Functional Endocrinology: Pancreatic Digestive Disorder Skip to main content

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Functional Endocrinology: Pancreatic Digestive Disorder

Do you feel:

  • Difficulty digesting roughage and fiber
  • Indigestion and fullness the last 2-4 hours
  • Pain, tenderness, soreness on the left side, under the rib cage
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Stool undigested, foul-smelling, mucus-like, greasy or poorly formed
If you are experiencing any of these situations, then you might be experiencing pancreatic digestive disorders.

The Pancreas

The pancreas is a gland organ located in the abdomen. It is part of the digestive system, producing insulin and other vital enzymes and hormones that help break down food. It has an endocrine function, due to releasing juices directly into the bloodstream and has an exocrine function that releases juices into the ducts in the body.


pancreas

One of its many jobs the pancreas does is that it secretes out enzymes into the small intestine and continues to break down that left in the stomach. Another job is that it produces insulin and secretes it into the bloodstream, where it can regulate the body's glucose or sugar level. When there is a problem with insulin control in the body, it can lead a person to have diabetes. Other health problems include pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer.

Pancreatitis


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Pancreatitis is an inflammation in the pancreas. It occurs when the digestive enzymes become activated while irritating the cells in the pancreas. With repeated damages to the pancreas, it can cause either two forms of pancreatitis, which is acute pancreatitis and chronic pancreatitis. Both are very painful and can form scar tissue in the pancreas, causing it to lose its function. A poorly functioning pancreas can cause digestion problems and diabetes. Here are the conditions that can lead to pancreatitis:
  • Abdominal surgery
  • Alcoholism
  • Certain medications
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Gallstones
  • Obesity

Chronic Pancreatitis

Chronic pancreatitis is a long-term progressive inflammatory disease in the pancreas that can lead to a permanent breakdown of the structure and function of the pancreas in the body. Studies stated that the most common cause of chronic pancreatitis is long term alcohol abuse, it is thought to account for between 70 to 80 percent for all cases, and significantly it affects more men than women.

chronicpancreatitis


Common signs and symptoms of chronic pancreatitis include:
  • Severe upper abdominal pain that is more intense after a meal
  • Nausea and vomiting
When the disease progresses, the episodes of pain will become more frequent and more severe to individuals. Some individuals eventually suffer from constant abdominal pain, and as chronic pancreatitis progresses, the ability of the pancreas to produce digestive juices will deteriorate, and the following symptoms appear:
  • Smelly and greasy stool
  • Bloating
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Flatulence
  • Diabetes
There are numerous complications that an individual can potentially have with chronic pancreatitis. Nutrient malabsorption is one of the most complications since the pancreas is not producing enough digestive enzymes for the body to absorb the nutrients properly, leading to malnutrition. Another possible complication is the development of diabetes, where chronic pancreatitis damages the cells that produce insulin and glucagon to the body. Some individuals will also develop pseudocyst, which is fluid-filled that can form inside or outside the pancreas and can be very dangerous to the body since they can block the essential ducts and blood vessels.

Acute Pancreatitis

Acute pancreatitis is a sudden inflammation of the pancreas. It causes the enzymes to be excessively produced, causing the pancreas gland to be swollen and inflamed. It will make digestion slow down and become painful, making the other body functions be affected as well as making the pancreas be permanently damaged and scarred.

Acute pancreatitis is painful and can develop quickly. It can trigger potentially fatal complications as the mortality rate can range from less than 5 percent to over 30 percent, depending on the severity of the condition and if it reaches to the other organs beyond the pancreas. The most common cause of acute pancreatitis is the production of gallstones in the gallbladder, alcohol misuse, and infections.


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When a person has acute pancreatitis, they feel the pain in the lower abdomen and then feel it more gradually as the pain intensified until it is a constant ache. Other symptoms include:
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Pain with coughing, vigorous movements, and deep breathing
  • Tenderness when the abdomen is touched
  • Fever
  • Jaundice, yellowish tinge on the skin and the whites of the eyes

Pancreatic Cancer


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Also known as “the silent disease," pancreatic cancer happens when uncontrolled cell growth begins to form in a part of the pancreas. Tumors develop and interfere with the way the pancreas works. Pancreatic cancer often shows any symptoms until the later stages, and it can be challenging to manage. The signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer include:
  • Pain in the upper abdomen that radiates to the back
  • Unintended weight loss or loss of appetite
  • Pale or grey fatty stool
  • Jaundice
  • New-onset diabetes
  • Blood clots
  • Depression
  • Fatigue

Conclusion

The pancreas is located in the abdomen, and its primary function is to produce insulin and necessary enzymes and hormone to aid the digestion of food. When complications are attacking the pancreas like pancreatic cancer and pancreatitis, it can damage the pancreas to stop producing insulin and can lead to chronic illnesses to spread all over the body. Some products can help support the sugar metabolism that the pancreas creates and offer nutrients and enzymatic cofactors to the gastrointestinal system in the body.

October is Chiropractic Health Month. To learn more about it, check out Governor Abbott’s proclamation on our website to get full details on this historic moment.

The scope of our information is limited to chiropractic, musculoskeletal and nervous health issues as well as functional medicine articles, topics, and discussions. We use functional health protocols to treat injuries or chronic disorders of the musculoskeletal system. To further discuss the subject matter above, please feel free to ask Dr. Alex Jimenez or contact us at 915-850-0900 .

Reference:

Banks, Peter A, et al. “The Management of Acute and Chronic Pancreatitis.” Gastroenterology & Hepatology, Millennium Medical Publishing, Feb. 2010, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2886461/.

Bartel, Michael. “Acute Pancreatitis - Gastrointestinal Disorders.” MSD Manual Professional Edition, MSD Manuals, July 2019, www.msdmanuals.com/en-gb/professional/gastrointestinal-disorders/pancreatitis/acute-pancreatitis.

Brazier, Yvette. “Acute Pancreatitis: Symptoms, Treatment, Causes, and Complications.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 19 Dec. 2017, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/160427.php.

Brazier, Yvette. “Pancreatic Cancer: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 23 Oct. 2018, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323423.php.

Colledge, Helen, et al. “Chronic Pancreatitis.” Healthline, 14 Sept. 2017, www.healthline.com/health/chronic-pancreatitis.

Crosta, Peter. “Pancreas: Functions and Disorders.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 26 May 2017, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/10011.php.

Felman, Adam. “Chronic Pancreatitis: Treatments, Symptoms, and Causes.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 19 Dec. 2017, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/160459.php.

Health Publishing, Harvard. “Acute Pancreatitis.” Harvard Health, July 2019, www.health.harvard.edu/a_to_z/acute-pancreatitis-a-to-z.

Staff, Mayo Clinic. “Pancreatic Cancer.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 9 Mar. 2018, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pancreatic-cancer/symptoms-causes/syc-20355421.

Staff, Mayo Clinic. “Pancreatitis.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 7 Sept. 2019, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pancreatitis/symptoms-causes/syc-20360227.

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