When you think of the pancreas, you might initially think of insulin production, but the pancreas does much more than produce insulin. Today let’s look at the functions of the pancreas, and methods to support the health of this very important part of the endocrine system.
Insulin, produced by pancreatic islet cells, is the hormone that allows our body to use the fuel we get from our food. It might be thought of as the key that unlocks each cell, allowing glucose from the bloodstream to fuel the cells. We need insulin to live, and without sufficient insulin, excess glucose floats in the bloodstream, not getting into the cells where it is needed for energy. In addition, this excess glucose begins to damage various systems of the body. There are various reasons why the pancreas stops producing insulin, but like all autoimmune disorders, there are a combination of reasons: leaky gut, viral attacks, genetic predisposition, chronic stress, or toxin exposure.
Diabetes is a complex topic, and not the primary focus of this article, but let us briefly look at the difference between Type 1 Diabetes and Type 2 Diabetes. As referenced above, Type 1 Diabetes happens when the pancreas stops producing insulin after an autoimmune attack on the islet cells in the pancreas. In Type 2 Diabetes, your pancreas still produces insulin, but your body stops being able to use the insulin produced. Both versions of Diabetes produce similar symptoms, but their causes are different. Type 1 Diabetes is an autoimmune disorder, caused by the body attacking the cells that produce insulin. Type 2 Diabetes is a metabolic disorder. Another complex topic, metabolic health is largely determined by diet and lifestyle choices. The number of carbs we should eat (which varies from person to person and changes in different life stages), our activity level, how often we eat, the types of carbs and fats we eat…all of these are factors in metabolic health.
Ultimately, please know this: a Diabetes diagnosis is not a blame game. Let’s view it as an opportunity to control our outcomes. Our diet and lifestyle choices have everything to do with our outcome! If you have been diagnosed with Type 1 OR Type 2 Diabetes, and would like to take control of your outcomes by harnessing the power of nutrition and supplementation, contact us today for a nutrition consultation!
Other hormones produced by the pancreas include:
- Glucagon – increases glucose available in the blood
- Somatostatin – regulates the alpha and beta cells
Perhaps the least known purpose of the pancreas is as a source of digestive enzymes. We eat and we digest, and most of us don’t put a lot of thought into how that happens until something inhibits that process. If you have experienced indigestion, gas, bloating, diarrhea or constipation, there is a very real chance your enzyme production is at least partially to blame.
These are the primary enzymes produced by the pancreas:
- Trypsin – breaks down proteins
- Chymotrypsin – breaks down amino acids
- Carboxypeptidase – breaks down proteins
- Pancreatic lipase – breaks down fats
- Amylase – breaks down carbohydrates
The pancreatic enzymes are delivered in an alkaline substance called pancreatic juice. Acidic chyme, which is produced in the stomach, mixes with pancreatic juice, which activates the enzymes to do their work.
There are various reasons why your enzyme production may be decreased, including diets high in processed sugars and seed oils, chronic stress, excessive alcohol consumption and the natural aging process. When enzymes are insufficient and digestion is impacted, you aren’t just experiencing indigestion. The ability to absorb the nutrients you are eating is reduced, leading to malnutrition which negatively impacts every single system in your body.
Caring For Your Pancreas
The functions of the pancreas are entirely about fueling our body. Without fuel, we cannot survive or thrive, so it’s easy to see just how important this organ is. Here are a few ways you can support your pancreas:
How you eat can directly impact your pancreatic health in the following ways:
- Certain foods inhibit the pancreas from producing enzymes, while others may help encourage enzyme production
- Diet may help heal leaky gut, one of the primary causes of the autoimmune attack that results in Type 1 Diabetes
- Diet directly impacts your insulin levels. Hyperinsulinemia, or elevated natural insulin levels, is a primary driver in metabolic disorder, which leads to the Type 2 Diabetes diagnosis. For those with Type 1 Diabetes, or who take insulin externally to control blood sugars, what you eat directly impacts how much insulin you take. Whether you make your own insulin or take it externally, the more you use, the more likely you are to gain weight.
For the month of September, we would like to highlight the following supplements that support pancreatic health:
- LongLife Energy Enzymes – LEE Enzymes contain trypsin, chymotrypsin and pancreatin to break down protein, sugar and fat. The presence of these enzymes has been shown to help with cancer. They also contain healthy porcine desiccated pancreas, chlorophyllin and sodium copper to support those with pancreatitis. An herbal formula included helps to support balanced blood sugar levels, prevent oxidative stress to the islet cells in your pancreas, and reduce pancreatitis occurrence. Turmeric extract is included which is anti-inflammatory and has been shown to prevent the growth of pancreatic cancer.
- Standard Process Cataplex GTF – Contains chromium and niacin, both of which help balance blood sugar levels. Cataplex GTF is 10% off for the month of September.
- Standard Process Pancreatrophin PMG – Pancreatrophin PMG is a protomorphogen that helps reduce the autoimmune attack on the pancreas. When caught early while the pancreas is still producing some insulin, it is possible in some cases to reverse the attack that causes Type 1 Diabetes. Pancreatrophin is a key part of the recovery process when paired with nutrition. Pancreatrophin is 10% off for the month of September.
- Standard Process Diaplex – Diaplex balances blood sugar and supports digestion. Diaplex is 10% off for the month of September.
At Body in Harmony, we recommend that you only begin a supplement protocol under the supervision of a health care practitioner. If you would like more information on developing a supplement program specific to your needs, contact us today for a nutrition consultation.
It’s difficult to overestimate the ways spinal alignment can both positively and negatively affect your health. As your central nervous system is connected to every single bodily system, spinal misalignment isn’t just about back pain; it can have negative consequences for your endocrine system as well! In an effort to improve digestion and blood sugar balance, NUCCA can be a great help.
At Body in Harmony, our whole-person approach to healthcare includes nourishing our bodies in the best way possible, whether it be through diet, supplementation, or supporting the body’s own ability to digest and absorb nutrients. Contact our office today if you would like to explore NUCCA or nutrition to nourish your body into better health!