5 Fun Facts About the Pancreas
What exactly is the pancreas? Is the pancreas a gland or an organ? Let’s learn some fun facts about the pancreas. These interesting pancreas facts might surprise you and your friends, parents, and teachers!
Fun facts about the pancreas
The pancreas is a superhero in your body, working hard to keep you healthy and energized. In the human body, the pancreas is located behind the stomach and in front of the spine.
If you could touch your pancreas, it would feel soft like a sponge. If you could see the pancreas close-up, you would notice that it has a yellowish color. It’s shaped like a capital letter “L” turned sideways.
Your pancreas part of 2 organ systems
Yup, it has 2 full-time jobs! Your pancreas is so busy that it works for the endocrine system as well as the digestive system!
It’s a gland AND an organ
The pancreas does double duty as a gland as an organ.
- As a gland, it makes hormones (insulin and glucagon) to control your blood sugar levels.
- As an organ, it makes enzymes to break down food so your body can absorb all the good stuff.
It’s like a juice factory
Even though food never travels into the pancreas, the pancreas is a huge help to your digestive tract (also known as the gastrointestinal tract).
Every day, the pancreas makes around 8 cups (almost 2 liters) of a watery “juice” filled with enzymes.
When food from the stomach enters the small intestines, the pancreas starts make the special enzyme juice. Then the enzyme juice flows from the pancreas down a tiny tube into the small intestines. In the small intestines, the enzymes break down fat, protein, and carbohydrates.
It’s the biggest endocrine gland
Yes, the pancreas is bigger than the thyroid, pituitary, and adrenal glands, just to name a few.
In the average adult, the pancreas measures around 6 inches (15 centimeters) long and 1 inch (3 centimeters) thick.
You can live without your pancreas
It’s true: life can go on without a pancreas. Sometimes, doctors have to perform surgery and take out part of all of the pancreas. In very rare cases, a child can be born without a pancreas.
Without a pancreas, you would have diabetes. This means you have to check your blood sugar levels and take insulin medication everyday.
You will also need to take enzyme pills to help you digest food.
Doctors, nurses, and nutrition experts work together to create a plan for these important medications. Even though life without a pancreas can be tough, people learn to live and enjoy life despite these challenges.
Pictures of the pancreas
Here’s a picture of the pancreas near other digestive system organs like the liver and gallbladder.
As you can see in the diagram, the pancreas is also surrounded by lots of little blood vessels as well as the big aorta and vena cava.
In the short video below, you can take a close-up look at the pancreas inside the human body.