What are the functions of the pancreas?

The pancreas is an important organ found in the bodies of human beings and all animals with backbones. It lies crossways behind the stomach. This organ resembles a flask lying on its side. The human pancreas is a pinkish yellow gland about 12 to 15 centimetres long, 3.8 centimetres wide and 2.5 centimetres thick. It is joined to the small intestine behind the stomach. Do you know the function of the pancreas? The pancreas produces a strong digestive juice in the intestines that breaks down food particles for easy digestion. It also produces the hormones, insulin and glycogen. It produces 1200 to 1500 mm of pancreatic juice every day. This juice flows into the small intestine or duodenum. It contains enzymes and salts which helps in digesting proteins, starches, sugars and fats. As the food enters the mouth, the taste buds send impulses to the brain, which stimulates the pancreas, through vagus nerve, to secrete its juice. The pancreatic juice is rich in sodium bicarbonate, which helps in neutralising the acid. Pancreatic juice has five main enzymes. Three of these help in the digestion of proteins, the other two — amylase and lipase — digest carbohydrates and fats respectively. The main proteindigesting enzyme is called ‘trypsin’. Apart from the digestive function, the pancreas also produces the essential hormones insulin and glucagons from a group of cells known as ‘Islets of Langerhans’. Glucagon converts glycogen to glucose by which the sugar level in the blood is maintained. Insulin decreases the blood sugar level when it increases beyond the normal level. Insulin is produced in the ‘tail’ part of the organ and deficiency of this hormone causes diseases like diabetes. In such cases, diet of the patient should be rich in protein, low in fat and plenty of water must be taken. This hormone converts glucose to glycogen inside the liver. These two hormones working together control the energy requirements of the body.

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