The pancreas is a six inches long glandular organ located deep in the upper abdomen, whose primary role is to maintain the body’s blood glucose (sugar) balance. What’s unique about this organ is that it simultaneously functions as both a digestive exocrine gland and a hormone-producing gland. This means that it’s in charge of secreting hormones – most notably insulin – into the blood and exuding enzymes through ducts.
Without this constant balance, your body becomes susceptible to dangerous complications and your health is very likely to be compromised. This is why it’s crucial to find out how you can repair any damage to your pancreas, prevent further deterioration to ensure that you live a long, healthy life.
When food particles move from your stomach to the small intestine, they’re coated with digestive enzymes that neutralize stomach acid and prevent any damage from occurring to the intestinal wall. These enzymes are produced by your pancreas and are also responsible with breaking down the food you ingest so that it can be easily and properly absorbed by your body. Lastly, the enzymes are also required in order to eliminate inflammation caused by allergens, toxins, injury or even trauma. Moreover, the pancreas creates insulin, a peptide hormone that regulates metabolism and reduces blood sugar levels, allowing you to stock up on food energy for further use.
There are many different factors that can contribute to developing a pancreatic disorder. It’s extremely important to acknowledge key-symptoms of the type of disease you’re dealing with in order to receive proper care and treatment. One of the most common illnesses involving this dual gland is cancer. Pancreatic cancer infects the cells of the duct and can spread to all of the abdominal organs, as well as migrate to other parts of the body. Risk factors include cigarette smoking, advanced age (over 65 years old) and chronic pancreatitis.
Another ailment closely linked to the pancreas is diabetes, which stands for the body’s inability to absorb glucose (the brain’s fuel) and a significant build-up of the organic compound in the bloodstream. Whereas Type 1 Diabetes means that your body is no longer capable of producing insulin (patients require high doses of insulin daily in order to control blood sugar levels), Type 2 Diabetes occurs when the body produces its own insulin, but the cells are unable to respond to it properly. These complications often lead to nerve and kidney damage, obesity, high risk of heart attack and stroke. Another common disorder is an enlarged pancreas, which can be the result of a number of factors – diseases such as Pancreatitis, Cyst adenoma, pancreatic pseudo-cysts and pancreatic cancer can all account for an augmentation of the organ.
Other causes include diabetes, enzyme deficiency and tumors. Generally, an enlarged pancreas brings about weight loss, fever, vomiting, diarrhea, pain in the upper abdomen and jaundice. However, it is possible for the disease to not manifest any symptoms, making it nearly impossible to detect early on.
Two other types of pancreatic diseases that are most common are chronic and acute Pancreatitis. This illness is triggered when the pancreas becomes inflamed and its digestive enzymes, which should only be activated inside the intestines, begin consuming the pancreas itself. The enzymes may end up eating well into the abdominal cavity. This leads to problems in food absorption, bloating, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and fever.
Consequently, you can develop severe nutrient deficiencies and lose a significant amount of weight in the process. Acute Pancreatitis stands for the sudden inflammation of the pancreas and can be treated, in most cases, by making particular dietary choices. If the inflammation of the pancreas is persistent or becomes worse over time, then it’s recognized as Chronic Pancreatitis and can lead to several potentially life-threatening complications.
There are usually 2 main causes for which the pancreas becomes inflamed – chronic alcohol consumption and gallstones. The latter are solid particles of hardened bile (a dark green to yellowish fluid made by the liver to aid digestion, which is stored in the gallbladder) that can trigger the disease if they travel past the gallbladder and get embed in the common bile duct (the canal that connects the gallbladder and pancreas to the small intestines).
Nonetheless, immoderate alcohol consumption is the leading cause of Pancreatitis. Heavy drinkers can develop this condition within a few hours or up to two days after excessive drinking. Furthermore, years of imprudent drinking has recently been shown to be a fundamental risk factor to developing chronic Pancreatitis. Other, less frequent causes of Pancreatitis include genetic abnormalities of the pancreas, abdominal injury that reaches out to the pancreas, high levels of fat and calcium in the bloodstream, viral infection, medications high in anabolic hormones and estrogen and genetic abnormalities of the pancreas.
The most important thing you can do for prevention is to limit your alcohol consumption. This doesn’t mean you have to completely eliminate drinking out of your life, if that seems like too much of a commitment at this moment, but you should strive to dramatically reduce your beverage consumption in order to protect both your pancreas and liver from the toxic effects of alcohol. Another step you can take is to change up your diet to prevent gallstones.
