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Pancreatic Insufficiency

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Image From Gray's Anatomy. Courtesy Wikipedia.org

Image  of Pancreas From Gray’s Anatomy. Courtesy Wikipedia.org

What Is Pancreatic Insufficiency?

Pancreatic insufficiency is a disorder characterized by insufficient exocrine production of pancreatic enzymes for normal digestion of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates that results in maldigestion of these foodstuffs.

Pancreatic insufficiency also causes malabsorption of the fat-soluble vitamins: vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, and vitamin K.

Q: What are the exocrine enzymes produced by the pancreas?

A: Exocrine enzymes produced by the pancreas include amylase for the digestion of carbohydrates, lipase for the digestion of fats, and protease for the digestion of proteins.

While lipases and amylase are secreted in the active form, proteases are secreted as pro-enzymes (need to be activated). Trypsinogen is converted to its active form trypsin in the duodenum by enterokinase, a protease secreted by the enterocytes (surface cells that line the duodenum), and trypsin in turn activates the other pancreatic proteases.1

Pancreatic enzymes are released by the pancreas into the internal pancreatic duct that empties into the common bile duct from which they are pumped through the Sphincter of Odi directly into the duodenum as needed. Tthe Sphincter of Odi is a strong circular muscle that controls the entrance of pancreatic enzymes into the duodenum.

After a meal, enzyme secretion into the duodenum increases quickly reaching peak output within the first 20 to 60 minutes, then decreasing to a stable level before reaching an interdigestive level at the end of the digestive period, that is, about 4 hours after meal intake.2

Medical treatment is with medication that contains enzymes to break down carbohydrates, fats, and protein in food at mealtime. This treatment is safe, effective, and has few side effects.

What Is Pancreatic Insufficiency In Celiac Disease and/or Gluten Sensitivity?


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  1. Fieker A, Philpott J, Armand M. Enzyme replacement therapy for pancreatic insufficiency: present and future. Clin Exp Gastroenterol. 2011;4:55-73. doi: 10.2147/CEG.S17634. []
  2. Fieker A, Philpott J, Armand M. Enzyme replacement therapy for pancreatic insufficiency: present and future. Clin Exp Gastroenterol. 2011;4:55-73. doi: 10.2147/CEG.S17634. []