What are the Causes of Elevated Gastrin Levels?

Drue Tibbits

Gastrin is a hormone that triggers the stomach to produce stomach acid. It is released into the blood as a result of undigested food entering the stomach. Elevated gastrin levels are a symptom of several diseases and conditions. The elevated levels may be the result of certain stomach conditions, or they may be caused by a type of malignant tumor that produces gastrin. A laboratory finding of elevated gastrin levels merits a thorough examination by a physician.

Gastrinomas are tumors that excrete gastrin, and they usually appear in the pancreas or duodenum.
Gastrinomas are tumors that excrete gastrin, and they usually appear in the pancreas or duodenum.

Hypergastrinemia is the medical term for high levels of gastrin. The causes of elevated levels can be grouped into two categories: Either a disease or condition is causing the body to produce extra gastrin, or a neoplasm is producing the extra gastrin. In either case, treatment is aimed not at reducing the level of gastrin but in correcting the underlying cause. If the underlying cause can be treated, the gastrin levels will return to normal.

Pernicious anemia may present with elevated gastrin levels.
Pernicious anemia may present with elevated gastrin levels.

Stomach conditions, such as gastric outlet obstruction and autoimmune gastritis, may cause high gastrin levels. Stomach distention will also raise the level of gastrin present in the blood. Elevated gastrin sometimes occurs as a side effect of other conditions. Pernicious anemia, rheumatoid arthritis, and diabetes mellitus sometimes present with laboratory findings of excess gastrin. Any condition that increases the pH level of the stomach, such as gastric ulcers, will cause excessive gastrin release as well.

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Autoimmune gastritis may cause high gastrin levels.
Autoimmune gastritis may cause high gastrin levels.

Elevated gastrin levels are one of the three diagnostic criteria for Zollinger-Ellison syndrome. The syndrome is the combination of one or more gastrinomas, hypergastrinemia, and severe ulcer disease. Gastrinomas are tumors that excrete gastrin, causing elevated levels of the hormone. The tumors usually appear in the pancreas or duodenum. Up to 50 percent of gastrinomas are malignant.

Gastric ulcers will cause elevated levels of gastrin.
Gastric ulcers will cause elevated levels of gastrin.

In the absence of other conditions, hypergastrinemia is diagnostically indicative of one or more gastrinomas. Aside from Zollinger-Ellison syndrome, tumors sometimes develop as a result of hyperthyroidism or pituitary adenomas. Gastrinomas may also develop without any predisposing conditions. Elevated gastrin may also occur because of renal failure or colon cancer.

Gastrin is a hormone responsible for triggering the stomach to produce stomach acid.
Gastrin is a hormone responsible for triggering the stomach to produce stomach acid.

Gastrin levels are measured with a fasting blood test. Gastrin is released when food enters the stomach, so nonfasting blood tests have no value. Several drugs, such as protein pump inhibitors, opiates, and aspirin, can interfere with the testing of gastrin and cause incorrect readings. Prior to testing, the physician will direct the patient how far in advance of the test to discontinue use of these drugs.

Gastrinomas may develop as a result of hyperthyroidism.
Gastrinomas may develop as a result of hyperthyroidism.
Elevated gastrin may occur as a result of renal failure.
Elevated gastrin may occur as a result of renal failure.
Rheumatoid arthritis may present with elevated gastrin levels.
Rheumatoid arthritis may present with elevated gastrin levels.
Elevated gastrin levels may be caused by colon cancer.
Elevated gastrin levels may be caused by colon cancer.

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Discussion Comments

anon1002160

I had an endoscopy and a neuroendocrine cancerous tumor was removed from my stomach. It was caused by high gastrin levels (2800+) and atrophic gastritis.

myharley

A very good friend of mine found out she had a gastrinoma tumor in her pancreas. This came as quite a shock to her as she was not having any physical symptoms.

She had some blood work done as part of her annual physical, and when her gastrin levels were elevated they had to do some further testing.

Many times these type of tumors are cancerous, but hers was not, which she was very thankful for. Part of her treatment was taking some medication that reduced the acid in her stomach.

Mykol

I am always amazed at what doctors can tell about your health from a simple fasting blood work test.

Before they determined that I have rheumatoid arthritis I had a gastrin blood test done. When the levels came back outside of the normal range, they needed to figure out what was going on.

I knew from my physical symptoms that something was not right, but was amazed at how much they could tell from one blood work test.

julies

I was experiencing some abnormal abdominal discomfort that would not go away, so went to the clinic to have it checked out. When I had blood work done they told me that my gastrin levels were elevated and they needed to figure out why.

The next step was to perform an endoscopy, and this determined that I had some chronic gastritis which was causing my elevated gastrin levels. I started on some medication to help with this, and when I had a gastrin level test done a few weeks later, my levels had returned to normal.

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