Pancreas In The Human BodyWhat is the Pancreas?

The pancreas is a (15~20)-cm-long tubular digestive gland, also called pancreatic gland, which is located across the back of the abdomen, just behind and below the stomach.

The pancreas has two main functions:

  • Digestive function of pancreas: To produce pancreatic juice, which contains enzymes for the intestine to digest food – This pancreas function is called exocrine function of pancreas. Exocrine shows that it occurs outside the pancreatic gland.
  • Endocrine and metabolic function of pancreas: To produce specific hormones: Insulin and glucagon, which play a central role in the regulation of blood sugar in the body.  – This pancreas function is called the endocrine function of pancreas. Endocrine means that it has to do with hormones.

Anatomy of the Pancreas

The product of pancreas exocrine cells is the pancreatic juice, that is a clear, alkaline (pH 7.8-8.4) liquid of 1-2 L/d containing digestive enzymes, which can help the intestine to break down the food for nutrient absorption.

Protective functions of the pancreas: The pancreatic juice contains bicarbonate (alkaline) that can neutralize acidic liquid coming from stomach, so that it protects the intestinal mucosa to avoid erosion.

Digest foods for nutrient absorption: The pancreatic juice has digestive enzymes to break down the food and nutrients, such as protein, fat, starch, which are the three major nutrient material.

The above-mentioned functions of pancreas are both the exocrine function associated with intestinal digestion. In addition, the pancreas has another function – endocrine function, that regulates the blood sugar connected with glucose metabolism, as follow:

Pancreas releases insulin to lower the level of glucose in blood, and on the other hand, for the balance, it also secretes glucagon to elevate the level of glucose.

Pancreatic tissue damage or dysfunction

If the pancreatic function and/or tissues and cells are damaged, that will cause:

  • an inflammatory change/ inflammation in the pancreas – pancreatitis
  • sugar in urine – a sign of diabetes.

What is insulin?

Insulin is a hormone which is released by Islet B cells of pancreas, and enter the blood. That promotes anabolic metabolism and has profound effects on body growth and energy storage, i.e. store sugar and fat to perform some useful operation at a later time.

Insulin function

Glucose metabolismInsulin ensures that glucose can be absorbed in the body’s cells to facilitate cells uptake of glucose. Glucose is the fuel for the cells, and you get the energy in this way t