The pancreas is located just below and behind the stomach, in the place where it connects to the intestines. The functions of the pancreas are that it produces digestive enzymes that help digest the food we eat, and regulates blood sugar by secretion of insulin and glucagon. Iron is an important organ, but it is possible to live without it. Only in case of removal of the gland will it be necessary to constantly receive hormones and digestive enzymes in the form of drugs.
The structure and location of the organ
The pancreas is an elongated conical organ that is located behind, behind the stomach, and in a supine position it appears under it, hence its name. The gland has a length of just over 15 cm and weighs 80-90 g. It consists of a head, body and tail. The right side of the gland, called the head, is attached to the duodenum, the conical left side is stretched to the left and is called the body. The pancreas ends with its tail near the spleen.
95% of the gland cells produce pancreatic juice, which consists of enzymes that break down food. These include:
- trypsin and chymotrypsin necessary for protein digestion,
- amylase breaks down carbohydrates,
- lipase turns fat into fatty acids.
Enzymes are secreted into the canal through the entire gland, from the tail to the head, and into the duodenum.
The remaining 5% of pancreatic cells are endocrine, called islets of Langerhans. They produce several types of hormones released directly into the bloodstream, and also regulate pancreatic function and blood glucose.
Thus, the functions of the pancreas in the human body are as follows:
- secretion of digestive enzymes for the digestion of food entering the body,
- maintaining a healthy level of sugar, which is vital for the work of all key organs, including the brain, liver, and kidneys.
How the exocrine part works
To understand what the pancreas is responsible for in the human body, let us recall what constitutes the digestion process. The task of digestion is to break down food into the smallest components that can be absorbed into the blood. The process begins even in the mouth when we chew food and liberally moisten it with saliva containing amylase. In the mouth, the breakdown of carbohydrates begins. Further, in the stomach, under the influence of gastric juice, protein is digested. A food lump formed in the stomach and called a chyme descends into the duodenum, where it is finally digested by the action of pancreatic juice and bile secreted here through the bile ducts. The breakdown of fats occurs only here, under the action of bile and lipase, which is secreted by the pancreas.
A healthy pancreas secretes about a liter of enzymes per day.
Juice secretion of the gland contains inactive enzymes that are activated only in the duodenum. To neutralize the gastric juice in the chyme, it produces bicarbonate. This pancreatic secretion regulates the acidity of the chyme, protects the intestinal wall from the harmful effects of stomach acid and creates a normal environment for the functioning of digestive enzymes. They complete the decomposition of food into nutrients, which are 95% absorbed into the bloodstream in the small intestine.
Pancreatic internal secretion
Why is the pancreas needed as part of the human endocrine system? Recall that an important part of the function of the pancreas in the human body is that it produces several types of hormones. This happens in special cells - the islets of Langerhans, named after the German pathologist Paul Langerhans, who first discovered them in the 19th century. These islets of the gland are composed of various kinds of cells that produce the following hormones:
- A cells - glucagon,
- B cells - insulin,
- D cells - somatostatin,
- F cells are a pancreatic polypeptide.
Interestingly, different types of gland cells are not randomly distributed. The cells that produce insulin are located in the center of the islet and are surrounded by a “shell” of the remaining types of cells.
Pancreatic insulin performs the most important functions in our body:
- transfers glucose from the blood to muscles and tissues for its further use in the form of energy,
- helps the liver store glucose in the form of glycogen in the event that it may be needed in large quantities - stress, training, and other loads.
Insulin and glucagon always work in tandem to maintain glucose balance in the bloodstream. With an increase in its level, pancreatic B cells release insulin, and when its rate decreases, A cells secrete glucagon. This hormone causes the liver to turn glycogen stores into glucose, which then enters the bloodstream.
The remaining pancreatic hormones play a role in regulating and maintaining the function of cells secreting insulin and glucagon.
Factors that adversely affect organ function
The pancreas is a finely tuned organ that affects the state of our entire body. The slightest malfunctions in her work can provoke complex and difficult to treat diseases. There are risk factors that are subject to our control, and those that we cannot influence. Risk factors are all that increase the chances of getting a gland disease.
