The Pancreas and Insulin

The pancreas has two distinct parts.

The exocrine pancreas secretes pancreatic juice containing the enzymes, which are essential for us to digest our food in the small intestine.

The endocrine part of the pancreas secretes insulin, glucagon and somatostatin in an area of the pancreas known as the islets of Langerhans.

Glucagon interacts with the liver to raise blood sugar levels.

Somatostatin is also known as growth hormone-inhibiting hormone. Somatostatin is produced in several places in the body and has different effects depending on which tissues it is controlling.

Insulin is produced by the pancreas and is central to regulating carbohydrate and fat metabolism in the body.

Insulin causes cells in the liver, muscles and fat tissues to accept glucose and store it for future use, as glycogen in the liver and muscles.

Insulin also stimulates our cell membranes to more readily receive glucose into the cells. Some tissues do not require insulin in order to accept glucose from the blood, e.g. the brain and liver.

If insulin levels are too low then the bulk of the cells in our body become unable to take up glucose. In this case, it is highly likely that any thyroid treatment will be undermined and may appear not to be working.

Diabetes is one well-known disease that can result in low levels of insulin and high levels of blood sugar. This can leave blood sugar levels high but the cellular levels of glucose may be desperately low because the insulin is not available to enable the entry of glucose into the cells.

Often blood sugar metabolism issues and even the early stages of diabetes may be managed by dietary changes alone. If any blood sugar metabolism issue, including diabetes, is suspected, then a full investigation by a competent doctor or specialist should be completed.

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