The Pancreas: What Does it Do and Why Do I Need It?

The pancreas plays an important function in human physiology. It is a large elongated gland behind the stomach. It secrets digestive juices into the small intestines. Groups of differentated cells, ( Islets of Langerhans) in the gland produce the hormone insulin. The pancreas serves two roles in the human body. One function is to produce enzymes that break our food down small enough to be absorbed into our body. The second function is to produce the hormones insulin and glucagon. The pancreas can develop disorders and diseases that effect both functions.

Pancreatic diseases that affect our digestion are:

1: Acute pancreatits, this is when the pancreas suddenly becomes inflamed. This condition is rare and no one fully understands why it happens, though excessive consumption of alcohol can be a factor. Acute pancreatitis is treatable with antibiotics. If alcohol was a factor in the attack, then to prevent a reoccurrence, you should not drink any alcohol at all.

2:Chronic pancreatitis, this is also very rare. It is recurrent occurrences of acute pancreatitis. It is usually associated with gallstones or alcoholism. Gradually the damaged pancreas becomes less able to produce digestive enzymes and hormones. To treat chronic pancreatitis you must quit drinking alcohol and adhere to a strict diet that your doctor will recommend. You may also have to take tablets that contain enzymes with each meal. In very rare cases surgery is necessary.

3:Pancreatic cancer, if your doctor suspects cancer because of your sumptoms he will do blood work, x-rays, and a barium swallow. Various specialized pancreas tests may be done. If the cancer is detected in it’s early stages, with surgery and radiation, there is a good chance of a full recovery.

The second function of the pancreas is to produce the hormones insulin and glucagon. When your pancreas quits either partially or totally producing insulin it is called Diabetes mellitus. This is a common disorder that results in a low absorption of glucose, which is the main source of energy for our cells. There are two main forms diabetes mellitus, insulin-independent and insulin-dependent.

Insulin-independent diabetes usually affects people over 40 years old. Your pancreas continues to produce insulin, however it does not produce enough for your body’s needs. Age, weight, and heredity contribute to this form of diabetes. Diet alone can control insulin independent- diabetes and bring your glucose levels down within acceptable limits. If your condition worsens your doctor may recommend that you use insulin.

Insulin-dependent diabetes usually occurs in young people and manifests rapidly. The pancreas produces little or no insulin because of damage to the insulin producing cells. The body is unable to use glucose for energy and has to obtain energy from fat. This can result in a very dangerous condition, a diabetic coma. Though insulin dependent diabetes is very treatable it can still pose serious health risks. This form of diabetes is treated with a combination of diet and daily doses of insulin. Regular testing of your blood sugar levels is required. Self-discipline is essential to controlling this disease. As long as diabetes is treated people who suffer from this disorder can expect to live long healthy lifes.

The pancreas is an important part of our bodies. It provides two functions that are vital to our well being. Keeping the pancreas healthy is very important. If you have symptoms or suspect that your pancreas is having a problem you should see your doctor right away. Be good to your body and keep healthy.

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