How do I increase pancreatic function

The pancreas is a wedge-shaped organ located in the upper abdomen, about 14-20 cm long and 2-3 cm wide, which plays a central role in the metabolism. The pancreas has two main functions in the body:
  • Exocrine
    The pancreas releases up to three liters of secretion (pancreatic juice) with digestive enzymes exocrine (= to the outside) into the duodenum.
  • Endocrine
    Endocrine (= inward) hormones are released into the blood by the Langerhans islet cells in the pancreas.
The pancreas is located across the upper abdomen, behind the peritoneum between the stomach, duodenum, spleen and liver. A distinction is made between the head of the pancreas, the body and the tail of the pancreas. The exocrine part makes up about 98% of the mass of the entire pancreas, the endocrine part is about 2%.

Functions of the pancreas

The enzymes that the pancreas releases into the intestine are needed to break down proteins, carbohydrates and fats so that they can be absorbed by the intestinal lining.
The hormones insulin and glucagon produced in the islet cells of Langerhans regulate the blood sugar level.

Diseases of the pancreas

Both the exocrine and the endocrine part of the pancreas can become diseased or there may be a malformation.
  1. Disease of the exocrine part
    • Pancreatitis
      Pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas, leads to self-digestion and damage to the organ due to the digestive enzymes released.
    • Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency
      If the production of digestive enzymes declines (exocrine pancreatic insufficiency), the food can no longer be sufficiently digested.
    • Pancreatic cancer
    • Pancreatic cysts
    • Cystic fibrosis
  2. Disease of the endocrine part
    • Diabetes mellitus
      The most common disorder of the endocrine part is diabetes (diabetes mellitus). Around 8.5% of all people worldwide suffer from diabetes mellitus.
    • Endocrine tumors of the pancreas
  3. Malformations Various malformations can occur during the development of the organ.

Investigation methods

If the symptoms described by the patient suggest a disease of the pancreas, the doctor will carry out further examinations or arrange for them. These include:

Physical examination

  • Blood, stool and urine tests
  • Ultrasound of the abdomen from the outside
  • Ultrasound of the pancreas from the inside (endosonography)
  • Computed tomography (CT)
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (magnetic resonance imaging MRI)
  • Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)

Risk factors for pancreatic disease

Alcohol consumption and smoking increase the risk of developing pancreatic disease. Smokers are about 3 times more likely to develop pancreatic cancer than non-smokers. Gallstones increase the risk of inflammation of the pancreas.