Risk factors not subject to our influence:
- Age. The risk of pancreatic disease increases over the years, especially after 45 years.
- Floor. Men get sick more often than women. This is mainly attributed to smoking, although recently the trend has leveled off, women began to smoke much more.
- Race. African Americans are sick more often than white-skinned. Medicine cannot explain this yet.
- Heredity. Some gene mutations can be transmitted from parents to children and provoke pancreatic pathologies. The presence or absence of such genes can be shown by special genetic testing.
Negative factors that can be eliminated on their own:
- smoking - doubles the risk of pancreatic cancer,
- alcohol - with its excess, the secretion of the gland increases, it begins to collapse from the inside, the process of self-digestion of the organ starts,
- excess weight and obesity - by 20% increases the likelihood of pathologies of the gland, abdominal fat located in the waist area is especially dangerous,
- long-term contact with harmful chemicals at work - dry cleaning, metalworking, etc.
The presence of these risk factors does not mean that you will become ill. Medicine knows cases when a person received pancreatic disease even in the complete absence of such conditions. But knowledge of these factors will help you to be more informed in this matter and, if necessary, make the right decision when choosing a medical care.
What happens with pancreatic dysfunction and how it is treated
The main task of the gland is to complete the processing of food received in the body. To do this, it produces enzymes. But under the influence of negative factors, its malfunctions occur, the gland does not cope with its task. Then there are various pathologies of the pancreas.
For relief of acute pain, hospitalization and urgent surgery may be required, for example, if it was caused by a stone that blocked the duct. The standard treatment is to eliminate risk factors (alcohol, smoking, etc.), fasting, drinking plenty of fluids, following a diet, and taking pain medication if necessary.
Diseases associated with impaired production of enzymes
It is difficult to overestimate the importance of the pancreas, whose work provides the whole body with energy and nutrients. Typically, the digestive enzymes secreted by it are activated only when they enter the small intestine. If a failure occurs and they are activated in the gland itself, it is damaged and begins to destroy itself. When the secretory activity of the gland is impaired, diseases of various severity arise.
As a rule, it starts suddenly, lasts from a few days to a week. The most common cause of the disease is a blockage in the duct of the gland, or the Water ampule. The anatomically biliary tract and pancreatic duct are connected in one place called the Vater's ampulla, from where bile and pancreatic juice enter the small intestine. If gallstones, moving along the ducts, clog this ampoule, then the enzymes cannot leave the gland, accumulate in it and corrode it.
Acute pancreatitis can also be caused by the abuse of alcohol, smoking, drugs, steroid treatment, high fat levels, and a hereditary factor. Its characteristic symptoms:
- acute girdle pain in the hypochondrium,
- nausea and vomiting,
- muscle pain,
- rapid pulse.
Mild pain begins in the upper abdomen and then intensifies, spreading to the back. Due to constant and unbearable pain, a person feels very ill and needs immediate medical attention. In the first 24 hours, the patient receives a plentiful drink, he is allowed to eat only after 48 hours. To stop acute pain, narcotic pain medications are prescribed. If gallstones become the cause of the disease, then they are manipulated to extract them. Most patients with acute pancreatitis recover within 5-7 days.
Repeated and not properly treated attacks of acute pancreatitis translate the disease into a chronic phase. In this case, the pancreas is further destroyed, scars, calcified stones and cysts are formed in it, which block its excretory channel. The lack of enzymes complicates the assimilation of food, causes a lack of necessary elements for the body, and provokes diabetes.
Initially, the disease is easily confused with acute pancreatitis due to similar symptoms. But as it progresses, patients lose their appetite and weight, halitosis, diarrhea and oily stools appear from the mouth. In especially dangerous cases, internal bleeding and intestinal obstruction may occur.
