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24 September 2014
Human Body & MindScience & Nature

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Fact files

Organs - Pancreas

System: Digestive

Location: Behind the stomach and level with the top of the small intestine

Physical description: Pistol-shaped

Function: Secreting digestive enzymes and hormones that control blood sugar levels

Digestion

When you eat, your pancreas releases digestive juices through a duct into your duodenum - the first part of your small intestine. This fluid is rich in enzymes that break down fats, proteins and carbohydrates. It also contains sodium bicarbonate which neutralises acid in your stomach.

Blood sugar levels

Your pancreas produces insulin and glucagon, two hormones that regulate sugar levels in your blood. Insulin and glucagon are secreted from your pancreas directly into your blood.

When the concentration of glucose (a sugar) rises in your blood, insulin is released. Insulin lowers blood glucose levels by stimulating cells throughout your body to use and store glucose.

Glucagon has the opposite effect of insulin. It triggers the release of stored sugars, increasing the concentration of glucose in your blood. Glucagon acts as a control mechanism whenever your body produces too much insulin.

Can you live without your pancreas?

It is possible to live without your pancreas provided you take insulin to regulate blood sugar concentration and pancreatic enzyme supplements to aid digestion.

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