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Understanding Pancreas

Understanding Pancreas

The human body has many vital organs that we tend to take for granted. Oftentimes, it is only when we begin to feel symptoms of an ailment that we realise the significance of the organ that is affected.  Diabetes is a health problem associated with the pancreas that affects more people globally, male and female, and both the young and the old. The phenomenal rise in diabetes cases should give one enough reason to take a closer look at the organ that plays a major role in the regulation of blood sugar levels, the pancreas.

Pancreas as blood sugar regulator

The pancreas is located near the stomach and small intestine. As an endocrine gland, it produces and secretes hormones such as insulin and glucagon directly into the bloodstream. Insulin and glucagon work together to increase and lower blood glucose level respectively. Glucose is a kind of sugar that insulin converts into energy. When the level of glucose rises in the bloodstream, insulin is secreted to lower it. When the sugar level becomes too low, glucagon is secreted to raise it.

Problems can arise when there is insufficient insulin in the bloodstream. Without insulin, glucose stays in the bloodstream and cannot be used by the body as energy. This causes damage to blood vessels and can lead to heart, eye or kidney problems. If the pancreas is unable to secrete enough insulin to lower your blood sugar level, you may also develop diabetes, a serious life threatening disease.

Pancreas as digestive support

The pancreas is also important for another basic human process, the digestive system. When food is dissolved in the stomach, it turns into a semi fluid mass known as chyme. Generally, when chyme enters the small intestine, digestive enzymes produced by the pancreas are secreted to break down fatty acids, protein and carbohydrates found in chyme. While the pancreas actually produces digestive enzymes all the time, these remain inactive until a meal enters the duodenum and stimulates the secretion of the enzymes. Without the digestive enzymes of the pancreas, the body is unable to convert the food that it consumes into usable substances to nourish all of its vital parts.

Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis is a condition that seems to affect more men than women. It is one of the manifestations of damage to the pancreas. Ideally, pancreatic juices are activated once these enter the duodenum and the small intestine. A problem can occur when the digestive enzymes are activated prematurely while still in the pancreas, and attack it, causing pancreatitis.

Types of Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis can be acute or chronic. An acute case of pancreatitis is characterized by the sudden inflammation of the pancreas, abdominal pain, and nausea and vomiting, usually caused by excessive alcohol consumption, gallstone formations, trauma or infection.

If the inflammation of the pancreas is ongoing, the condition may lead to chronic pancreatitis. One with chronic pancreatitis may not be able to absorb food nutrients due to poor enzyme production and may begin to lose weight. In other cases, the pancreas may become damaged and the person affected may eventually develop diabetes.

Most adult men who are alcoholic drinkers have been observed to develop acute or chronic pancreatitis. Prevention is still the best approach in pancreatic care. To decrease your risk of pancreatitis, alcohol consumption should be kept to a minimum.

Topic: Digestion

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