What Does Somatostatin Do?

Somatostatin is also called SS, SST or SOM. This growth hormone inhibitory hormone affects several areas of the body by hindering the secretion of other hormones. Learning about this hormone’s role will help you better understand the complexities of the endocrine system and how they impact your overall health.

What Is Somatostatin?

Somatostatin is a hormone that many different tissues produce, but it is found primarily in the nervous and digestive systems. The primary function of somatostatin is to prevent the production of other hormones and also stop the unnatural rapid reproduction of cells — such as those that may occur in tumors. The hormone also acts as a neurotransmitter and has a role in the gastrointestinal tract.

How Does Somatostatin Function?

Somatostatin affects several areas of the body. In the hypothalamus, it regulates the secretion of hormones coming from the pituitary gland, including growth hormone and thyroid stimulating hormone. In the pancreas, somatostatin inhibits the secretion of pancreatic hormones, including glucagon and insulin. Finally, in the gastrointestinal tract, the hormone reduces gastric secretion and the emission of gastrointestinal hormones, such as secretin and gastrin.

Potential Problems with Somatostatin Inhibitor

Because it is an inhibitor, somatostatin is important to balance hormone levels in the body and stop the effects of over-production of certain hormones. That means that somatostatin levels that are too low can cause the problems associated with high levels of other hormones. Growth hormone, in particular, can be problematic. However, this is a rarely reported condition.

Instead, some patients will struggle with excessive somatostatin levels when they have a specific type of endocrine tumor called a somatostatinoma. This tumor produces the hormone independently. The end result is extreme suppression of the hormones normally inhibited by somatostatin, such as insulin, which can cause major health problems.

Talking to Your Doctor About Somatostatin

If you find that your somatostatin levels are not where they should be, you need the help of an endocrinologist to identify the cause of this problem. If you have a somatostatinoma, you may need to have the tumor removed to stop the overproduction of somatostatin.

Interestingly, chemically altered versions of somatostatin are currently used as a medical therapy to control hormone secretion in patients with certain endocrine conditions. The synthetic hormone can also be used to slow the growth of some tumors and treat gastrointestinal diseases.

Before starting somatostatin treatment for a related condition or if you have questions about your somatostatin levels, schedule an appointment with an endocrinologist. You can use the “Find an Endocrinologist” tool to locate one near you.