While people are concerned about the health of their heart, lungs and kidneys, few think about their pancreas that lies in the abdominal cavity behind the stomach.
However, to enjoy overall good health, you must not ignore the health of your pancreas, which is an incredibly important part of the body.
Your pancreas has two basic functions –making insulin to control your blood sugar levels and making enzymes for the digestion of fat and protein.
The pancreas helps the body break down foods more efficiently and absorb their nutrients. Also, along with insulin, this organ produces many important hormones like polypeptides, somatostatin and glucagon.
If your pancreas does not function properly, several health problems can arise, including diabetes, pancreatitis and even pancreatic cancer.
Although the causes of its malfunctions are not well understood, diet and lifestyle can help rejuvenate your pancreas. In fact, there are many pancreas-friendly foods that can heal and protect this vital organ.
Here are 10 amazing foods that help heal your pancreas.
Garlic contains a compound called allicin, which has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties as well as pancreatic cancer prevention ability.
Garlic also contains other beneficial nutrients, such as sulfur, arginine, oligosaccharides, flavonoids and selenium, which have positive effects on pancreatic tissues.
A 2013 study published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention reports the preventive and therapeutic potential of garlic oil on pancreatic carcinoma cells.
It is also highly beneficial for preventing as well as treating diabetes. It has antihyperglycemic and lipid-lowering properties. It helps reduce the amount of sugar in the blood and stimulates the pancreas to produce sufficient insulin.
A 2011 study published in the Pakistan Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences found that garlic supplementation with a standard antidiabetic agent provides better blood sugar control in Type 2 diabetics.
Another 2013 study published in Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity reported that garlic capsules improved fasting blood glucose levels.
In a 2014 review of studies published in the Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine, researchers supported the idea that regular garlic consumption may help lower blood sugar levels.
Eat 2 or 3 raw garlic cloves daily on an empty stomach. Also, include garlic in your cooking or take a supplement after consulting a doctor.
2. Probiotic Yogurt
Yogurt with live, probiotic cultures is another amazing food that is good for your pancreas.
Probiotic yogurt helps replace and replenish the healthy bacteria in your gut, which is important for a healthy digestive system. A healthy digestive system is important for pancreatic health.
It also has been found to be helpful in treating problems associated with the pancreas.
A 2011 study published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology reports that probiotic treatment appears to mitigate pancreatitis in an animal model. The animals treated with probiotics had less infection of remote organs, less infection of dying and dead pancreatic tissues, and less severe immune response during acute pancreatitis.
Another 2014 study published in BMC Medicine reports that higher intake of yogurt is associated with a reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes, whereas other dairy foods and consumption of total dairy are not appreciably associated with incidence of Type 2 diabetes.
The National Cancer Institute recommends eating 3 servings of low-fat or fat-free yogurt that contains active cultures (probiotics or beneficial bacteria) on a daily basis to enjoy a healthy digestive system and improve pancreatic health. It will even reduce the overall risk of pancreatic cancer and help repair damage to the pancreatic tissues.
Spinach is a good source of iron and vitamin B, the two nutrients that your pancreas needs to function properly.
When your body receives these two nutrients in adequate amounts, there is less chance of inflammation in the pancreas. Inflammation in the pancreas increases your risk of pancreatic cancer.
In fact, spinach contains a powerful cancer-fighting agent called MGDG (monogalactosyldiacylglycerol) that can slow down the growth of cancer cells in the pancreas and induce apoptosis.
Spinach is also beneficial for controlling high glucose levels. A 2015 study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that spinach extracts rich in thylakoids produce an increase in satiety that would be accompanied by the appropriate changes in glucose and lipid measures.
Eat spinach on a daily basis, incorporating it into your soups, salads, juices or smoothies.
Turmeric, a popular spice used in day-to-day cooking, is also good for your pancreas.
It possesses cancer-fighting properties that help prevent many cancers, including pancreatic cancer. The compound curcumin in it is effective in identifying potential cancer cells and aids in destructing these harmful cells without damaging healthy cells.
A 2013 study published in Anticancer Research found that a unique turmeric extract known as liposomal curcumin may provide an alternative to chemotherapy in the treatment of lethal pancreatic cancers.
Turmeric is also a powerful anti-inflammatory agent that protects your pancreas by preventing inflammation of any kind.
This spice is even good for controlling high blood sugar and preventing diabetes.
A 2012 study published in Diabetes Care found that curcumin extract effectively reduced the number of prediabetic individuals who eventually developed Type 2 diabetes mellitus as well as improved the overall function of ß-cells.
A 2013 study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine reports that curcumin aids in the prevention and treatment of diabetes and associated disorders.
Add 1 teaspoon of turmeric to a glass of milk and drink it once each day. If you wish to take a supplement, speak with your doctor first.
All types of berries are good for your pancreatic health, but blueberries are the best for this purpose.
Blueberries are rich in antioxidants, which can protect the pancreas from oxidative stress resulting from free-radical damage. These berries can also reduce your risk of developing serious conditions like pancreatic cancer.
