The pancreas is an organ, about six inches long, located in the abdomen. It is shaped like a flat pear and is surrounded by the stomach, small intestine, liver, spleen and gallbladder.
It plays an essential role in converting the food we eat into fuel for the body’s cells to make use of. In simple terms, a healthy pancreas produces the correct chemicals in the proper quantities, at the right times, to digest the foods we eat.
The pancreas is also a digestive organ, secreting pancreatic juice containing bicarbonate to neutralize acidity of chyme (the pulpy acidic fluid which passes from the stomach to the small intestine, consisting of gastric juices and partly digested food) moving in from the stomach, as well as digestive enzymes that assist digestion and absorption of nutrients in the small intestine.
These enzymes help to further break down the carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids in the chyme. The pancreas is known as a mixed gland.
Basically, the pancreas has two main functions: an exocrine function that helps in digestion and an endocrine function that regulates blood sugar.
Functions of the Pancreas
Exocrine Function: The pancreas contains exocrine glands that produce enzymes important to digestion. These enzymes include trypsin and chymotrypsin to digest proteins; amylase for the digestion of carbohydrates; and lipase to break down fats.
When food enters the stomach, these pancreatic juices are released into a system of ducts that culminate in the main pancreatic duct. The pancreatic duct joins the common bile duct to form the ampulla of Vater which is located at the first portion of the small intestine, called the duodenum. The common bile duct originates in the liver and the gallbladder and produces another important digestive juice called bile.
The pancreatic juices and bile that are released into the duodenum, help the body to digest fats, carbohydrates, and proteins.
Endocrine Function: The endocrine component of the pancreas consists of islet cells (islets of Langerhans) that create and release important hormones directly into the bloodstream.
Two of the main pancreatic hormones are insulin (which acts to lower blood sugar) and glucagon (which acts to raise blood sugar).
Maintaining proper blood sugar levels is crucial to the functioning of key organs including the brain, liver, and kidneys.
Disorders affecting the pancreas include pancreatitis, precancerous conditions such as PanIN and IPMN, and pancreatic cancer. Each disorder may exhibit different symptoms and requires different treatments.
Acute Pancreatitis: Acute pancreatitis is a sudden attack causing inflammation of the pancreas and is usually associated with severe upper abdominal pain. The pain may be severe and last several days.
Other symptoms of acute pancreatitis include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, bloating, rapid pulse, fever, upper abdominal pain, abdominal pain that radiates to your back, abdominal pain that feels worse after eating and tenderness when touching the abdomen.
The most common cause of acute pancreatitis is gallstones. Other causes include chronic alcohol consumption, hereditary conditions, trauma, medications, infections, electrolyte abnormalities, high lipid levels, hormonal abnormalities, or other unknown causes.
Treatment for acute pancreatitis may include nutritional support with feeding tubes or intravenous (IV) nutrition, antibiotics, and pain medications. Surgery may sometimes be needed to treat complications.
Chronic Pancreatitis: Chronic pancreatitis is the progressive disorder associated with the destruction of the pancreas. The disease is more common in men and usually develops in persons between 30 and 40 years of age.
Initially, chronic pancreatitis may be confused with acute pancreatitis because the symptoms are similar. The most common symptoms are upper abdominal pain and diarrhoea too.
As the disease becomes more chronic, patients can develop malnutrition and weight loss. If the pancreas becomes destroyed in the latter stages of the disease, patients may develop diabetes mellitus.
The most common cause of chronic pancreatitis is chronic alcohol consumption. Additional causes include cystic fibrosis and other hereditary disorders of the pancreas.
The treatment for chronic pancreatitis depends on the symptoms. Most therapies centre on pain management and nutritional support. Oral pancreatic enzyme supplements are used to aid in the digestion of food.
Precursors to Pancreatic Cancer: The exact cause of pancreatic cancer is still unknown, but there are known risk factors that increase the risk of developing the disease. Cigarette smoking, a family history of pancreatic cancer or hereditary cancer syndromes, and chronic pancreatitis are some of these factors.
In addition, certain pancreatic lesions such as Intraductal Papillary Mucinous Neoplasms (IPMNs) and Pancreatic Intraepithelial Neoplasia (PanIN) are considered precursors to pancreatic cancer.
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Pancreatic Cysts: These are abnormal fluid-filled growths on or in the pancreas. There are several types of cysts, many of which are benign (non-cancerous) and some of which are associated with pancreatitis, or inflammation of the pancreas.
Pancreatic Cancer: The most common form of pancreatic cancer is pancreatic adenocarcinoma, an exocrine tumour arising from the cells lining the pancreatic duct. A far less common form, endocrine tumours, account for less than 5% of all pancreatic tumours and are sometimes referred to as neuroendocrine or islet cell tumours.
Diabetes mellitus type 1 is a chronic autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks the insulin-secreting cells of the pancreas.
Insulin is needed to keep blood sugar levels within optimal ranges, and its lack can lead to high blood sugar. As an untreated chronic condition, diabetic neuropathy can result.
Type 1 diabetes can develop at any age but is most often diagnosed before adulthood. For people living with type 1 diabetes, insulin injections are critical for survival. An experimental procedure to treat type 1 diabetes is the transplantation of pancreatic islet cells from a donor into the patient’s liver so that the cells can produce the deficient insulin.
Diabetes mellitus type 2 on the other hand is the most common form of diabetes. The causes for high blood sugar in this form of diabetes usually are a combination of insulin resistance and impaired insulin secretion, with both genetic and environmental factors playing an important role in the development of the disease.
You can reduce your chances of most of the pancreas diseases mentioned above if you can at least be careful with your diet and lifestyle.
To reduce your risk for gallstones, eat a low-fat diet that includes whole grains and a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables.
To help prevent pancreatitis, specific foods to avoid include fatty or fried foods as well as full-fat dairy products.
If you suffer from any of the diseases mentioned above including diabetes and you require a potent natural remedy option that is guaranteed to help you regain your health fast, do not hesitate t contact us today.
Do you have any experience battling with any disease concerning your pancreas? Tell us how you are dealing with it in the comment box below. You can also use the comment box to ask us any question on the issue discussed above or any issue relating to your health.
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