There it is, sitting quietly tucked under your diaphragm, nestled beneath layers of stomach and intestines, doing its job of monitoring blood sugar, producing insulin, and secreting the digestive enzymes that allow you to convert a fried egg, tomato, or dill pickle into the components that compose you.
But, if you’ve lived the life of most Americans, your pancreas has had a hard life. Starting as a child, it was forced into the equivalent of hard labor by your eating carbohydrate-rich foods like Lucky Charms, Cocoa Puffs, Hoho’s, Ding Dongs, Scooter Pies, and macaroni and cheese. Into adolescent years and college, it was whipped into subservient labor with pizza, beer, pretzels, and ramen noodles. As an adult, the USDA, Surgeon General’s office and other assorted purveyors of nutritional advice urged us to cut our fat, cholesterol, and eat more “healthy whole grains”; you complied, exposing your overworked pancreas to keep up its relentless work pace, spewing out insulin to accommodate the endless flow of carbohydrate-rich foods.
So here we are, middle aged or so, with pancreases that are beaten, worn, hobbling around with a walker, heaving and gasping due to having lost 50% or more of its insulin-producing beta cells. If continued to be forced to work overtime, it will fail, breathing its last breath as you and your doctor come to its rescue with metformin, Actos, Januvia, shots of Byetta, and eventually insulin, all aimed at corralling the blood sugar that your failed pancreas was meant to contain.
What if you don’t want to rescue your flagging pancreas with drugs? What if you want to salvage your poor, wrinkled, exhausted pancreas, eaking out whatever is left out of the few beta cells you have left?
Well, then, baby your pancreas. If this were a car with 90,000 miles on it, but you want it to last 100,000, then change the oil frequently, keep it tuned, and otherwise baby your car, not subjecting it to extremes and neglect to accelerate its demise. Same with your pancreas: Allow it to rest, not subjecting it to the extremes of insulin production required by carbohydrate consumption. Don’t expose it to foods like wheat flour, cornstarch, oats, rice starch, potatoes, and sucrose that demand overtime and hard labor out of your poor pancreas. Go after the foods that allow your pancreas to sleep through a meal like eggs, spinach, cucumbers, olive oil, and walnuts. Give your pancreas a nice back massage and steer clear of “healthy whole grains,” the nutritional equivalent of a 26-mile marathon. Pay your pancreas a compliment or two and allow it to have occasional vacations with a brief fast.
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