Merck Manual

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Quick Facts

Pancreas

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The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Sep 2019| Content last modified Sep 2019
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Your digestive system breaks food down into separate nutrients that fuel your body. It includes your digestive tract plus organs that lie outside the digestive tract but help with digestion.

Your digestive tract (also called the gastrointestinal or GI tract) is the hollow tube that food goes through when you swallow it, digest it, and then pass the waste products as stool.

What is the pancreas?

Your pancreas is an organ of your digestive system. It is located behind your stomach and connects to your small intestine through a small, hollow tube called the pancreatic duct.

The pancreas has two main jobs.

  • Make digestive juices

  • Make hormones

The digestive juices flow through the pancreatic duct into your small intestine. The juices help break down food and neutralize stomach acid.

Your pancreas releases hormones directly into your bloodstream. Hormones are chemicals that stimulate other cells or tissues into action. Insulin is an important hormone your pancreas makes. Insulin controls how your body handles sugar (glucose). Without enough insulin, you will have diabetes.

Locating the Pancreas

Locating the Pancreas
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