This diseases is usually triggered by an excess of cholesterol which accumulates in the bile. A low-fat, healthy diet, focused mainly on fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains, has been linked to a reduced risk of gallstones. You should also avoid fatty and fried foods (this includes most commercial seed oils like sunflower or canola oil), as well as completely cut out high fat dairy out of your diet (this has been connected to a whole host of nasty side effects including mucus formation, weight gain and heart disease).
It’s also important to limit foods high in processed sugar and other artificial sweeteners like packaged sweets and soft drinks, which can raise the triglyceride levels in your body and, in turn, increase your risk for acute Pancreatitis.
Diagnosis is usually rather difficult due to the fact that many of the symptoms of pancreatic diseases resemble the manifestations of unrelated illnesses or can sometimes be brushed off as passing symptoms caused by less serious gastrointestinal issues. Here are some of the signs and symptoms of pancreatic disorders which you should watch out for – pain in the upper abdomen, nausea, diarrhea, back pain, bloating, spots (on the pancreas), loss of appetite, vomiting and jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and skin).
Eating the right foods can not only be used for prevention, but can also help repair the inflamed organ and help it function properly if you’re already suffering from a pancreatic disorder. It’s important to understand that changing up your diet won’t bring drastic improvements overnight.
It took years of eating a certain way to damage the pancreas and it will take a significant amount of time to restore its health. But if you’re interested in taking your health into your own hands and aiding treatment as best as you can, then cleaning up your diet is the most effective long-term action that you should focus your energy on. So, without further ado, here are the best foods that can heal your pancreas.
We all know Popeye made himself big and strong by eating spinach, but some of you might
be surprised to learn that it’s also a great tool in preventing inflammatory problems, cardiovascular disease, bone issues and certain types of cancer. This dark leafy green vegetable has been linked to lower risk of pancreatic cancer and is recommended as the best way to protect your pancreas by the German Institute of Human Nutrition. Chock-full with iron and beneficial B vitamins, spinach should be your number one choice due to its anti-inflammatory properties.
Garlic is a plant from the onion family, grown for its cooking properties and health effects.
Low in calories, but highly nutritious, garlic improves cholesterol levels, as well as bone strength and contains a series of nutrients (arginine, selenium, sulfur, flavonoids) which have been shown to prevent pancreatic cancer.
This is a great low-fat source of protein and comes in a wide range of savory textures.
Containing all 8 amino acids your body needs to rebuild muscles and organs, but without any of the harmful fat and cholesterol that can clog up your arteries and cause heart disease, tofu is not only excellent for warm, tasty dinners, but can also be used to make appetizing creamy vegan desserts.
Cherries are well-known for their antioxidant protection and cancer-preventive compounds,
also containing generous quantities of fiber, vitamin C and carotenoids (organic pigments found in the chloroplast of plants). Cherries also contain a substance called perrilyl alcohol, which has been shown to reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer. Just make sure you buy organic whenever possible to avoid exposure to harmful pesticides.
Red reishi mushrooms are known for their anti-inflammatory properties and have been used
in Chinese medicine for decades to restore balance to the body. In addition, research shows that a traditional Asian remedy containing pine-baring Poria cocos mushroom blocks the gene responsible for developing pancreatic cancer.
The live cultures in this type of yogurt are designed to restore balance to your gut flora,
promoting the production of good bacteria. Overuse of antibiotics and a poor diet come with several damaging side effects, one of which is an imbalance in the good-bad bacteria ratio in your intestines. Your body’s natural bacteria is used to strengthen the immune system and fight off potential infections. By consuming foods rich in probiotics, you can repopulate your gut with good bacteria and reverse any damage and inflammation of the intestinal wall. Regular yogurt also contains probiotics, but choosing the low-fat option is indicated to ensure pancreatic health.
While excessive alcohol consumption is by no means recommended, a glass or two of high-
quality, natural wine might actually be beneficial to the human body. This is due to the composition of red grapes – they contain an antioxidant called Resveratrol, which reduces oxidative stress, protects the endothelial lining of your arteries and blocks the production of noxious inflammatory agents.
Nonetheless, the best option is to opt for the fresh, natural version – so consuming organic whole red grapes is the most effective in preventing pancreatic disease.
Showing promising results in the prevention and treatment of several cancers, this wonder
ingredient dramatically increases the antioxidant capacity of the body, lowers the risk of heart disease and improves brain function. The active compound in this plant is curcumin, which has been shown to have certain healing properties, reducing metastasis (spread of cancer) and contributing to the death of cancer cells. Moreover, multiple studies have shown that turmeric can reduce the growth of cancerous cells or even prevent cancer from occurring in the first place, in particular cancers related to the digestive system (like colorectal and pancreatic cancer). What’s most intriguing about this plant is that it can cause harmful cancer cells to self-destruct, without damaging or affecting healthy cells in any way.