There are many causes of chronic pancreatitis, but 70% of cases are associated with chronic alcoholism. Among other reasons, there are:
- narrowing of the channel or its blockage with stones of the gallbladder / pancreas,
- cystic fibrosis, which causes the formation of mucus in the lungs, it also affects digestive enzymes, they become thick and viscous, clogging the channels and blood vessels in the body of the gland,
- high levels of calcium and triglycerides in the blood,
At the chronic stage, pathological changes in the gland become irreversible. Treatment focuses on taking pain medications, artificial enzymes that improve the absorption of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Surgical intervention is required when it is necessary to unlock or expand the pancreatic duct, remove cysts and stones.
Endocrine cell pathology
When the endocrine secretion of the pancreas is disrupted in the body, this causes an imbalance in the production and regulation of the hormones it produces. Of all pancreatic diseases, diabetes is the most common diagnosis.
Diabetes is a metabolic disorder. Metabolism shows how our body absorbs digested food. Most of the incoming food is broken down to glucose, the main source of energy for the cells of our body. But glucose cannot penetrate into the cells itself, for this it needs insulin. The increased glucose content in patients with diabetes has several reasons:
- insulin is not produced at all,
- insufficient insulin secretion,
- the presence of insulin resistant (insensitive) cells.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which immunity attacks and destroys the B cells of the gland that produce insulin. The exact cause of the disease is unknown, doctors associate it with genetic and environmental factors. The diagnosis is made either immediately after birth, or up to 20 years. About 10% of all diabetes cases are of type 1. It is also called insulin-dependent, that is, these patients will take insulin throughout their lives, regularly take blood tests and adhere to the recommended diet.
Type 2 diabetes is diagnosed with insulin deficiency or when cells do not respond to it, that is, are resistant to insulin. Approximately 90% of diabetes cases worldwide are of type 2. It is characterized by symptoms such as frequent urination, weight loss, excessive thirst and lack of energy.
Who is at risk:
- People suffering from and obesity, especially in the abdomen. Excess fat causes the body to produce substances that disrupt the functioning of the cardiovascular system and reduce the human metabolic rate.
- Age. The risk of developing diabetes increases as you grow older. The reason is not known to experts, but they claim that with age we gain a little extra weight, we lose physical activity.
- Family story. The risk of the disease increases for those who had a close diabetic relative.
- Men with low testosterone. Scientists associate this indicator with insulin resistance.
You do not need to have a rich imagination to understand that the iron that produces the chemical elements that are closely associated with the digestion of food is very sensitive to abuse and excesses. Overeating, obesity, the use of large amounts of fat, sugar and alcohol contribute to the gradual inhibition and atrophy of its functions. Prolonged stress experienced by any organ, including the pancreas, leads to the disease.
The role of the pancreas in digestion
What does the pancreas do in the human body? It would be more logical to start with the simplest and most obvious function - the digestive one; it is rather difficult to answer briefly. What is the function of the pancreas in the digestive system?
It produces enzymes that are involved in the breakdown of the main components of food - carbohydrates, fats and proteins. The exocrine pancreatic function is manifested in the production of pancreatic juice, which is removed through a special duct into the duodenum. Here, its juice, combined with the bile of the liver, breaks down food to a state that allows fragments to pass through the intestines.
The pancreas is also responsible for the production of the following enzymes:
- lipase - grinds large conglomerates of fats,
- lactase, amylase, invertase and maltase break down carbohydrates,
- trypsin is an enzyme that breaks down only proteins.
All of these enzymes begin to be produced by the gland immediately after the food enters the stomach. This process lasts for 7-12 hours.
The production of enzymes depends on the composition of the food. If protein predominates in the food lump, then the gland begins to supply trypsin intensely. A large amount of fat contributes to the production of lipase.Similarly, the production of enzymes that destroy carbohydrates is stimulated.
The essence of the exocrine function of this gland is that the secretion of pancreatic juice and enzymes is fully consistent with the quantity and quality of food consumed. It is thanks to this function that not only the digestion of food is provided, but also the protection of the gland itself is formed. With a balanced allocation of all digestive substances synthesized by the gland, this organ is reliably protected from possible self-destruction. When pancreatic juice is excreted in the amount that corresponds to the amount of food consumed, it is completely utilized in the duodenum, without having a devastating effect on the gland.
Iron performs its intracecretory role through the production of a number of hormones that are secreted not into the digestive system, but into the blood, affecting the state of the whole organism.
