When it comes to our health, our pancreas can often take a back seat. Yet it is an important organ that plays a crucial role in transforming the food we consume into the necessary fuel for our body’s cells. Essentially, it performs two vital functions: the exocrine function, which assists in digestion, and the endocrine function, which regulates blood sugar levels.
When our pancreas fails to produce enough insulin to reduce sugar levels, it can lead to the development of type 2 diabetes.
In type 2 diabetes, the body builds up resistance to insulin. As a result, more insulin is needed to lower blood glucose levels. This causes the pancreas to produce more insulin than it would normally need to.
Unfortunately, the pancreas is prone to several issues, with pancreatitis being one of the most common. This condition can be dangerous and even life-threatening if left untreated, and it’s crucial to be aware of the signs and symptoms. In this post, we’ll delve deeper into pancreatitis, its link to type 2 diabetes, and what you can do to prevent it from affecting your health. So let’s get started!
What is pancreatitis?
Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas. The condition can be acute or chronic. Acute pancreatitis occurs suddenly and lasts for a few days. On the other hand, chronic pancreatitis occurs over a longer timeframe.
It’s important to clarify that pancreatitis is not the same thing as exocrine pancreatic insufficiency. The latter occurs when the pancreas fails to produce a sufficient amount of a specific pancreatic enzyme.
While pancreatic insufficiency has similar symptoms as pancreatitis, it’s not the same disease. Instead, pancreatic insufficiency is a complication of pancreatitis. This is particularly the case for recurrent pancreatitis cases.
Numbers show that acute pancreatitis accounts for 275,000 hospital stays each year in the United States. Chronic pancreatitis is less common and accounts for about 86,000 hospital stays annually.
Symptoms of acute pancreatitis include upper abdominal pain, nausea and/or vomiting, rapid pulse, fever, abdominal pain radiating to the back, and abdomen tender to touch.
Chronic pancreatitis patients tend to experience severe pain in the abdomen, especially after eating, steatorrhea (oily or smelly stools), and unintentional weight loss.
When left untreated, pancreatitis can cause various complications. For that reason, it’s important to be proactive about your pancreas health to ensure the proper function of this organ.
Causes of pancreatitis
Pancreatitis develops due to the activation of digestive enzymes while they’re still in the pancreas. This irritates cells in the pancreas and causes pancreatic inflammation.
Recurrent acute pancreatitis can lead to chronic pancreatitis. Problems with the pancreas can lead to diabetes and digestion problems. That happens because the pancreas is in charge of producing insulin, which is necessary for blood sugar control.
Acute pancreatitis may occur due to several reasons, including:
- Some medications
- Pancreatic cancer
- Abdominal surgery
- Hypercalcemia (high calcium levels in the blood)
- Hypertriglyceridemia (high triglyceride levels)
- Injury in the abdominal area
- Cystic fibrosis
While everyone can develop pancreatitis, some people are at a higher risk than others. Common risk factors include obesity, excessive alcohol consumption, diabetes, cigarette smoking, and a family history of pancreatitis.
How to prevent pancreatitis naturally
There’s a lot you can do to reduce the risk of developing pancreatitis and other serious health problems, such as EPI. Below, we focus on some of the most important measures you can take.
Lose excess weight
Being overweight or obese increases the risk of developing pancreatitis. Excess weight can also aggravate your condition.
For that reason, the first and most important thing to do to prevent pancreatitis naturally is to lose weight or maintain it in a healthy range. Successful weight loss requires regular physical activity and a well-balanced diet.
Why is weight loss necessary? Overweight or obese people are more likely to develop gallstones, which increase the risk of acute pancreatitis.
Weight loss isn’t a quick fix. It may take a few weeks or months to slim down. However, the benefits of weight loss are long-term. Losing excess weight keeps your pancreas protected and may tackle the root causes of pancreatic problems.
Regular exercise is the cornerstone of a healthy lifestyle and effective weight loss. It can also help protect your pancreas.
Consistent physical activity could also lower the risk of pancreatic cancer. Exercise protects your pancreas by helping you lose weight or keep it off.
Your options for exercise are endless. You can do cardio, strength training, and play sports, but also make sure to increase physical activity levels throughout the day.
For instance, you may want to use stairs instead of elevators and escalators. Try to walk more and sit less. Don’t park near work so you can walk.
Eat a low-fat diet
The most common cause of pancreatitis, gallstones, results from the accumulation of excessive amounts of cholesterol in bile. Bile is fluid that breaks down fats. To lower the risk of gallstones, it’s useful to eat a low-fat diet.
