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About the Pancreas

The pancreas is a J-shaped organ that is about the size of your hand and is located in your abdomen. It lies behind the lower part of your stomach and performs two very important functions.

The first is production of insulin, called the endocrine function of the pancreas. The pancreas is made up of clusters of cells called the islet of Langerhans. These islet cells are made up of two types: alpha cells, which make glucagon, a hormone that raises the level of glucose (sugar) in the blood, and the beta cells, which make up the insulin.

Insulin is a hormone that helps the body use glucose for energy. If the beta cells do not produce enough insulin, diabetes will develop.

Type 1 diabetics usually are deficient of the endocrine function of the pancreas, which is caused by an autoimmune process where the beta cells are destroyed by the body’s own immune system.

The second function of the pancreas, called exocrine function, is production of digestive enzymes that help the body digest fats, proteins and carbohydrates.