Pancreatic Insufficiency

The pancreas has three main functions in the body: to

  1. neutralize stomach acid
  2. produce digestive enzymes
  3. produce insulin to regulate blood sugar levels.

When food passes from the stomach to the duodenum, the pancreas secretes bicarbonates. This is essentially baking soda that neutralizes the acidity of chyme so that it won’t burn the internal tissues of the intestines. The pancreas also secretes enzymes that digest carbohydrates, protein, and fats.

Proteins are broken down by these molecules into single amino acids. When protease enzymes are doing their job, they also protect us from allergic reactions caused by protein particles being absorbed into the bloodstream that trigger an antigenic response.

Poor production of pancreatic juice is called pancreatic insufficiency. The signs of pancreatic insufficiency include gas, indigestion, bloating, discomfort, undigested food in our stools, undigested fat in our stools, and food sensitivities. It is common in people with candidiasis or parasite infections and is an underlying cause of hypoglycemia.

Pancreatic insufficiency also increases as we age. People with pancreatitis and cystic fibrosis have pancreatic insufficiency. Stool testing with the comprehensive digestive stool analysis provides an indirect measure of pancreatic function by measuring chymotrypsin, or pancreatic elastase, and by measuring how well you are able to digest meats and vegetables.

The Chymex test is a standard used to measure pancreatic activity. In this test, people swallow a tablet that contains p-aminobenzoic acid (PABA—a B vitamin) and benzyl-L-tyrosine. If you have adequate chymotrypsin function, the PABA will show up in the urine.

If not, you have chymotrypsin pancreatic insufficiency. Causes of pancreatic insufficiency are stress (mental and physical), nutritional deficiencies, poor diet, eating only cooked foods, exposure to radiation or toxins, hereditary weaknesses, drugs, and infections.

Healing Options

  • Improve your eating habits. Eat in a relaxed manner. Chew your food thoroughly. Limit beverage intake with meals. Drinking liquids at meals dilutes the gastric juices in the stomach and pancreatic juice in the small intestines.
  • Take pancreatic enzyme supplements. Clinical experience shows that pancreatic enzymes work well as a digestive aid. Glandular-based supplements, like pancreatic enzyme preparations, are directed to specific tissues, helping to initiate repair. Pancreatic enzymes also help restore the balance of GI flora.

In studies done on monkeys, it was shown that pancreatic enzymes were able to kill clostridium, bacteroides, pseudomonaceae, enterobacter, E. coli, and klebsiella. Continued use of pancreatic enzymes can help with repair and maintenance of pancreatic tissue.

Pancreatic tissue from pigs has been widely used over the past fifty years to supply missing pancreatic enzymes. You can purchase products from health-food stores or ask your physician to prescribe them. The United States Pharmacopoeia (USP) regulates the strength of pancreatic enzymes. Take 1 to 2 tablets or capsules at the beginning of meals.

  • Try vegetable enzymes. For people who would rather have a vegetarian alternative to pancreatic enzymes, vegetable enzymes are a suitable option. These enzymes are derived from a fungus called Aspergillus oryzae, which is used to ferment soy sauce, tamari, and miso.

These enzymes work in a much wider range of pH than pancreatic enzymes, enhancing digestion in the stomach as well as in the intestines. Because they are not broken down by stomach acid, the required dosage is much smaller than that for pancreatic enzymes.

Vegetable enzymes are also less likely to cause food allergy reactions. Some companies include probiotic bacteria along with the enzymes for an added effect. Take 1 to 2 capsules at the beginning of meals.