The Pancreas: Key Player In Good Health


The pancreas   is about six inches long, located in your upper abdomen, behind your liver. From this hidden sanctuary, the pancreas does two really big jobs: keep blood sugar levels in check and help digestion happen. The two functions work independently, with little overlap.

The pancreas attaches to the small intestine and adds “juice” (digestive enzymes) as your food moves from your stomach into the small intestine. The enzymes break down fats, carbohydrates and protein into something your body can use. Digestive efforts take up 95% of the pancreas.

A different part of the pancreas, representing the other 5%, creates and sends out hormones to keep your blood sugar levels in a good place.

That 5%, the endocrine functions of the pancreas, often gets misdiagnosed and mistreated. So let’s talk about how pancreatic hormones work and what you can do to keep life chugging along in style.

Scattered throughout the pancreas, with blood vessels close by for handy access, are the islets of Langerhorn, and that’s where the hormones of the pancreas are created and sent out.

A brief review: Whenever you hear the word ‘hormone’ you’re talking about an endocrine function. Endocrine glands work by emitting hormones, a shot at a time, into the blood stream where they wander along until they come upon a receptor cell they fit, like a key in a lock.

Locking into a receptor puts hormones into action. Until the hormone does all it needs to do, the receptor puts out a “No Vacancy” sign; a locked receptor can’t accept any more input.

A lack of good nutrition, the presence of toxins and the like can damage receptors. Ever try to put a key into a banged-up lock? Good luck with that. That’s what causes Type 2 diabetes. You create plenty of the insulin hormone, but it can’t get into the receptor to do anything.

Wandering insulin with no place to go creates chaos. It leads to obesity, high blood pressure, high triglycerides–aka metabolic syndrome. If allowed, the syndrome moves on to become Type 2 diabetes.

The pancreas creates four (that we know of) hormones.
•    Insulin
Insulin takes sugar out of our blood and eases it into our cells, which need it to keep the party going. And it directs glycogen creation (from carbohydrates) and stores them, mostly, in the liver, muscles and fat cells.

Thyroid and adrenal hormones, especially, impact the pancreas big time–and vice versa. In animal studies, for example, hyperthyroidism decreased insulin release, while hypothyroidism increased it.

•    Glucagon
Glucagon is a sort of insulin antagonist. If sugar levels in the blood get too low, glucagon sets about correcting the problem by getting glycogen released from the liver and muscles.

Glucagon also creates the glucose needed by your cells, helps repair injured cells,   metabolizes fats, etc. Plus it increases potassium and dumps sodium as needed.

•    Somatostatin
Somatostatin (which has nothing to do with statin drugs) referees insulin/glucagon balance and controls the rate at which food is absorbed.

When other endocrine hormones (thyroid, etc.) run low, you get less somatostatin.

Too little somatostatin may interrupt the insulin/glucagon choreography, while too much causes gallstones, diabetes and an inability to deal with dietary fat.

•    Pancreatic polypeptide
A polypeptide is a whole bunch of amino acids bonded together–in this case, thirty-six of ‘em.

We’re only at the beginning of the learning curve here. Pancreatic polypeptide seems to play a role in obesity; the less PP you have, the more you weigh. And we know that you can increase PP levels with good nutrition and a reasonable amount of exercise.

Getting your pancreas into fighting shape

First, get a strong vitamin/mineral program in place. Use my Pep for the Pooped downloadable book ( to guide you. It offers more than 130 information-loaded pages to guide you to your nutritional Promised Land. You probably already know that a random little bit of this and a little of that doesn’t take you far, but a plan based on your body’s specific needs works like magic.

All vitamins and minerals play a big role in the health of our pancreas, but two vitamins and a mineral play an especially big role.

B vitamins are huge, even restoring diabetics to health, so be sure you get enough.  Alcohol kills vitamin B, which may be how alcohol damages the pancreas.

Vitamin D3 blesses the socks off your entire endocrine system. Plus, every cell in your body needs and uses D3. Every single cell.

Magnesium is huge. Without adequate magnesium, your body won’t pump out enough insulin–and what it does pump out will be too weak to sop up much blood sugar. In turn, without insulin, magnesium can’t get into your cells to work its wonders.

Bottom line: Keep your pancreas ready to rumble, and it will win a lot of battles for you.

God is good,
Bette Dowdell

About the author: Bette Dowdell defines determination. In a really deep health ditch, with doctors who didn’t help, she got her Oh-Yeah! attitude in gear and researched her way out. She never intended to be a health expert, but sometimes a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. You can subscribe to Bette’s free e-mails on how to solve health problems at

Bette Dowdell
A drunk driver pretty much destroyed my health a month before my first birthday. Doctors said I was fine--for years. Finally realizing my health was up to me, I started researching. I got out the health ditch I was in, and found my future: Giving people the information they need to understand how to take control of their own health. It's been an amazing journey, and I look forward to all that is yet to come.