last reviewed: 02/03/2015
Next review due: 01/03/2018