When the pancreas becomes inflamed. the illness is called pancreatitis. This localised inflammation can be caused by several conditions and diseases – all of which should be checked out by your doctor. Several signs indicate that there may be a problem with this vital organ.
Your pancreas is located behind your stomach in the abdominal cavity. It is basically a gland which produces several hormones (including insulin), which are vital for normal digestion and processing of food. The pancreas discharges these hormones into the small intestine where they mix with the food that you have ingested.
The 6 signs that you may have pancreas problems
Pancreatic pain is located in the upper region of the abdominal cavity, near to the stomach. It is focused on the left side of the body and can feel like an unpleasant and burning sensation. There are some further characteristics of pain that is caused by a diseased pancreas:
- The pain is more likely and more intense after eating or drinking and especially after eating fatty foods
- The pain can start after eating a meal and pain episodes can last for days
- Lying on your back does not relieve the pain – and may make it worse
- The pain is radiated as far as the left shoulder blade (scapula) and into the back
Pancreatic pain is often accompanied by a high temperature as this part of the body becomes inflamed. If you have pain and fever at the same time you should always consult your doctor for further advice. He or she will be able to run some tests to diagnose the cause of your symptoms.
3. Feeling nauseous
An inflamed pancreas disrupts the whole digestive system and it is not unusual to feel sick or to even vomit at this time.
Some people with pancreas problems get headaches and find that they cannot concentrate. They may also feel irritable. Of course headaches may caused by many other ailments as well, including colds and flu, but your doctor will be able to distinguish between a ‘normal’ headache and one that is a sign of a more serious underlying illness.
5. Loss of weight
Pancreas problems disturb the ways in which our bodies digest and absorb foods. If we are not absorbing nutrients in the way in which we used to then it is not surprising that we lose weight. Any unexplained weight loss is a possible sign that there is something wrong with your pancreas and should be checked out by your doctor.
This is an abnormal heart rhythm which is experienced as a racing heart beat. It can be accompanied by chest pain as well as breathlessness and dizziness. These symptoms need to be checked out by a doctor.
The causes of pancreatic problems
Acute pancreatitis is most often caused by gallstones but it can also be caused by consuming too much alcohol, hereditary conditions or some sort of physical trauma. Some medications can cause pancreas problems as can infections, electrolyte abnormalities, high lipid levels and hormonal abnormalities.
Chronic pancreatitis is a progressive disorder and can eventually lead to the destruction of the pancreas and to diabetes mellitus. The most common cause of chronic pancreatitis in developed countries is chronic alcohol consumption. Cancer of the pancreas can also occur.
Taking care of your pancreas
- Watch your diet – do not eat too many carbohydrates or refined sugar products.
- Make sure you keep within the limits for responsible consumption of alcohol. Do not binge drink and make sure that you have plenty of alcohol-free days.
- Make sure you include plenty of high fibre foods in your diet like grains and bran.
- Limit your consumption of red meat.
- Consume plenty of vegetables especially the cruciferous variety such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, watercress and Brussels sprouts. Studies have shown that these delicious vegetables may play a role in maintaining the good health of your pancreas and avoiding cancer. They are also good for the rest of your body as well!
- Maintain a healthy weight by adopting a lifestyle with plenty of exercise.
- Take steps to avoid developing diabetes.
- Include plenty of sources of protein in your diet – fish and eggs are ideal, together with lean white meat.