Pancreas Function

by Amy Coates, RHN, BSc


Like all organs in your body, the pancreas is incredibly important. In fact, pancreatic insufficiency may very well be the root of many degenerative diseases – even cancer.

The pancreas has two main functions, endocrine and exocrine. The endocrine pancreas provides regulation of blood glucose levels through the production of insulin and glucagons. When your blood sugar is high, the pancreas releases insulin which uptakes the sugar into your cells. When blood sugar is low, the pancreas releases glucagon which stimulates the liver to convert stored glycogen into glucose to increase blood sugar. Diabetes occurs when your pancreas can no longer make or control the release of insulin.

The exocrine pancreas provides digestive support. It makes lipases for the digestion of fats, proteases for the digestion of proteins, and amylases for the digestion of carbohydrates. When you eat food, and it passes the stomach, it enters the beginning of your intestine, the duodenum. This is where digestive juices released by the pancreas meet and finish the digestive process.

Eating a diet high in cooked and prepared foods puts a lot of stress and strain on the pancreas. These foods are almost always high in sugar and are void of enzymes. The pancreas must create all of the enzymes needed to digest the food, and often, not enough enzymes can be created. In old age for instance, the pancreas’ efficiency lessens. Fewer enzymes are produced. This may be why seniors can only eat small meals. They simply haven’t the digestive fire to eat any more. They likely have low HCl in their stomachs as well. If you’ve got chronic low stomach acid, your pancreas has to pick up the slack, which stresses it further.

Take some stress off your pancreas. Increase the amount of enzyme-rich raw foods in your diet with the inclusion of fresh fruits and vegetables. Replace one heavy cooked meal with a salad each day! Remember to chew your food. Even when you eat a salad, remember to chew! Mechanically break down as much food as you possibly can with your teeth – that’s why you have teeth. The smaller you break down your food, the easier the rest of the digestion process will be. And go easy on the sweets!




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