Actually, T1’s are MORE likely to get both pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer than the non-D population. AND… the pancreas is a large, complex organ that does MANY things - the endocrine beta cells that are destroyed by our immune systems are ONLY 2% of the total organ - the other 98% of it is fine and working. Picture a raisin cake in the shape of a fish, about the size of your own hand - THAT is your pancreas. It’s located behind your stomach, in front of your spine, with the “head” to the right side of your abdomen, and the tail extending toward the left.
The “cake” part is the exocrine pancreas, and it is about 85% of the total organ. This part produces four digestive enzymes: trypsin and chemotrypsin to digest proteins, lipase to digest fats, and everyone’s favourite, amylase to digest carbohydrates. THIS part of your pancreas is just fine - unless you suffer from pancreatogenic diabetes, aka Type T3c.
The “raisins” scattered throughout your pancreas are the endocrine pancreas, aka the “Islets of Langerhans” - or the “little islands” first described by a researcher named Langerhans in the mid-1800’s. The endocrine pancreas is the other 15% of your pancreas - and includes four types of tissue that produce five hormones. The tissue types are cleverly named Alpha, Beta, Delta and Gamma cells. ALL but the beta cells are FINE and functional in Type 1’s.
The Alpha cells produce glucagon, which is the counter-regulatory hormone to insulin, which raises BG when it’s low, by triggering the liver to release glucose stores (called glycogen) and convert them back into glucose and release them into the bloodstream. This is going on all the time - but especially when sleeping, upon waking, and when the “fight or flight” response is triggered (by epinephrine and other hormones).
Beta cells produce both insulin and amylin - and BOTH of these are gone in T1’s. Insulin, of course, serves to transport glucose from the bloodstream into the body’s cells. Amylin serves to inhibit the secretion of glucagon by the Alpha cells, slows the emptying of the stomach, and signals the brain that you’re no longer hungry. We can live without amylin, but it is manufactured and used by some (mostly T3c’s and T2’s) with digestive issues.
Delta cells (which are all fine in T1’s) secrete somatostatin which slows the absorption of food from the intestines.
Gamma cells (which are also fine in T1’s) secrete pancreatic polypeptide, which reduces appetite.
So… that’s your pancreas in a nutshell. Aren’t you sorry you asked? But you can drop the idea that there’s some sort of “dead organ” lying in your gut - it’s 98% alive and doing well.