Your diet plan should include whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. At the same time, you need to avoid fried foods and fatty foods, including full-fat dairy products. It also helps to reduce the consumption of high-calorie beverages and added sugar.
Simple modifications in your diet can go a long way and keep your pancreas healthy and prevent pancreatic disease.
Your diet for pancreatic health doesn’t have to be tricky to follow. Focus on various ingredients to obtain different nutrients.
At the same time, you may want to ditch all foods that jeopardize the function of your pancreas, which are usually foods that we need to avoid anyway. High-fat foods are not beneficial for your weight as well.
Reduce or avoid alcohol intake
People who drink alcohol, especially regularly, are more likely to develop pancreatitis than their counterparts who don’t.
Alcohol exhibits toxic effects on your pancreas and interferes with pancreatic cells. In turn, these cells stop working properly. Heavy drinking can cause permanent damage to the pancreatic tissue and lead to chronic pancreatitis.
The best thing to do to prevent pancreatitis or manage it is to decrease alcohol consumption. Ideally, you should avoid alcohol entirely. But, if you can’t do that, then try to keep alcohol intake at a minimum.
Avoid fad diets
Many people opt for fad diets in an attempt to slim down. These diets are popularized online, especially on social media.
The main premise of fad diets or crash dieting is that you can lose weight quickly if you eliminate some food groups entirely from your menu.
Many of these diets are restrictive and unhealthy. Crash dieting makes the liver ramp up the production of cholesterol, which can increase the risk of gallstones.
The solution to this problem is simple; instead of crash dieting and fad diets, you may find a well-balanced diet more beneficial. Focus on healthy eating and a versatile menu, just keep unhealthy items off.
A growing body of evidence confirms that smoking tobacco increases the risk of acute and chronic pancreatitis. The risk is dose-dependent, meaning the more you smoke, the higher the risk of developing these problems.
Protect your pancreas and lower the risk of pancreatitis by quitting smoking. Smokers may benefit from support groups and other tools that make it easier to stop this habit.
Some natural remedies could exhibit protective effects on your pancreas and lower the risk of pancreatitis. These remedies usually come in the form of dietary supplements that contain all-natural ingredients.
The most beneficial pancreatic supplements are digestive enzymes amylase, lipase, and protease. Amylase is a digestive enzyme necessary for the breakdown of carbs and sugars, while lipase aids in the digestion of oils and fats. At the same time, protease is necessary for the breakdown of proteins.
Before you start using pancreatic enzyme supplements and other products, it’s important to consult a healthcare provider. Besides these, other supplements that support pancreatic health include antioxidants, glutamine, and Omega-3 fatty acids.
Antioxidants work to neutralize free radicals, unstable molecules in the body that may harm pancreatic cells and contribute to illness. On the flip side, glutamine is an amino acid that helps break down food and also strengthens the immune system.
Glutamine may be able to prevent infections, which can contribute to and aggravate severe acute pancreatitis. Omega-3 fatty acids can also lower the risk of pancreatitis and reduce the severity of the condition in people who already have it.
How do you cleanse your pancreas?
Nowadays, cleansing is a popular method through which people attempt to detoxify the body and eliminate toxins. It is believed these toxins are behind illnesses.
Various detox products and supplements are available to cleanse the body, including the pancreas. But, it’s also possible to achieve this effect without various products.
Some of the best things to do to cleanse your pancreas is to drink plenty of water and eat fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s particularly important to eat produce with high water content.
Additionally, increase your intake of fiber-rich foods. Fiber is necessary for proper gut health and digestion. You need it for regular bowel movements and the removal of waste from your body, which also implies the elimination of toxins and other impurities. While it’s easy to find fiber supplements, you can obtain enough through diet alone.
Eating probiotic foods such as yogurt, kefir, tempeh, sauerkraut, and others also helps cleanse your pancreas. These foods aim to establish a balance of gut microbiota. Proper gut health is vital for good digestion and detoxification properties.
Additionally, you should strive to consume enough protein. This macronutrient is a part of the detox process too.
The pancreas is an important organ or gland that regulates blood sugar levels through insulin production. Problems with the pancreas jeopardize blood glucose control and may cause various complications, including diabetes mellitus.
Pancreatitis is one of the most common problems that affect the pancreas. The good thing is that you can prevent pancreatitis, and we can do a lot to reduce our risk and improve our quality of life. Simple lifestyle adjustments can go a long way for a patient who wants to decrease their condition’s severity.