Pancreas, Signs of Poor Function, and Treatments

Source: Patient information: Chronic Pancreatitis

Symptoms of Poor Pancreatic Function

Symptoms of poor pancreatic function (pancreatic insufficiency) do not occur until about 90% of pancreatic function has been lost. The pancreas normally contributes to the digestion of different types of food, the absorption of food breakdown products from the digestive tract, and the metabolism of blood glucose (blood sugar).

Symptoms of poor pancreatic function may include symptoms associated with fat malabsorption; significant fat malabsorption results in steatorrhea, (the presence of excess fat in the stools, usually caused by a disease of the pancreas or intestine, and characterized by chronic diarrhea and weight loss), resulting in loose, greasy, foul-smelling stools that are difficult to flush.

Symptoms of poor pancreatic function may also include glucose intolerance (high blood glucose after consuming sugar and carbohydrates) and diabetes. If pancreatic function is severely affected, a person may also experience symptoms of vitamin and nutrient deficiencies, including weight loss.

Carbs Are The Primary Cause of High Triglycerides


Note: Extremely high triglycerides may result in side effects like pancreatitis.

Triglycerides are the chemical form of fat found in foods and in your body. [That doesn’t mean your body makes triglycerides from dietary fats or fatty foods.] When you eat a meal, any unused calories are converted to triglycerides and stored in your fat cells (some triglycerides are also present in your blood stream). Later, they will be released to meet the energy needs of your body.

You’ve likely heard of triglycerides before, as there has been intense research over the past 40 years that confirmed that elevated blood levels of triglycerides, known as hypertriglyceridemia, puts you at an increased risk of heart disease.

Unfortunately, many experts still believe that the way to treat this problem is with a low-fat diet. What is often overlooked with low-fat diets is that people tend to replace the fat with simple carbohydrates, and these are the primary cause of high triglycerides.

There are few absolutes in medicine, but I have yet to see someone with high triglycerides fail to respond to a comprehensive restriction of grain and sugar carbohydrates. I suspect there might be some cases out there, but I haven’t seen them.

There is an excellent review of carbohydrate-induced high triglycerides, which thoroughly covers the history and science of my clinical observation, in the February 2000 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

In fact, I wish I would have cited this reference in my letter to the Canadian Medical Journal, published earlier this year, which challenged their review article claiming low-fat diets are the solution to, rather than the cause of, high triglycerides.

This condition may not present any symptoms until heart disease develops, so the best way to know if your triglyceride levels are within range is with a blood test. Extremely high triglycerides may result in side effects like pancreatitis, an enlarged liver and spleen, and xanthomas, or fatty deposits in the skin.

If your triglyceride levels are elevated, it likely represents a severe abnormality of insulin balance in your body, and it is very important to lower them [sugars and carbs] since, again, high triglycerides are an incredibly potent risk factor for heart disease.

Fortunately, you are being armed with the information you need to get things under control–triglyceride elevation is one of the most easy and straightforward problems to correct by dramatically reducing, or eliminating, grains and sugars in your diet.

This includes bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, corn, bagels, cereals, crackers and sweets like cookies, candies and fruit juice. You can read more about the role of sugars in elevated triglycerides in this review in the October 2003 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Although this type of dietary change may sound overwhelming to start, you will soon break your addiction to grains and sugar and your desire for them will decrease, along with your triglyceride levels. Plus, you will likely have more energy than you’ve had in years. My book, The No-Grain Diet, can help you on your way to a grain-, sugar-free lifestyle.

Along with the diet there are two other factors that will protect your cardiovascular health: regularly taking a high-quality fish oil [or cod liver oil in the Winter] that is chock full of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, and getting plenty of exercise. Bee’s Note: You must also take vitamin A along with fish oil – see Cod Liver Oil Products/Brands with Nutrient Levels for more details about taking omega 3, vitamin A and vitamin D.

When choosing your fish oil it is important to find a brand that is independently tested by a lab and found to conform to purity guidelines. This will ensure that the oil is free of mercury and other toxins. One such brand, which I have found to be of superior quality when I compared it to many other brands, is Carlson’s fish and cod liver oil, and I now offer this exceptional fish oil/cod liver oil to you in my "Recommended Products" section. You can also look for it in your local health food store.

Now is the time of year when people living in cooler climates will want to switch from fish oil to cod liver oil. The main difference between cod liver oil and fish oil is that cod liver oil is high in vitamin D. In warm weather months, the more intense sunshine allows your body to produce high and usually sufficient levels of vitamin D without any supplementation necessary.

However, in cool weather when intense sun exposure is limited, your body will need more vitamin D, and so I recommend cod liver oil versus fish oil in cool weather months or climates.

I generally recommend that you take cod liver oil from autumn to early spring, and fish oil from late spring through the end of summer. However, those who live in more tropical environments with regular exposure to more intense sun will most likely be fine taking fish oil year round, as your vitamin D intake from the sun will be sufficient. [Note: When taking fish oil, supplementation with vitamin A is also required.]

Daily Aspirin Use Increases Risk of Pancreatic Cancer


Women who take aspirin regularly may be at an increased risk of pancreatic cancer, a particularly deadly form of cancer. Researchers found that taking two or more aspirins a week for 20 years or more increased the women’s risk of pancreatic cancer by 58 percent, and women who took 14 tablets or more per week had an 86 percent greater risk. Millions of women take aspirin daily in order to protect against heart disease and to treat aches and pains.

Women in the study who took between six and 13 aspirins a week had a 41 percent higher risk than women who did not use any, compared with an 11 percent greater risk among women who took one to three aspirins a week.

Although pancreatic cancer affects only 31,000 Americans a year, most patients die within three years. The cause behind pancreatic cancer remains unknown, however a previous study found that taking aspirin regularly may cause an inflammation of the pancreas known as pancreatitis, which sometimes leads to pancreatic cancer.

Aspartame, What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You


The last component of aspartame is methanol, better known as wood alcohol, a "deadly poison," claims Dr. Roberts. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends less than eight milligrams per day of methanol. A typical liter of an aspartame diet soda contains approximately 55 milligrams.

Complications of methanol poisoning include blindness, brain swelling, pancreatitis, numbness, shooting pains, cardiac changes, and death (28, 42-45). According to Aspartame Consumer Safety Network, when ingested, methanol breaks down into formaldehyde, "known to cause cancer, accumulating slowly without detection in the body" (The Deadly Deception 2).

Hydrochloric Acid Improves Pancreatic Function

Having enough hydrochloric acid (HCl) is critical for good digestion. If the chyme (mixture of food, water and HCl) emptying from the stomach into the small intestines doesn’t contain enough stomach acid, the pancreas does not get stimulated enough to produce digestive enzymes and bicarbonate of soda in the small intestines. (Bicarbonate of soda is required in order to neutralize HCl for continued digestion in the intestines.) See How to Take Hydrochloric Acid Supplements.

Therefore, it is very important for the proper functioning of the pancreas to ensure the stomach produces enough acids. Some people need to take betaine hydrochloric acid supplements and also improve digestion in other ways – see Stomach Acid Problems for details on how digestion works, and how to improve it with foods, herbs and spices.