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What is Gastrin?

Nicole Madison
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Gastrin is a hormone found in the human body. It is produced by cells in the lining of the stomach, and its purpose is to regulate the secretion of digestive acid. Although there are other hormones involved in this process, gastrin is the primary regulator for the stomach acid. The cells of the stomach responsible for making this substance are called G cells.

The very act of consuming food stimulates the production of the hormone. As a person eats, food enters his stomach, and G cells stimulate the release of gastrin into the blood. Levels begin to rise in the blood, triggering the release of gastric acid. This acid aids in the digestion of food. Eventually, enough gastric acid is produced, and the hormone's levels begin to drop once more.

Besides the stomach, this substance also has a role to play with other organs in the human body. It aids the intestines, liver, and pancreas as well, though its effects are minor in these organs. In the pancreas, it serves to trigger the production of digestive enzymes. In the liver, it aids in bile production. Its role in the intestines is for aiding in the movement of food through the lower part of the digestive tract.

Sometimes it is necessary for doctors to check a person's gastrin production. This may be done, for example, when diseases involving the digestive system are suspected. For example, this test may be performed to check for abnormal growths in a person's pancreas or in the cells of his stomach lining. It may also be done to reveal tumors in the intestine. Such testing may also prove helpful for discovering diseases like pernicious anemia, a type of blood disease.

To test for gastrin, medical professionals typically perform an intravenous secretin test. This involves taking a sample of the patient's blood and then injecting a digestive hormone called secretin into one of his veins. Another blood sample is taken when the patient is injected, and additional sampling follows every five minutes after injection for the first quarter of an hour. Finally, another blood sample is taken at 30 minutes following the secretin injection. Results are usually available within just a couple of days of testing.

While high gastrin levels may indicate tumors or blood disease, there are other conditions associated with elevated levels of the hormone. For example, kidney failure and certain types of ulcers may be at fault. On the other hand, low levels of the hormone can indicate medical conditions as well. For example, low levels have been associated with hypothyroidism.

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Nicole Madison
By Nicole Madison , Writer
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a TheHealthBoard writer, where she focuses on topics like homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. Her passion for knowledge is evident in the well-researched and informative articles she authors. As a mother of four, Nicole balances work with quality family time activities such as reading, camping, and beach trips.

Discussion Comments

By anon951286 — On May 14, 2014

I am the 1 in 1 million. Diagnosed with ZE and had 3 neuroendocrine rumors removed. My gastric levels were 100,000 pre op and dropped to 901 2 weeks post op. Had levels drawn four months out and they are on the rise 2145. If there is a "good" cancer to get, this is it. Best of luck!

By anon939738 — On Mar 15, 2014

Z-E effects 1 in 1 million people - rare. Chances are it's something else.

By SarahSon — On May 19, 2012

Testing for gastrin levels was just one of the tests that was done when my sister was going through a lot of medical problems.

She had been on some strong medications and ended up receiving kidney damage from them. Her kidney function was so low that they thought they might have to do a transplant.

When they started running some of these tests, her high gastrin levels were one indication that there were problems with her kidneys.

They stopped the medications she had been taking, and put her on some different ones. It makes you wonder what kind of side effects she might have from the new medications.

By Mykol — On May 19, 2012

I had several tests run when I was having a lot of digestive problems. At first I just thought I had gastric reflux problems, but there were also other things going on.

One of the tests I had done was to test the gastrin levels in my body. This test didn't end up being as complicated as I initially thought when they described what they would be doing.

Come to find out, I did have pernicious anemia. I would have never guessed this would have been the diagnosis from the symptoms I was having.

It was just a relief after so many months of problems to finally find out what was wrong.

Before this, I had never heard about gastrin levels in my body. I still don't completely understand how all of it works, I just know that getting it properly treated has made a difference in the way I feel.

By discographer — On May 18, 2012

@ysmina, @feruze-- I had this test done and I had my doctor tell me about it in detail because it didn't make any sense to me. Most people explain it by saying that when secretin hormone is given, it raises gastrin. But that's not true and if it was, it wouldn't tell us about what was wrong anyway.

This test is different than the intravenous secretin test. It's done after high levels of gastrin secretion is detected to figure out what the source is.

This is where secretin hormone is given through a tube to the small intestine. If the source of the excess gastrin is the stomach, the secreting will suppress it. If the source is somewhere else like the pancreas, then gastrin levels will come up as high as a result. If someone has high gastrin levels because of a tumor, this test will show that.

By ysmina — On May 18, 2012

@feruze-- Yea, you really should not jump to any conclusions. Your doctor will tell you once more tests are done and high gastrin levels happen in many situations, and it absolutely does not have to involve a tumor.

It could be due to pernicious anemia for example, which has nothing to do with tumors. My dad has this, his body lacks a type of gastric cell which impairs the absorption of vitamin B12. So the main problem is a vitamin B12 deficiency but it's easily handled with monthly vitamin B12 shots.

By the way, when you said you had blood work done, do you mean a secretin stimulation test? I think the kind of testing you had is important because it shows different things about gastrin function. I'm not all too familiar with what this test means but maybe someone else here can clarify?

By bear78 — On May 18, 2012

I had blood work done two weeks ago and just came to know that I have extremely high gastrin levels. I have another appointment with a specialist for more testing. My doctor has not said anything to me about what might be the problem. Cancer runs in my family and I'm extremely scared that this is a sign of a tumor.

I'm wondering if anyone else here has high gastrin levels and what your diagnosis is? I know it's too early for me to jump to any conclusions about my health. But I've looked up disorders that cause high serum gastrin without the presence of a tumor, and I don't have their symptoms.

Today, I learned about Zollinger-Ellison syndrome which is a tumor-related syndrome. It's caused from too much secretion of gastric acid and usually causes tumors and ulcers in the digestive tract and nearby organs. High gastrin levels is one of its symptoms. I'm so scared that I might have this.

Nicole Madison

Nicole Madison


Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a TheHealthBoard writer, where she focuses on topics like...
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