~ by Jo Jordan
Part of the digestive system, the pancreas is a six-inch long, flat gland that resides near the middle of the abdomen, behind the stomach, in between the spleen and the upper part of the small intestine (duodenum).
A gland organ, the pancreas is an integral component of the digestive system with two different functional parts performing vital, life-sustaining tasks.
The Islets of Langerhans are the endocrine (inner) cells of the pancreas that secrete insulin and glucagon, hormones needed to regulate the metabolization of sugar.
The acinar cells are the exocrine (outer) cells of the pancreas that produce and transport the digestive enzymes (including chymotrypsin, pancreatic amylase, pancreatic lipase, and trypsin) and alkaline fluid that aid in the break down of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.
Food is transported from the mouth to the stomach via the esophagus, which empties into the stomach. Directly from the stomach, food flows into the first part of the small intestine, the duodenum. Here, bile – a greenish-yellow fluid produced by the liver to aid in the digestion of fats – and pancreatic fluids (rich in digestive enzymes) enter the digestive system.
Food, bile, and pancreatic fluid make their way through several feet of intestine, including the remainder of the duodenum, the small intestine (comprised of the jejunum and ileum), and on through the cecum, large intestine, rectum, and anal canal.