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The Pancreas and its Role in Digestion

The role of digestion in a normally functioning body starts when we take our first bite of food. The food mixes with saliva and once we sallow food then proceeds to the stomach. In the stomach, food combines with bile acids that begin to break the foods down.


From the stomach, the resulting food particles move into the small intestine. Once in the small intestine, those food particles are so small that they can start slipping into the bloodstream. Sitting in the small intestine, the food particles start sending a signal back to the pancreas, a little organ that sits just adjacent to the stomach.


How the Pancreas Functions


The two primary functions of the pancreas is that it initially detects food as it’s passing into the gut and releases digestive enzymes. These enzymes help break down food even further in the small intestine. Once the food is small enough, it will pass from the digestive tract into the bloodstream, and as sugars and proteins and fats start to build up in the bloodstream, the pancreas begins its endocrine function.


Through the endocrine function, the pancreas releases insulin and glucagon into the bloodstream. These two hormones help regulate the blood sugar by causing it to either increase or decrease based on what a person needs.


In a normally functioning pancreas, blood sugars are controlled quite well. There can be problems with the pancreas though. In some cases, the pancreas can become inflamed. That can be as a result of an injury or even an illness such as pancreatitis. Inflammation in the pancreas can be the result of a high-fat diet, or just having high levels of fats called triglycerides floating around. Anytime the pancreas is injured or inflamed, it is not going to function properly, and the blood sugars can be impaired as a result.