Pancreas inflammation – Epidemiology
Pancreatitis is a serious medical condition that affects the pancreas, an organ located behind the stomach that releases enzymes and insulin into the small intestine. Pancreatitis may be acute and chronic, with the latter usually requiring immediate medical attention. Acute pancreatitis is responsible for approximately 275,000 hospital stays annually in the U.S.. Chronic pancreatitis is less common and leads to about 86,000 hospital stays yearly. Excessive alcohol intake is the major risk factor for chronic pancreatitis, causing 70% of all cases. Smoking, obesity, genetics, hyperlipidaemia, and diabetes may also contribute to the development of pancreas inflammation.
Gallstones, the most common cause of acute pancreatitis, may obstruct the flow of bile from the pancreas and lead to inflammation. Pancreatic enzymes become activated before leaving the pancreas. This causes them to partially digest the cells lining the organ, which leads to fluid and electrolyte imbalance. As for chronic pancreatitis, excessive alcohol intake is listed as the most usual culprit. Repeated flare-ups of acute pancreatitis may eventually cause scar tissue to form inside the pancreas. Thus, leading to chronic pancreatitis and a possible loss of function. Without the ability to form enzymes and insulin, damage to the pancreas can cause digestive problems and diabetes.
Pharmacologic and Integrative treatment
Both acute and chronic pancreatitis often warrant lifestyle changes, including reducing alcohol intake and incorporating low-fat meals into the patient’s diet. Pharmacologic intervention includes the administration of antibiotics and anti-inflammatory agents for infections, severe pain, and inflammation. However, reliance on anti-inflammatory medicines such as NSAIDs may bring about future complications, such as liver problems and damage to the intestinal lining. Antibiotics also pose a threat to the intestinal flora.
Natural anti-inflammatory agents are already being used for the management of pancreatitis pain. Medicinal mushrooms are among these promising remedies. Through their beneficial anti-inflammatory and immunoprotective potential, these therapeutic fungi may demonstrate a vital role in the management of pancreatitis.
Mycomedicine approach to pancreas inflammation
- Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum)
Reishi mushroom, also known as Lingzhi, has been widely used in Chinese and Japanese cultures and is termed “the mushroom of immortality.” In scientific studies, it has shown promise as a natural analgesic and anti-inflammatory agent. The polysaccharides in Reishi are thought to be responsible for most of their immunomodulatory effects. Reishi contains polysaccharides beta-glucan, trehalose, and chitosans, all of which exhibit anti-inflammatory and anti-diabetic properties.
Terpenoids, a group of compounds with anti-inflammatory properties, are also present in reishi. Studies on triterpene extracts from reishi have been shown to decrease COX-2 expression and inhibition of prostaglandin E2 production, actions which can help in both pain and inflammation.
- Shiitake (Lentinula edodes)
The use of Shiitake mushroom in Chinese and Japanese culture goes back 2,000 years. The popular mushroom has been touted to have cardioprotective properties, including promoting healthy blood pressure and cholesterol. Shiitake has been reported to help relieve inflammation in the pancreas by potentially improving lipometabolism. Shiitake may improve blood cholesterol levels by reducing LDL (bad cholesterol) and increasing HDL (good cholesterol).
Similar to reishi, shiitake mushroom also has anti-inflammatory characteristics owing to its concentration of polysaccharides such as beta-glucan.
- Maitake (Grifola frondosa)
The effect of standardised Maitake polysaccharide extract is directly associated with insulin receptors, promoting insulin release from pancreatic cells. It is effective in controlling hyperglycaemia, by increasing insulin production, controlling glucose levels and inhibiting alpha-glucosidase ( limits starch digestion and absorption of sugars). A glucan isolated from Maitake has shown a hypoglycemic effect, which might be related to its protective effect of pancreatic β-cells exerted by decreasing levels of factors that destroy β-cells, such as oxidative stress and NO synthesis.
Pancreatitis is largely a preventable condition requiring healthy lifestyle choices. For those who suffer from pancreatitis, mycomedicine remains a valuable option. Naturally-occurring compounds in medicinal mushrooms have demonstrated notable capacity in preventing the progression of the disease and in alleviating symptoms, most especially inflammation and pain. In addition, their safety profile and the high quality mushroom based nutraceuticals which are available today, make them a great tool for holistic practitioners who seek natural options for helping patients with pancreatitis and other inflammatory conditions.