by Ben Fuchs
One of the best movies I’ve ever seen was the Rob Marshall adaptation of the Broadway musical Chicago. Not only was the historical depiction of the Windy City in 1920’s fascinatingly presented but watching funnyman John C. Reilly put out an Oscar worthy, if not Oscar winning performance, and listening to him belt out a tune was a pleasant surprise as well.
My favorite song in the film was Reilly’s character Amos Hart’s rendition of “Mr. Cellophane” a plaintive plea for recognition from an oblivious love interest that many of us can find familiar. “Mr. Cellophane” tells the story of the trials of an under-appreciated and misunderstood man in love. And, who among us can say that they never felt unrequited love from a guy or girl we simply wanted to acknowledge our affections.
When I think of unrequited love, sometimes I think of our human body and its parts. Like Chicago’s Amos Hart, our heart, and spleen and thymus and thyroid among other structures faithfully love us but remain unrecognized and unappreciated. And no organ in the body is more unrecognized and unappreciated than the pancreas. While everyone knows about the heart and the brain and the stomach and the skin hardly anyone ever give this little 2 or 3 ounce organ its due.
Not only does the pancreas manufacture and secrete insulin for blood sugar control, it also makes digestive enzymes for breaking down protein, carbs, fats and cholesterol. Bicarbonate for blood health and for controlling the acid levels of digested and processed foods is also made by the pancreas. Even the DNA of living and formerly alive foods is processed by pancreatic secretions.
There’s a reason why carcinogenesis of the pancreas is the most deadly form of cancer. The pancreas is super important and once this structure breaks down so does the entire body. In addition to being a digestive structure the pancreas plays a major role in sugar processing via its manufacturing of the hormone insulin. Autoimmune disease of the pancreas technically known as type 1 diabetes affects nearly 3 million Americans according to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and includes unpleasant symptoms like chronic thirst, weight loss, visual problems and mental confusion. Ultimately unconsciousness and even death can result from autoimmune pancreatic disease further highlighting the importance of this unappreciated digestive and endocrine organ.
Keeping the pancreas in tip-top shape is one of the most effective paths to digestive health. Making sure your sugar and refined carb intake are low can support pancreatic wellness. Even unprocessed carbs like potatoes and grains can put a burden on the pancreas. Caloric restriction in general is another way to be kind to the pancreas. With every mouthful of food, the pancreas is required to work hard at making enzymes and digestive juices.
How to have a healthy pancreas? In addition to caloric restriction and laying off the refined carbs, and sweets, using 3 or 4 digestive enzymes capsules with every meal can be helpful. Pancreatic enzyme supplements (i.e. pancreatin) can be especially helpful; take a couple with meals and snacks. And using uncooked, whole, unprocessed, enzyme-rich fresh vegetables can support pancreatic enzyme activity. And, chromium (200mcg with meals) and the B-complex (especially Niacin) can support sugar metabolism and help insulin activity, reducing the load on an overworked pancreas.