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What Does the Pancreas Do?

The pancreas is a very important organ in the body. It is responsible for producing chemicals that aid the digestion of food and the regulation of blood sugar levels.

The pancreas is found in the abdominal cavity, surrounded by the small intestine, stomach, and the duodenum. It is part of both the exocrine  system (which is involved in digestion) and endocrine systems (which helps regulate insulin and glucagons,  produced by a tiny group of cells called “the Islets of the Langerhans.” Glucagons breaks down unprocessed sugar into energy, and then sends this energy through the blood. Insulin then helps the cells absorb the sugar.  If the pancreas did not initiate this process, then the body would have no “fuel” by which it could operate basic functions and simple activities.

The pancreas also helps the body in the digestion of food. While the acids in the stomach are responsible for breaking down and metabolizing what we eat, lots of “bits and pieces” sometimes slips through. The pancreas is quick to respond by releasing enzymes that break down fat, protein and carbohydrates.

When the pancreas malfunctions, many health complications can arise—some of them potentially fatal. For example, people who suffer from diabetes will have to control sugar intake and take medication for the rest of their lives in order to control their sugar levels. Other conditions are pancreatic cancer, pancreatitis and cystic fibrosis.  All of these require immediate medical attention, hospitalization and intense medication. These underline the importance of the pancreas in a person’s over all well being.

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