What is Gastrin?

When you eat, a complicated set of reactions in the body help digest and absorb the food. Gastrin is one of the hormones responsible for the process. Understanding gastrin and its relationship to digestion can help individuals make better choices about their health.

Gastrin is a hormone the stomach produces that stimulates the release of gastric acid. It is located in the G cells in the lining of the stomach and upper small intestine. When you eat, gastrin stimulates the release of gastric acid, an important part of the digestive process.

How does gastrin do?

Gastrin is directly responsible for the release of gastric acid, which breaks down the proteins in the food you eat. Gastric acid also helps the body absorb some of the vitamins in the food and kills much of the bacteria naturally present on food. This helps protect the gut from infection.

Problems associated with gastrin

Improper gastrin levels can instigate problems with digestion. Too much gastrin hormone is associated with Zollinger-Ellison syndrome, a syndrome caused by a gastrin-secreting tumor in the digestive system. This can release too much acid, which can create ulcers in the stomach and small intestine. If stomach acid levels are too high, it can also lead to diarrhea.

High levels of gastrin cells and circulating gastrin hormone can also occur if the pH of the stomach is too high, which can happen when the lining of the stomach is damaged, preventing it from releasing acid. This problem can also take place when an individual is taking antacid medications due to heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

Low gastrin levels are rare. When low levels do occur, the condition can increase the risk of infection in the digestive system and also limits the stomach's ability to absorb nutrients.

Questions to ask your doctor

Because gastrin is a hormone, discuss any concerns with a qualified endocrinologist. If you are worried that high gastrin levels are causing digestive symptoms, consider asking:

  • Is gastrin responsible for my symptoms?
  • What can I do to improve gastrin levels?
  • How can I manage my digestive symptoms?
  • What are the risks of these gastrin levels?

To discuss these questions with an endocrinologist near you, use our physician referral directory