Most people know much less about their pancreas than they know about their hearts, legs, and brains. In fact, for you, it might be since High School Biology you last heard of it. It would be best if you learned about this vital organ of your body.
Through, over, under, and around of the Pancreas
The pancreas is spongy with the shape of a flat pear or a fish extended horizontally across the abdomen. You may not see this organ with your eyes, of course, but it is located in the upper left abdomen, behind the stomach. The small intestine, liver, and spleen surround it. The pancreas’s head is located where the stomach meets the first part of the small intestine. Several major blood vessels surround this organ, supplying blood to the pancreas and other abdominal organs.
The function of functions
One notable characteristic of the pancreas is that it can do entirely different tasks without giving up. They have what is described as exocrine and endocrine functions.
When food enters the stomach, the exocrine tissues of the pancreas release a clear, watery, alkaline juice into a system of ducts that culminate in the ventral pancreatic duct. This juice contains several enzymes that break down food into small molecules that the intestines can absorb. For example, trypsin and chymotrypsin digest proteins, amylase for the digestion of carbohydrates, and lipase to break down fats. In addition, the pancreatic duct joins the common bile duct to produce bile, another essential juice that digests fats.
The endocrine component of the pancreas consists of islet cells (islets of Langerhans) that create and release essential hormones – insulin and glucagon – directly into the bloodstream. These hormones have three missions – to help regulate blood sugar levels and appetite, stimulate stomach acids and tell the stomach when to empty.
You’ve probably heard about insulin. Right? Insulin is a natural hormone produced by pancreatic beta cells in response to high blood sugar levels. Insulin functions in stress and exercise by transporting glucose from the bloodstream to muscles and other tissues for energy. Glucose is consequently stored as glycogen in these tissues. When blood sugar levels drop, pancreatic alpha cells release the hormone glucagon, which causes glycogen to be broken down into glucose in the liver. After that, the glucose enters the bloodstream, bringing blood sugar levels back to normal.
Diseases of the Pancreas
There are several diseases and illnesses associated with any dysfunction of the pancreas.
- Weight loss and diarrhea: occur if the pancreas does not produce enough digestive enzymes to absorb food adequately.
- Pancreatitis: Pancreatitis is an inflammation that occurs when pancreatic enzyme secretions build up and digest the organ itself. Symptoms include abdominal pain, tenderness and swelling, nausea and vomiting, fever, muscle aches. Immediate treatment usually is with fluids and painkillers.
- Pancreatic cancer: Cancer of the pancreas is possible. Symptoms may not appear until the cancer has advanced, when effective treatment may be too late. Surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or a combination of these are commonly used in medicine. Symptoms include pain in the upper abdomen caused by the tumor pressing against nerves, jaundice, darkening of urine, appetite loss, significant weight loss, pale or grey stool.
Since the islets of Langerhans are responsible for regulating blood glucose, too little insulin will be produced, resulting in rising blood glucose levels. Different types of diabetes exist.
Type 1 diabetes is autoimmune. It occurs when the immune system attacks and destroys the pancreatic cells to no longer produce insulin. It may be caused by genetic and environmental factors, including viruses.
Type 2 diabetes begins when the body’s muscle, fat, and liver cells become unable to process glucose. The pancreas responds by producing more insulin, but over time, it is unable to produce enough insulin. As a result, the body is no longer able to regulate blood glucose levels.
Symptoms of this most common pancreatic disease include increased thirst, blurred vision, hunger, weight loss, fatigue, and poor wound healing. Treatment is usually with lifestyle modification, oral antidiabetic drugs, and insulin.
Maintaining a Healthy Pancreas
To prevent conditions associated with pancreas dysfunction, you should:
- Maintain a low-fat diet.
- Consume whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, particularly cabbage.
- Limit your intake of fried foods and high-fat dairy products.
- Maintain a healthy weight and engage in regular exercise (20 to 30 minutes per day).
- Diet plans that promise quick weight loss should be avoided. Extreme diet plans may accumulate too much fat in the liver, increasing your risk of developing gallstones.
- Get a cancer checkup regularly.
In conclusion, though the pancreas may be a seemingly secret organ, there is a lot to be unraveled about their multifunctions in the body. Many vital systems in the body cannot function properly without its exocrine – and endocrine functions. It is thus essential that you make keeping your pancreas healthy a priority. This you can achieve by heeding to the given instructions…