Top Five Ways to Heal Your Pancreas
It's probably not often that you wake up and think about how your pancreas is doing - unless it's not doing well.
And then you know.
Sudden abdominal pain, back pain along with digestive issues like bloating, indigestion, nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite are all symptoms of pancreatitis - an inflamed pancreas.
Pancreatitis is the cause of over 22% of emergency room visits in this study of over 600,000 individuals. Addressing pancreas health is a vital part of your healing journey even though most people don't sit around and think "how is my pancreas doing?" Your pancreas works quietly without any fanfare or recognition until it's pissed off.
And then watch out!
With all of the attention on the importance of gut health, most people think about their stomach and their bowel movements. There is a lot more to digestion than that, so let's give the pancreas a moment in the spotlight!
What does the pancreas do?
The pancreas has two primary functions - one as an exocrine gland and the second as an endocrine gland.
As an exocrine gland, the pancreas produces digestive enzymes to break down the food we eat. It also produces bicarbonate to neutralize and balance the stomach acid as the food moves into the duodenum. (The duodenum is the first part of the small intestine immediately beyond the stomach, and it cannot tolerate a high acidity environment.)
As an endocrine gland, the pancreas has the important role of producing insulin and glucagon to regulate blood sugar.
Insulin tells the body to store glucose as glycogen. Glycogen is turned back to glucose when glucagon tells your body to raise blood glucose levels.
What goes wrong with the pancreas?
One of the main things that goes wrong with our digestion is when the pancreas is no longer producing the right volume and ratio of enzymes and call this pancreatic insufficiency. We see this all the time in functional medicine and in nutritional therapy.
Insufficient enzyme production is found often in individuals with celiac disease and in clients with autoimmune diagnoses. Output is reduced due to triggers such as parasites, bacterial overgrowth, dermatitis herpetiformis, and inflammatory bowel disease (Ref: Digestive Wellness, Dr. Elizabeth Lipski).
In 70% of people, chronic pancreatitis is alcohol induced. In others, there can be a genetic tendency as there are a number of markers that if turned on, can produce inflammation of the pancreas.
Over a billion people (and counting) have diabetes. Diabetes occurs when the pancreas doesn't produce enough insulin, or when the cells are resistant to insulin and glucose is allowed to stay in the bloodstream - where it can do a lot of harm to our tissues. Those tissues include blood vessels, heart, eyes and kidneys.
So our pancreas is pretty important, right?
Functional Testing for Pancreas Health
Fasting Insulin (not run enough!)
Pancreatic Elastase (stool)
IgG Food Sensitivities
Improving Pancreatic Health
Taking a functional medicine approach to pancreas health, we first look at why the pancreas is inflamed, tired and unhealthy - and then work to remove those triggers. In functional medicine, we don't just throw a supplement or a prescription on top of the problem.
In functional medicine, we research carefully by taking a thorough history and assessment of why the body is sick and tired and then use nutritional and lifestyle approaches to use the body's own innate healing abilities.
Five Ways to Heal Your Pancreas
Number One - Clean up WHAT you eat. Remove the obvious offenders like alcohol, dairy, sugar, gluten, industrial seed oils, and processed foods. Get back to cooking and eating real, whole food. Look at food as restorative to your body.
Number Two - Clean up HOW you eat. Use good eating hygiene. Chew your food at least 20 times and put down the fork between bites. Take a nice 20 minutes to eat and eat in a relaxed manner rather than in a stress, rushed manner. More information here in my Healing From Autoimmune community. (Not a member - come join - it's free!)
Number Three - Take pancreatic enzymes as digestive aids. These help repair your body as well as provide some supplemental enzymes, while rebalancing the microbiota. Continual use helps repair the body.
Number Four - Work with your Functional Medicine Health Coach to explore other root causes of your discomfort. You are likely to be deficient in key nutrients - and nutrients are instructions for our cells. Functional medicine testing may also help identify causes of pancreatic imbalance. (Schedule your Complimentary Meet & Greet to learn how functional medicine health coaching may support your healing process.)
Number Five - Consider stress management techniques to help manage your stress response and the constant flood of glucose hitting your cells (which promotes insulin resistance).
Get Support to Improve Your Health
If you are ready to embark on changes to improve your health, but aren't sure what or how to do it, consider working with a functional medicine health practitioner.