The compound pterostilbene in berries increases self-destruction of lung, stomach, pancreatic and breast cancer cells.
Blueberries also aid in reducing blood sugar levels and are good for people dealing with diabetes.
A 2014 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that intake of fruits and vegetables, berries in particular, was able to reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes.
Also, the anti-inflammatory properties of berries aid in reducing vascular damage to the pancreas caused by diabetes.
To keep your pancreas healthy, include fresh blueberries in your diet.
Vegetables belonging to the cruciferous family, and particularly broccoli, are highly beneficial for pancreatic health.
Broccoli contains high levels of sulfur-containing compounds that help detoxify several organs of the body, including the pancreas. This in turn reduces the risk of pancreatic and other forms of cancer.
It is rich in apigenin that supports pancreatic health. A 2013 study published in the Journal of Surgical Research reports that oral apigenin administration in rats, following experimentally induced pancreatitis, seems to protect the pancreatic tissue. Thus, apigenin administration could potentially ameliorate the damage to the pancreas in humans, too.
Another 2013 study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food highlights the potential efficacy of sulforaphane and probably other bioactive components of broccoli sprouts as a unique supplement for management of Type 2 diabetes and its complications.
Broccoli even reduces serum cholesterol and oxidative stress, factors that greatly affect pancreatic health.
To enjoy the vital nutrients from broccoli, eat it raw or only lightly steamed. Cooking can remove a vast majority of the nutrients.
7. Red Grapes
Another fruit beneficial for your pancreas is red grapes.
Red grapes are rich in a compound known as resveratrol, another powerful antioxidant that can protect the tissues of the pancreas from free-radical damage. By protecting against free-radical damage, red grapes help reduce the risk of pancreatitis or pancreatic cancer.
In fact, resveratrol also induces cellular death (apoptosis) in pancreatic cancer cells. Resveratrol also helps prevent blood vessel damage and reduces inflammation.
In addition, the polyphenols in red grapes improve carbohydrate metabolism in the body and glucose transport in the cells. This regulates the insulin sensitivity of the pancreas.
A 2013 study published in The Review of Diabetic Studies reports that resveratrol has antihyperglycemic effects by improving mitochondrial function and energy expenditure. However, further clinical studies are required to determine the usefulness of resveratrol in the management of diabetes mellitus and its complications.
Another 2015 study published in Current Medicinal Chemistry shows that polyphenols modulate carbohydrate and lipid metabolism, decrease glycemic and insulin resistance, increase lipid metabolism and optimize oxidative stress and inflammatory processes.
Eat a handful of red grapes every day to enjoy good pancreatic health. But, make sure to eat them along with their skin.
8. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are rich in beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant that supports sustained pancreatic health.
Consuming sweet potatoes helps regulate pancreatic cells, which are responsible for insulin production. In fact, it helps stabilize blood sugar levels by releasing sugars gradually into the bloodstream.
Also, these potatoes are lower on the glycemic index and reduce the risk of diabetes. A 2000 study published in the Biological & Pharmaceutical Bulletin suggests that white-skinned sweet potatoes have remarkable antidiabetic activity and improve the abnormality of glucose and lipid metabolism by reducing insulin resistance.
Simply swap your white potatoes for healthier sweet potatoes to enjoy better pancreatic health.
Along with sweet potatoes, other orange fruits and vegetables like carrots, corn and oranges are beneficial for pancreatic health.
9. Reishi Mushrooms
Not only are reishi mushrooms tasty and delicious to eat, they also support pancreatic health. In fact, these mushrooms have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years and have been a popular choice for managing various diseases, including cancer.
These mushrooms contain powerful anti-inflammatory compounds that can reduce inflammation and swelling around the pancreas. This in turn reduces the risk of developing pancreatitis.
Reishi mushrooms are also rich in phytochemicals known as beta-glucan polysaccharides and triterpenes. The phytochemicals are potent antioxidants that prevent free-radical damage to the body, thus reducing the risk of several cancers, including pancreatic cancer.
These mushrooms can prevent cancer cells from penetrating where they do not belong. This means they can stop cancer cells in their tracks. They protect healthy tissues from cancerous cells.
The extracts can even lower the blood glucose levels by inhibiting an enzyme used by the liver to produce glucose.
When taken for health reasons, consume this mushroom in dried or extract form. You can find it easily in the market in liquid, capsule or powdered form.
This ancient herb that has been used for thousands of years as an herbal medicine and as a sweet flavoring for foods also supports pancreatic health.
It has anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce inflammation in the pancreas, one of the main reasons behind pancreatic cancer.
This herbal root also boosts the production of bile to digest food, which is important for supporting all glandular functions, including that of your pancreas.
Licorice root also contains antidiabetic properties. The substances called amorfrutin present in this root helps reduce blood sugar levels. Also, amorfrutins reduce the risk of developing a fatty liver and improve insulin resistance.
A 2011 study published in Drug and Chemical Toxicology revealed that licorice may have a potential therapeutic effect for diabetes due to its antioxidant and antihyperglycemic properties.
Drink 2 to 3 cups of licorice root tea each day or take a supplement after speaking to your doctor.