How Healthy Is Your Pancreas?
It’s not just diabetics who need to look after this vital organ.
The pancreas is an organ that lies horizontally across the back of the upper abdomen behind the stomach. The pancreas manufactures the body’s supply of insulin, which controls blood sugar levels and fat metabolism. Insulin is released from the pancreas directly into the blood stream. Insulin blood levels rise after a meal, especially if it contains a lot of carbohydrate.
If the insulin producing cells in the pancreas fail, diabetes will occur and insulin injections are required.
The pancreas also manufactures enzymes and secretes them into the pancreatic duct which empties into the small intestine to enable digestion of food. The enzymes produced by the pancreas include lipases that digest fat, proteases which digest proteins, and amylases which digest starch molecules. People with pancreatic problems often find they suffer with digestive problems such as bloating and indigestion.
The term pancreatitis refers to inflammation of the pancreas, and this may be sudden, severe and life threatening, or chronic and intermittent. Pancreatitis usually produces pain in the upper abdomen, which often spreads deeper into the back. The pain can vary from mild and grumbling, to sudden and excruciating, and is usually accompanied by nausea and vomiting.
The possible causes of pancreatitis include:
- Gallstones which become trapped in the pancreatic duct where it joins with the bile duct to empty into the small intestines. If the pancreatic duct becomes blocked, the pancreatic enzymes cannot flow into the intestines. In such cases the enzymes build up in the pancreas and digest the pancreas.
- High alcohol intake.
- Viral infections.
- Some drug side effects, particularly drugs used for diabetes.
- Intestinal problems, particularly overgrowth of harmful gut bugs.
Sometimes the cause of pancreatitis is unknown and in such cases there may be hidden problems with the function of the liver and/or gallbladder, and in such cases the bile may contain excessive sludge and toxic waste products which inflame the pancreatic duct.
The pancreas can also become inflamed from being overworked in those who ingest too much deep fried food or refined sugars. This forces the pancreas to produce excessive amounts of digestive enzymes, and if the ducts within the pancreas are swollen or compressed with fat, these digestive enzymes can become trapped inside the pancreas and start to digest the pancreas itself. This process, known as auto-digestion of the pancreas, causes great pain, and damages the cells of the pancreas. This may result in cysts developing inside the pancreas.
You’ve heard of a fatty liver, but have you heard of a fatty pancreas?
Fatty infiltration of the pancreas occurs when excess fat tissue has accumulated inside the pancreas. It is more common in obesity, where fat gets laid down in other internal organs such as the liver. Severe fatty pancreas may be associated with chronic conditions that damage the pancreas. This is because, as the normal pancreas tissue dies off, it is replaced by fat. Fatty infiltration of the pancreas can be seen on an ultrasound scan or with other imaging techniques such as a CT scan or MRI.
If the body’s usual storage site for fat gets overloaded by a high sugar diet, this causes the blood level of the fat triglycerides to rise. This excess triglyceride fat gets deposited in places it should not be, such as the pancreas, the liver and the heart.
The excess fat in the pancreas could very well be a cause, and not just a symptom, of impaired glucose tolerance in diabetics and pre-diabetics. Excess triglyceride fats stored in the pancreas release toxins, such as nitric oxide, which could damage the beta cells in the pancreas. The beta cells produce insulin, and if they are damaged too much, diabetes can occur.
If you have a problem with your pancreas, I recommend the following:
- Eat smaller meals and begin the meal with a salad.
- Follow a diet low in carbohydrates – this means you need to reduce sugar, processed breakfast cereals, bread, pastries, pasta, muffins, cookies and cakes and anything which contains flour or sugar.
- Avoid excess alcohol and stick to no more than one standard alcoholic drink a day.
- Avoid deep fried foods and industrial seed oils, which are found in processed packaged foods.
- Take vitamin C 1,000mg daily to reduce inflammation.
- Take a good liver tonic containing St Mary’s Thistle, Turmeric, Selenium, Taurine and B vitamins, such as LivaTone Plus.
- Take a supplement of N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) to increase glutathione production, as this will help to reduce inflammation in the pancreas. The dose of NAC is one 600mg capsule, three times daily. Combine NAC with a supplement of selenium in a dose of 150 to 300 mcg daily, as this will boost glutathione levels which has a huge anti-inflammatory effect.
- Start to drink raw juices – good things to juice are citrus fruits, apple, carrot, cabbage, kale, ginger, celery, mint and parsley. Drink 200 to 300mls of raw juice twice daily. Make the juice fresh every day or make a week’s supply of juice and freeze it in glass jars immediately after making it. You can find juice recipes in my book Raw Juices Can Save Your Life.
- Digestive enzymes should be taken with every meal, as the pancreas is probably not producing adequate amounts of its own digestive enzymes. If you do not produce enough digestive enzymes, you may suffer with bloating or gas after a meal.
- You may have an overgrowth of bacteria in your small intestine, which can inflame the pancreas. This is called small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). Treatment involves antimicrobials such as found in BactoClear capsules, and possibly a low FODMAP diet.
The above statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease.