(Natural News) A person’s abdomen holds a lot of organs. While some of these are relatively well-known, there are others that don’t get recognized but are still essential to overall health.
Take the pancreas, for instance. The small, flat organ found at the back of the stomach may not be as popular as other parts of the digestive system, but its function is vital in a person’s overall health. Mainly, the pancreas is a critical controller of blood sugar levels, which the body uses for energy.
Simply put, if the pancreas were to stop functioning properly, it could spell real trouble for the person.
The little organ that could do many things
At first glance, the pancreas looks like a single organ, but it’s actually two glands intimately mixed together. Exocrine cells that help in digestion comprise most of the pancreas. These cells produce enzymes that are drained into the small intestine, which then help in breaking down food in to nutrients. The other cells present in the pancreas, known as the islets of Langerhans, release hormones like glucagon and insulin into the bloodstream, where they regulate blood sugar levels. People with Type 1 diabetes, in particular, have a dysfunction in the pancreas that results in the body producing little to no insulin.
The pancreas is indeed a vital part of digestion and blood sugar management, but it’s also prone to damage. Certain factors increase the risk of pancreatic damage, such as genetic disposition, age, gender, and ethnicity; however, a person’s lifestyle and diet play a greater role in the development of chronic diseases that affect the pancreas, like cancer.
- Smoking, in particular, can double the risk of pancreatic cancer. Scientists estimate that at least one in five cases of pancreatic cancer is caused by smoking cigarettes.
- Obesity can also increase the likelihood of having pancreatic cancer. It’s not just pancreatic cancer that obese people have to watch out for: At least eight percent of all cancers are related to obesity.
- Diet is also a key element in the pathogenesis of pancreatic cancer: A diet high in meats, fried food, and processed foods can increase the risk, while one that is rich in fruits and vegetables can reduce it. In particular, consuming foods rich in folate could protect from pancreatic cancer.
Foods that boost pancreatic health
“Prevention is better than cure” is always sage advice, especially when it comes to the pancreas. Fortunately, here are some foods that can help in keeping the pancreas in tip-top shape.
- Broccoli (and other cruciferous vegetables). These vegetables are rich in glucosinolate, a phytochemical shown to prevent the spread of pancreatic cancer cells — and even kill them, according to Maria Petzel, a dietitian at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. In an article in Pancreatic Cancer News, she also said that these vegetables are rich in sulfur which helps in detoxification. To make the most out of broccoli, eat it raw or lightly steamed. (Related: 7 Foods That Heal Pancreas & Stimulate Digestive Enzymes.)
- Garlic. The National Cancer Institute notes that people who regularly eat garlic reduce their risk of pancreatic cancer by more than half. A study in the Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention found that garlic oil has a dose-dependent effect in the apoptosis – or programmed cell death – of pancreatic cancer cells.
- Cherries. People looking to protect their pancreas would do well to include this sweet treat in their diet. According to a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, cherries contain anthocyanins that can increase insulin production in the pancreas, making them ideal for people with Type 2 diabetes.
FoodisMedicine.com is your best resource on foods that maintain pancreatic health.