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Pancreas. Why is it important?

Pancreas. Why It Is So Important For Diabetes?

by Lily Fortin 16 Sep 2021

Pancreas – an extremely important organ in the human body that is responsible for many vital functions. Mainly, it plays the biggest role in the digestion process; it produces pancreatic juices, also known as enzymes, which break down sugars, fats, and starches, as well as hormones that regulate appetite and blood sugar levels in a person.

And even though the excellent functionality of this organ is crucial for everyone’s health, not many people know what it is and which tasks it is in charge of. That is precisely why we’ve decided to write today’s article. We are going to explain the importance of the pancreas with the help of simple words so you’d have a better understanding of how your own body works. Read and learn together with Insulin.Store!

Pancreas and Its Functionality. How Does It Work?

The pancreas is an organ that converts products we consume into essential fuel for our body cells; with its help, people stay energized throwout the day. Not only that, but it is also responsible for regulating blood glucose levels in people. So, it is not strange at all that any type of trouble with the pancreas can lead to not just health complications but to life-threatening conditions.

Speaking about its position, the pancreas is placed behind the stomach, closer to the upper left abdomen. Normally, it is from 15 to 25 cm long, pear-shaped (although flatter), and is extended horizontally across the abdomen. The pancreas is located among other organs (liver, spleen, small intestine), which guarantees its safety and protection. A wider part, also known as the head, is placed in the area where the stomach meets the small intestine. When partially digested food gets there, the pancreas starts producing digestive enzymes to this mix. Except for the head, there are also neck (or body) and tail.

Functions

Speaking about functions, two main ones can be distinguished – exocrine and endocrine.

The first one is related to the digestion process. Enzymes help digest proteins, carbohydrates, as well as break down fats. It also helps store all beneficial substances in cells and release them when a person needs an extra boost of energy.

Endocrine function is responsible for producing and releasing important hormones (insulin and glucagon) into the bloodstream. It controls sugar in the blood, lowers high blood sugar, and supports the functioning of such organs like the brain, liver, and kidneys.

Why Is Pancreas Important for Blood Sugar Levels Control?

As it was already mentioned, the pancreas produces hormones glucagon and insulin that help control blood sugar levels in people. And that means it is also connected with such health issues as diabetes mellitus. Why?

All because if there are not enough naturally produced insulin in the body, it is impossible to regulate glucose; this substance is vital for energy in cells. Naturally, insulin kind of opens the cell and releases glucose into the bloodstream when it is needed. If not appropriately regulated, cells will be simply starved for energy because all important substances will be in the blood. And it may lead to such a dangerous condition as hyperglycemia, which can be life-threatening if not controlled on time. Low glucose is also an unfortunate issue, so patients should regularly check out sugar in their blood to avoid those.

Doctors distinguish three main types of diabetes – type 1, type 2, and gestational. Now, we’ll have a closer look at each one!

Type 1 Diabetes

The first type of diabetes is characterized by mistaken attacks of beta cells by the immune system; those are responsible for producing insulin in the body. Because of those actions, the pancreas is not able to release insulin in the blood anymore.

Mainly, people with a family history of diabetes type 1 are tend to develop this disease. That is why it is rarer than the second type and is diagnosed in approximately 5% of people with diabetes (typically, during childhood or early adulthood). Unfortunately, it is not curable and cannot be prevented because it is still not fully clear why it appears in the first place. Patients with this type of diabetes require insulin therapy all the time because their pancreas is not working at all.

Type 2 Diabetes

The second type of diabetes is mainly associated with insulin resistance. That means the body cannot use insulin properly anymore, so glucose levels change suddenly and can become too low or too high and, in this way, affect health negatively. Mind that your body can produce insulin on its own, but it is not enough to do all the work in the body properly.

Speaking about the origin, type 2 diabetes can have a genetic or environmental cause. Poorly planned diet, inactive lifestyle, and obesity can lead to it as well. Specialists recommend exercising and a healthy diet for insulin production improvement. Prescription medications are also required to take it under control. Depending on your needs, a specialist can prescribe you medicines that reduce glucose in the bloodstream or those that stimulate the pancreas to produce more insulin hormone.

Gestational diabetes

Gestational diabetes can appear only during pregnancy. It can cause serious risks both in the mother and a baby, so the best variant here is to have some extra monitoring during pregnancy and delivery. Pay attention to such factors as blood sugar levels, blood pressure, unusual weakness, etc. Mainly, it disappears after birth; however, it also means that a woman has more chances to develop type 2 diabetes in the future, so increased caution; regular medical examinations are required here.

Diabetes and Pancreatic Cancer. Is There Any Connection?

Pancreatic cancer is an extremaly dangerous health issue that occurs in the pancreas cells. It usually starts in the cells along the ducts that are responsible for releasing enzymes. This disease can rarely be diagnosed at early stages, which is a huge problem because it is the most curable in the beginning. When diagnosed, there are a few treatment options – surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or the combination of previously mentioned methods. Everything depends on the extent of cancer.

As you may have already guessed, pancreatic cancer and diabetes are connected because the pancreas is responsible for controlling blood sugar levels in a person. That is why people who have had diabetes for more than 5 years are more in danger of developing this condition. Not only that, but if type 2 diabetes appeared after the age of 50, you should be careful as well. Additional risk factors also include chronic pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), smoking, family history of pancreatic cancer, some genetic syndromes, obesity, etc.

And even though this type of cancer is almost never diagnosed early because of its similarity to diabetes mellitus, there are still some symptoms that can help identify it. Pay attention to the following signs and consult with your healthcare provider if any of those bother you:

  • Yellowish skin and eye whites tone;
  • Sudden weight loss and weak appetite;
  • Stomach pain that hurts your back as well;
  • Itchy skin;
  • Light-colored stools;
  • Dark-brown urine;
  • Diabetes that’s become very hard to control;
  • Constant fatigue;
  • Blood clots.

It can be just one symptom or a combination of a few; anyway, if you experience something that is bothering you, it is better to have a proper examination to avoid dangerous conditions.

How to maintain your pancreas’ health?

You could’ve been unaware, but the pancreas condition can be strengthened and improved by a person themselves. It is extremely important for correct insulin management in the body, so that is why our healthcare team prepared a list of advice for improving your health condition. Some of them can be done on your own at home, and some require some help from a medical professional; consider adding those to your lifestyle in order to reduce the chances of getting diabetes or pancreatitis in the future. We offer you the following methods:

  • Well-balances, healthy diet (you can visit a nutritionist to know what products your body demands for sure);
  • Cut off the consumption of simple carbohydrates (those are usually associated with fruit and milk products);
  • Reduce the intake of the alcohol if you drink it often;
  • Start exercising regularly (you can do it from home or go to the gym and ask a trainer about a personalized program);
  • In case you were already diagnosed with diabetes, follow the treatment plan created by your doctor carefully (do not skip medication and have your examinations regularly).

Your health is priceless, so take proper care of it and check it in the clinic as often as a doctor recommends.

Final Word

The pancreas is directly connected with insulin production and diabetes. Weak production of this hormone or, on the other hand, too much of this substance in the blood may lead to different types of diabetes. And the pancreas is the one that is responsible for controlling those processes.

Sometimes, diabetes can be a sign of more severe health conditions, such as pancreatic cancer, so it is always important to consult with a healthcare provider. In case you noticed any warning signs – contact a doctor immediately and get proper medical help from them.