“The pancreas is my favorite organ.” Says no one (almost) ever. Seriously.
Unless someone has an existing pancreatic malady, this is one organ that gets very little attention. That’s a shame too… because with the exception of the rarer cases of genetics, infection, or blunt force trauma, nearly all pancreatic dysfunction is self induced. It’s time to bring this odd little organ out of its sandwiched space between the stomach and small intestine and figure out what makes it tick and tremble.
The pancreas has two main jobs: to produce chemicals which help regulate blood sugar, and to produce enzymes which help further digest food and bicarbonate which will further neutralize any stomach acid that has found its way into the small intestine. For being a rather underappreciated organ, if any of these tasks falls by the wayside, there are big consequences.
Pancreatitis (both chronic and acute) accounts for more than 360,000 hospital stays each year…. A number that continues to rise.
The lifetime risk of pancreatic cancer is currently 1 in 64 ….. A number that continues to rise.
The lifetime risk of acquiring diabetes is now roughly 1 in 3 adults….. And that number too has only continued to rise.
The problem is that the pancreas squeaks out tiny little “help me’s”, and few people take the time to learn and put clues together and then go on to correct the course of personal health history. True, the clues are not necessarily ones that will beat you over the head with a two by four, but they ARE there, nonetheless, and only you, the astute sleuth will likely see them or feel them.
Have you ever been out to eat with someone who won’t sit with their back to the door? Chances are, they have been well trained to observe their environment so they won’t be taken off guard by an offender who has ill intent.
This is how we guard the pancreas… watching for environmental clues that endanger that little organ, and then blocking their entry into our personal space that we do have control over. None of us wants to be the 1 in 3, the 1 in 64, or the 1 in 100.
Environmental contributors to pancreatic distress include:
Heavy alcohol consumption or diagnosis of cirrhosis
A high fat, heavily processed food diet
Abdominal surgery where the pancreas may have had interrupted blood supply
Nutritional deficiencies including (especially) vitamins A, D, E, and K and selenium
A history of infection such as hepatitis, Epstein-Barr Virus (Mononucleosis), Lyme disease, or Cytomegalovirus.
A prior history of autoimmune disorder: especially celiac, irritable bowel disease, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or Sjogren’s Syndrome.
A history of gallstones
Lab work that reveals high triglycerides
Damage to specific molars (those that are pertinent to pancreatic health and wellness… go back and re-read Chapter 7 in BYOHD Volume I)
Long standing emotions and feelings closely associated with pancreatic distress including: guilt, shame, insecurities, frustration, joylessness, fear of rejection, and lowered self esteem.
Many medications: More than 500 drugs have been reported by the World Health Organization database as causative agents for pancreatic distress. Common offenders include synthetic estrogens (birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy), opiates, steroids, many classes of antibiotics, diuretics furosemide and HCTZ, acetaminophen, and the blood pressure medication enalapril. The vaccinations formulated to prevent mumps (MMR and MMRV) have also been implicated in causing complications with the pancreas in some people.
Perhaps there hasn’t been a vigilant awareness until now, and the environmental offenders have already gotten through the door and gotten a little rowdy with the pancreas, and it’s been roughed up a bit. What would that look like?
When you have a handful of the following clues, you can be fairly certain they have been up to mischief that needs help or correcting.
Diarrhea or bloating
Unexplained weight loss
Signs of malnutrition (lab work can identify this)
Oily, foul smelling stools that are clay or pale in color and tend to float
Poor blood sugar control
Occasional abdominal pain that worsens after a high fat meal
Occasional abdominal pain that may be worse if lying flat on the back
Chronically dry lips (according to Chinese medicine)
Do not hesitate to contact your favorite health professional if you’ve checked the majority of these clues or also have fever or unrelenting abdominal pain!
Thankfully, there are MANY things that may be done to support a healthy pancreas:
Eat a healthy varied diet rich in fruit and vegetables, white fish and meats, grass fed beef, foods high in iron, foods that are rich in antioxidants….. Cherries, blueberries, spinach, YL wolfberries, tomatoes, bell peppers, NingXia Red.
Avoid opiates as a source of chronic pain management. There are MANY more effective ways to manage pain including scientifically proven meditation, relaxation exercises, acupuncture, yoga, and massage. Supportive supplements to consider include Sulfurzyme, BLM or Agilease, and Golden Turmeric, and essential oils PanAway, Deep Relief, Frankincense, Palo Santo, Helichrysum, Dorado Azul, Valerian, Peppermint, Copaiba, and Idaho Grand Fir. Reishi mushrooms ( found in NingXia Greens and Immupro) help support normal inflammatory and immune system response, especially when used with regularity.
Incorporate MCT (Coconut oil) oil into the diet. It doesn’t burden the pancreas the way many other oils do, and it has properties which are helpful to inflammatory conditions.
Green Tea (found in Young Living’s Vanilla Lemongrass Tea)
Achieving and keeping a healthy weight. Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint. Often simply losing 5-10 lbs is extraordinarily helpful to pancreas function.
Keep a close eye on triglyceride levels (optimally, they should be between 50-90mg/dL), and adjust the diet accordingly.
Alkalinize the body with Apple Cider Vinegar and/or Alkalime
Pancreatic Insufficiency, Pancreatitis, and Pancreatic cancer are all three very stealth dysfunctions. The obvious problem with stealth is that they are able to cause a fair bit of dysfunction before the problem is large enough to warrant medical attention. Chronic inflammation of the pancreas is a leading cause of pancreatic cancer, and this form of cancer has a very poor survival rate. All the more reason to keep your pancreas well loved and protected. Taking a quick glance at your stools before they go down the porcelain highway and doing an honest environmental and habit assessment is so important!
Roughly 98% of the pancreas is devoted to the job of supplying the body with digestive assistance. The other 2% is devoted to managing blood sugar levels…. And that’s what I’ll bring to the table next: the pancreas and diabetes.