5 Things Every Woman Should Know About Her Pancreas

Your pancreas helps control blood sugar

In addition to digestive juices, specific cells your pancreas, called beta cells, produce insulin—a hormone that helps take sugar from the foods you eat and moves it through you bloodstream and into your cells where it can be used for fuel. In Type 1 diabetes, people’s immune systems attack these beta cells, so they can’t make enough insulin. “In those cases, people need supplemental insulin several times a day to keep their blood sugar levels normal,” says Sharaiha.

Gallstones can make your pancreas sick

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, every year, more than 200,000 people in the U.S. develop pancreatitis, a painful (“Some people compare it to childbirth,” says Sharaiha) inflammation that can come on out of the blue, and last for days. In many cases, the attack is triggered by gallstones, small, pebble-like masses that form in the gallbladder and can block the duct through which those digestive enzyme flow from the pancreas into the intestine.


Signs that you’re having an acute attack of pancreatitis include fever, upper abdominal pain that feels worse after eating or radiates to your back, vomiting, and tenderness in the belly. If that happens, see your doctor ASAP. You’ll need to stay in the hospital for a few days while docs pump you full of IV fluids and keep you from eating or drinking until the pancreas heals. Continue…

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