What does the pancreas produce by performing an endocrine function? Hormones are produced in special organ structures, which are called islets of Langerhans. They are made up of cells that specialize in the production of certain hormones. These are the following five types of cells:
- alpha cells produce glucagon,
- beta cells produce insulin,
- delta cells specialize in somatostatin,
- D1 cells supply the body with vasoactive intestinal polypeptides,
- PP cells produce pancreatic polypeptide.
The most famous hormone is insulin. It regulates the amount of glucose in the blood.
With the destruction of beta cells, insulin deficiency is formed, which is the beginning of the development of diabetes mellitus.
The endocrine or endocrine function of the gland is manifested in the humoral control of the body. This is evolutionarily the earliest way to manage. The pancreas controls the amount of insulin and somatostatin entering the bloodstream, as a result of which a hormonal balance is formed and a normal state of the body is ensured.
The relationship of functions with the structure and location of the gland
The pancreas is a paradoxical phenomenon, combining several functions that do not have an obvious logical connection with each other. This paradox is a consequence of the evolution of functions and organs.
In some vertebrates, the digestive and endocrine functions are separated and concentrated in different organs. In humans and most vertebrates, different structures were concentrated in one organ.
Despite the fact that the role of the pancreas in the human body is diverse, the basic function is still the digestive.
In each life support system, all organs are located so as to quickly and efficiently perform their own functions. Especially the principle of rational placement of organs is relevant for the digestive system. The digestive functions of the pancreas are possible only with the rapid entry of pancreatic juice into the duodenum. It should also come quickly and bile from the liver.
The pancreas is located in a loop formed by the stomach and duodenum. To the right of the stomach is the liver. Located at a certain distance from each other vertically, these two organs are in contact with the ducts through which bile and pancreatic juice enter the duodenum.
The structure and functions of the pancreas are associated with the need to ensure digestive function. For this reason, the largest part of the gland - the head should be in close proximity to the duodenum.
The location of all other structures of the gland that do not work for digestion is tied to its head.
Iron is a mechanical union in one body of different structures and functions. If you answer the question, why do you need the pancreas, you get a very long answer, which can be reduced to one phrase - for secretory control of the activity of the whole organism.
Pathology of the pancreas
All diseases of this organ are associated with a violation of a particular function. The most common diseases are pancreatitis and diabetes. In the first case, an inflammatory process develops in the gland, which affects its digestive functions. In the second, insulin production is disrupted, which leads to a metabolic failure in the whole body.
The origin of both pathologies has not yet been fully elucidated, but people who abuse alcohol and nicotine usually suffer from acute pancreatitis. Inflammatory processes can develop against the background of severe stress and intoxication. Both factors stimulate hyperfunction of the gland, as a result, its tissue is destroyed by excess pancreatic juice. Stimulate this process and liver disease.
The paradox is that in people with diabetes, iron in all respects can be healthy. It’s just that for some reason its beta cells stop working at full capacity. The absence of a causal relationship between pancreatitis and diabetes proves once again the evolutionary independence of the development of different structures of one organ.
Pancreatitis is a serious and dangerous disease. However, it can be cured using a variety of methods, including surgical and medical. An independent method of combating pancreatitis is a diet that you will have to adhere to all your life. The therapeutic meaning of the diet is to facilitate the digestion process, and also to prevent the stimulation of gland hyperfunction.
With diabetes, people will have to live permanently. Since the pancreas is no longer able to regulate the activity of the body by synthesizing the right amount of insulin, a person takes on this function.
The main concern of a diabetic is the constant monitoring of the amount of insulin and glucose in the blood.
Rarer diseases include cystic fibrosis, cysts, and pancreatic cancer. Cystic fibrosis is a systemic hereditary disease. It is characterized by a violation of the functions of many organs. In this case, diffuse fibrosis forms in the pancreas.
The pancreas is of great importance for the normal functioning of the whole organism. The occurrence of any pathologies in this organ is always very serious, requiring constant treatment or surgical intervention. The functions in the body that this system performs are among the most important.