Did you know that the pancreas is one of the most important organs in the body? As the food that we consume floods into the small intestine, it mixes with the digestive enzymes from the pancreas and neutralizes stomach acids before any damage can be done to the duodenal mucosa (the lining of the small intestine that leads to the stomach). The pancreas breaks down the proteins, fats, and starches further so they can be absorbed by the body more easily.
The pancreas also produces high levels of insulin, which helps lower the body’s blood sugar levels and allows the body to store food and energy. Without insulin, the body can suffer from many health issues and can leave you feeling fatigued throughout the day.
As you can see, the pancreas plays a major role when it comes to digestion!
Cancer of the Pancreas
Cancer of the pancreas (the most common form being pancreatic adenocarcinoma) is one of the most lethal forms of cancer—this form of cancer is almost always fatal—due to how fast it spreads to other parts of the body and the fact that it is typically diagnosed at a later stage. This is because symptoms associated with cancer of the pancreas (i.e. abdominal pain, back pain, jaundice, weight loss, and fatigue) can often be attributed to other illnesses.
This is why it’s important that you consume the proper foods to keep the pancreas healthy, and avoid any digestive problems down the road. Let’s take a look at some of the foods that are beneficial for the pancreas.
Natural Foods that are Beneficial for Pancreas Function
Below are the top foods that you should consume if you want your pancreas to stay healthy:
1. Garlic: Garlic may be tough on the breath, but this raw food contains beneficial nutrients for good pancreas health, including sulfur, flavonoids, and selenium, which are known to have positive effects on pancreatic tissues. A study published by the National Cancer Institute revealed that individuals who had a high-garlic diet had a 54% lower risk of developing pancreatic cancer.
2. Red grapes: If you have been diagnosed with pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) you should consume red grapes; the antioxidant resveratrol found in red grapes can help reduce the inflammation.
3. Spinach: By consuming high levels of iron and vitamin B, you can help ward off inflammation of the pancreas—spinach produces both nutrients at high levels. Try incorporating into salads or stir-fry.
4. Sweet potatoes: They contain high levels of vitamins A, B, and C, as well as potassium, all of which are beneficial for maintaining a healthy pancreas.
5. Blueberries and cherries: These fruits are loaded with antioxidants, making them popular choices when treating the pancreas and helping counteract the effects of cell damage.
6. Tofu: It is important to maintain a low-fat diet when trying to maintain a healthy pancreas. Tofu is a great source of low-fat protein, which is extremely beneficial for the pancreas—it won’t put unnecessary pressure on the pancreas and it won’t aggravate an inflamed pancreas any further.
7. Broccoli: Cruciferous veggies such as broccoli can help significantly reduce the risk for pancreatitis.
Can Mushrooms Cut the Risk of Developing Pancreatic Cancer?
Pancreatic cancer (again, the most common form being pancreatic adenocarcinoma) is the fourth leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S. today.
A recent study that was published in the International Journal of Oncology has found that the extraction of a certain mushroom called Poria cocos can be used to stop the production of pancreatic cancer cells.
In the study, both normal pancreatic cells and pancreatic cancer cells were treated with Poria cocos extract to see how both cells would react. After one day, researchers discovered that the pancreatic cancer cells were significantly reduced, reacted less aggressively, and didn’t multiply at a rapid pace. This study didn’t conclude that cancer of the pancreas is curable, but it shows that it can be prevented and provides hope that someday there could be a cure.
Hill, S.C., “Foods That Will Heal the Pancreas,” Livestrong.com, April 13, 2015; http://www.livestrong.com/article/36490-foods-heal-pancreas/.
“New Study Shows Effects of Medicinal Mushroom Extract on Pancreatic Cancer Cells,” PR Newswire web site, May 20, 2013; http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/new-study-shows-effects-of-medicinal-mushroom-extract-on-pancreatic-cancer-cells-208422061.html.
Silva, D. “Mushroom Extract May Hold Key to Pancreatic Cancer Cure,” Bottom Line Health web site, August 26, 2013; http://bottomlinehealth.com/mushroom-extract-may-hold-key-to-pancreatic-cancer-cure/.