Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) is a condition in which the pancreas does not produce enough of the enzymes to help digest foods and absorb nutrients. A healthy pancreas creates enzymes for the small intestine to break down foods, but those with EPI do not produce enough of this enzyme and therefore have difficulties with digestion.
Symptoms of exocrine pancreatic insufficiency include diarrhea, bad smelling bowel movements, stomach pains and or tenderness and gas. Weight loss may also occur due to lack of nutrient absorption. Vitamin deficiencies also may occur for the same reason.
Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency is commonly linked with cystic fibrosis and chronic pancreatitis.
A study published in 2010 concluded that there is an association between celiac disease and exocrine pancreatic insufficiency. The study, “reported that in 30% (20/66) of adult celiac patients with current or persistent diarrhea the underlying cause was exocrine pancreatic insufficiency. Of these 20 patients, 19 initially improved on pancreatic supplementation.”