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Pancreatic Puzzles: Understanding the Function of the Pancreas Beyond Digestion

Dr. Rahul Verma 456 Views
Updated: 25 Apr 2024
Published: 25 Apr 2024

The pancreas is a crucial organ that affects the digestion process of our body. However, it also has various other functions that are equally important for our health, even though most people are not aware of them. The exocrine function of the pancreas aids in digestion, whereas the endocrine function controls blood sugar levels. Digestive enzymes are secreted into the small intestine by the pancreas, and these enzymes break down food that we consume. In addition, the pancreas generates the hormone insulin, which is sent into the circulation to control the body's glucose or sugar levels. 

Inflammation of the pancreas can result in pancreatitis, and issues with insulin regulation can cause type 2 diabetes. Pancreatitis can be a difficult condition to deal with, but the pancreatitis treatment available now works efficiently. If your doctor thinks that you are showing symptoms of pancreas problems, they may tell you to do pancreas tests that can positively determine the issues you have. Let us take a look at how the pancreas works and its effects beyond digestion.

What is a Pancreas?

The pancreas is a gland located at the rear of your abdomen, and it controls the endocrine system and exocrine system. The exocrine system controls the digestive enzymes, and this is the function the pancreas is mainly known for. However, the endocrine system controls the hormones that regulate your blood sugar levels and can heavily affect the functions of your body.

Multiple Functions  of the Pancreas

Enzymes are produced by a functioning pancreas to aid in food digestion and these enzymes help break down food into smaller molecules. These smaller molecules can subsequently be absorbed by the intestines and be turned into energy that helps the body perform its tasks. If someone is having digestion issues, a pancreatic function test is often performed to find any problem that may be affecting their pancreas. 

Insulin is released by pancreatic beta cells, when they enter the blood circulation, the blood sugar levels rise. Insulin transports blood glucose to muscles and other tissues so that it may be used as an energy source. In the event that the body requires energy during stress or exercise, insulin also aids in the liver's absorption of glucose and stores it as glycogen. 

Pancreatic alpha cells release the hormone glucagon in response to a drop in blood sugar, and the liver breaks down glycogen into glucose under the influence of glucagon. Following its entry into the bloodstream, the glucose raises blood sugar levels back to normal. An inflamed pancreas can disturb this system, and insulin levels start fluctuating in the body, a condition that can be highly dangerous. Pancreatitis treatment can resolve the inflamed pancreas issue and get your body to its normal state.

Pancreatic Hormones

The pancreas is home to several cell types that create hormones, and these hormones are released into your bloodstream to affect different areas of your system. The most important pancreatic hormones are listed below: 

  • Insulin: About 75% of pancreatic cells are beta cells, and these beta cells produce the hormone insulin. Insulin facilitates your body's usage of sugar as fuel, and diabetes is brought on by an increase in blood sugar levels brought on by insufficient insulin.
  • Glucagon: About 20% of the hormone-producing cells in your pancreas are alpha cells, and their output is the hormone glucagon. This hormone tells your liver to release sugar that has been stored, and this process helps boost blood sugar levels when they fall too low.
  • Gastrin: The hormone gastrin instructs the stomach to produce acid. The pancreas produces a tiny quantity of gastrin, and your stomach produces the majority of it necessary for the body. 
  • Amylin: Your pancreatic beta cells also make the hormone amylin, which aids in regulating the feeling of hunger and gives you a signal when your stomach is empty.

If any of these hormone secretions are affected, your health starts to suffer, however, modern pancreatitis treatment can solve almost all types of Pancreas-related health problems.

Pancreatic Diseases

  1. Pancreatitis : Your pancreas gets inflamed when you have pancreatitis, and it usually occurs when your pancreas accumulates digestive enzymes. Gallstones obstructing the tube that allows the pancreas to release its digestive enzymes are typically the cause of this. Typically, this kind of pancreatitis resolves when the gallstone is removed, and surgery is the main pancreatitis treatment. Overconsumption of alcohol might also result in pancreatitis, and this kind of pancreatitis persists and is referred to as chronic pancreatitis. 
  2. Pancreas Cancer : The most prevalent kind of pancreatic cancer is called pancreatic adenocarcinoma, and it makes up around 95% of all pancreatic cancer cases. The tissue that produces digestive enzymes becomes cancerous in this condition, and after some time, pancreatic cancer symptoms such as weight loss, and pain become prominent. 
  3. Pancreatic Cysts : Fluid-filled sacs that develop on the pancreas are known as pancreatic cysts, but these are mostly benign (noncancerous). However, pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer have been related to some specific types of pancreatic cysts, and these are usually found when pancreatitis treatment fails, and doctors recommend more tests to find out the problem.

Treatment of Pancreas Problems

Pancreatitis : Acute pancreatitis is the term used to describe pancreatitis that strikes abruptly, and immediate pancreatitis treatment is necessary to treat this condition. There are situations where gallstones obstruct bile ducts, which leads to an accumulation of enzymes in the pancreas. In the event that your gallbladder is the cause of the pancreatitis, gallstones removal surgery may be necessary.   

Pancreatic Cancer : The stage of pancreatic cancer and its location inside the organ will determine how it is treated. Radiation, chemotherapy, surgery, or all three may be used when the cancer is found after the pancreatic cancer symptoms become visible. In cases when the cancer is highly advanced, your treatment plan may center on symptom management to prolong the quality of life.  

Pancreatic Cysts : If the health problems caused by a pancreatic cyst aren't too bothersome, your doctor could choose to only monitor a pancreatic cyst, but if the symptoms get worse, the doctor will create a treatment plan. Surgery may be necessary to remove some cysts, but an endoscopy can also be used to empty a cyst.

Final Remarks

The function of your pancreas is crucial for both food digestion and controlling how much sugar you consume for energy after meals. If you have any signs of pancreatic digestive issues, such as weight loss, lack of appetite, or stomach pain, contact your healthcare practitioner. In this situation, a pancreatic function test will be recommended by a doctor to find out the exact problems you have. 

If you need to take this test, you may contact Pathkind Labs to benefit from its home collection policy. Your blood will be drawn by qualified technicians and sent to the lab, where specialists will examine it with modern technology and techniques to determine the problem.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

  1. What are the functions of the pancreas? 

    Answer:- In addition to aiding in digestion, the pancreas secretes hormones that control blood sugar levels in your body.

  2. What is the location of the pancreas?

    Answer:- The pancreas is located in the rear side of your abdomen and is surrounded by your liver, spleen, and gallbladder.

  3. Can anyone survive without a pancreas?

    Answer:- You can survive if your pancreas is removed, but you will most likely develop diabetes and require insulin for the rest of your life, and you will require medicine to restore your lost digestive enzymes as well.

  4. What symptoms indicate pancreas problems?

    Answer:- You may have excruciating abdominal pain if you have a pancreatic issue, and it can worsen and move to your back after eating. A sore stomach and vomiting are a few other typical symptoms that you experience when you have pancreas problems.

  5. Does the Pancreas affect any other organ? 

    Answer:- Yes, your pancreas is connected with your liver, spleen, and gallbladder, and when you have pancreas problems, your entire health suffers.

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