How to keep your pancreas healthy: 9 tips you shouldn’t miss

Your pancreas need to work properly if you want to maintain your overall health. Here are a few ways to keep your pancreas healthy.
Pancreas should be healthy for overall well-being. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock
Natalia Ningthoujam Published: 2 Apr 2024, 13:15 pm IST
Medically Reviewed by

Pancreas, located in the abdomen, is an organ that plays a key role in digestion and regulating blood sugar. Our dietary choices like processed foods and sugar can damage the pancreas, affecting its function. If there are problems with the pancreas, you may have to live with health conditions such as pancreatitis, pancreatic cancer, and diabetes. To avoid them, you need to keep your pancreas healthy. Watching what you eat is one way to keep the organ strong. Read on to know more tips to keep pancreas healthy!

Why is the pancreas important?

The pancreas is a unique organ that plays a dual role in our body. It is part of the digestive system, producing enzymes that help in the digestion of food as well the endocrine system, producing hormones like insulin and glucagon that regulate blood sugar levels, explains gastroenterology and hepatology expert Dr Amey Sonavane.

Pancreas has two main functions. Image courtesy: Freepik
  • Insulin helps cells in the body absorb glucose from the bloodstream and use them for energy. When the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin or when the body can’t use insulin effectively, it leads to diabetes, which is a condition characterised by high blood sugar levels.
  • The digestive enzymes produced by the pancreas are secreted into the small intestine where they break down fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. This allows the nutrients from our food to be absorbed into the bloodstream and used by the body. Without these enzymes, our body would struggle to extract necessary nutrients, leading to malnutrition and digestive problems.

What are the symptoms of pancreas problems?

If you have conditions such as pancreatitis, pancreatic cancer, cystic lesions of pancreas or diabetes, you will notice the following signs:

  • Abdominal pain in the upper abdominal area with the pain being felt in the back too and worsening after eating.
  • Nausea and vomiting or any digestive disturbances are common when the pancreas is inflamed or not functioning properly.
  • Problems with the pancreas can lead to issues with absorption of nutrients and unintentional weight loss and nutrient deficiencies.
  • Changes in stool. Oily, smelly stools that float may indicate the pancreas isn’t producing enough digestive enzymes.
  • Diabetes symptoms like increased thirst, urination, hunger, and unexplained weight loss may show up when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin.

What are the ways to keep pancreas healthy?

Here are ways to support your pancreas:

1. Eat healthy

Eat more fresh fruits, vegetables with whole grains as well as lean proteins to support optimal pancreatic function. Including fruits such as blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, oranges, apples, and bananas can provide vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber that contribute to overall health and support pancreatic health. These nutrient-rich foods also help maintain stable blood sugar levels, reducing the strain on the pancreas.

2. Limit processed foods and sugar intake

Processed foods and too much of sugar can lead to insulin resistance, requiring the pancreas to produce more insulin to regulate blood sugar levels, says the expert. This increased workload can potentially strain the pancreas and contribute to the development of diabetes and other pancreatic disorders.

3. Stay hydrated

Adequate hydration is essential for optimal pancreatic function. Water helps in the production of digestive enzymes, helping in the breakdown of food in the digestive system. Proper hydration also supports overall digestive health, reducing the risk of pancreatic issues.

4. Exercise regularly

Regular physical activity plays a crucial role in maintaining healthy blood sugar levels and reducing the risk of insulin resistance. By promoting weight management and improving insulin sensitivity, exercise helps alleviate stress on the pancreas and lowers the risk of pancreas-related diseases such as diabetes and pancreatitis.

5. Avoid excessive alcohol consumption

Excessive alcohol intake can lead to pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas that can cause severe abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. Chronic alcohol abuse significantly increases the risk of developing pancreatitis, leading to long-term pancreatic damage, says Dr Sonavane.

6. Stop smoking

Smoking is a major risk factor for pancreatic cancer, as the harmful chemicals in tobacco smoke can damage pancreatic cells and increase the likelihood of cancerous growth. Quitting smoking not only reduces the risk of pancreatic cancer, but also improves overall pancreatic health and function.

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7. Manage your weight

Obesity and excess body weight are closely linked to insulin resistance and an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. By maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise, people can reduce the strain on the pancreas and lower their risk of developing pancreatic disorders.

8. Consume healthy fats

Choosing healthy fats such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats supports pancreatic health. These fats, found in foods like avocados, nuts, and olive oil, provide essential fatty acids that promote overall health while reducing inflammation and supporting proper pancreatic function.

Eat less red meat for better pancreatic health. Image courtesy: Freepik

9. Limit red meat and processed meats

During a 2016 study published in the Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology journal, eating red meat was found to be associated with an increased risk for chronic pancreatitis. Opting for plant-based proteins and going for lean meats can help lower this risk and promote better pancreatic health.

Also, make sure to go for regular medical check-ups for early detection and management of pancreatic problems.

Natalia Ningthoujam

Natalia Ningthoujam has written on various subjects - from music to films and fashion to lifestyle - as a journalist in her career that started in 2010. After getting stories from the crime scene, police headquarters, and conducting interviews with celebrities, she is now writing on health and wellness which has become her focus area. ...Read More

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