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Acute pancreatitis is caused when trypsin becomes activated within the pancreas. Trypsin is an enzyme produced in the pancreas and released into the intestines where it breaks down proteins as part of the digestive system. Trypsin is inactive until it has reached the intestines. If trypsin becomes activated inside the pancreas it will start to digest the pancreas itself, leading to irritation and inflammation of the pancreas - acute pancreatitis. Alcohol can cause a process which triggers the activation of trypsin inside the pancreas, as can gallstones .