Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency

Whenever you get indigestion, a stomach upset or any other complaint concerning your digestive system, you tend to blame your food or otherwise your stomach. It was something I ate you would say or something that upset my stomach. Your pancreas may not cross your mind. In fact, many of you may not even know what your pancreas does.

The pancreas, located just behind the stomach, plays the role of secreting various hormones and enzymes such as insulin, glucagon, somatostatin, pancreatic polypeptide and pancreatic juice which contains bicarbonate. It is this bicarbonate that neutralizes the acidity of the food you just ate. The enzymes help digest your food. Enzymes are the agents that lower the ignition point of your proteins, carbohydrates, and fats and allow them to be broken down. You know this as digestion.

Indigestion, therefore, can also occur if your pancreas is not working efficiently. One common ailment is known as Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency or EPI. EPI happens when your pancreas is unable to produce the digestive enzymes required to break food down. This condition is caused by a break down of your pancreatic cells resulting in malabsorption or maldigestion or both. Human beings often end up getting EPI if they have cystic fibrosis and chronic pancreatitis.

Usually, trouble with your pancreas is an outcome of either malnutrition (which happens in developing countries) or heredity and also habits including alcohol abuse and smoking. You may not realize that something is amiss as you would likely attribute any symptom to your food or stomach. Typical symptoms include weight loss, hair fall and increased levels of continually feeling hungry. You may also have low Vitamin B12 and Vitamin E levels.

Your digestive system is an incredibly complex system with multiple factors such as acids, enzymes, bacteria and your food interacting with each other to ensure that you stay alive. If something is amiss, consult a qualified physician who can detect what is truly amiss.


Ritesh is a born again health enthusiast and holds a Certificate in Physiology from Harvard Medical School and a Certificate in Nutrition from Tufts University.