Exocrine gastric secretion and gastritis: pathophysiological and clinical relationships

Clin Ter. 2011;162(1):e19-25.


Gastric exocrine secretion, both acid and non-acid, is required for micronutrients absorption, such as iron, calcium and vitamin B12, drugs absorption, protein digestion. Clinical presentation of a gastric secretion impairment might be then characterized by the presence of both gastrointestinal and non-gastrointestinal specific symptoms (i.e. anemia) or to a non-response to therapies. The main factor that impairs gastric exocrine secretion homeostasis is mucosal chronic inflammation that principally occurs after colonization by Helicobacter pylori (Hp). The extent and distribution of gastritis ultimately determine the clinical outcome linked to differences in gastric acid secretion status, the involvement of gastric body leading to a decrease in gastric exocrine secretion with possible progression to mucosal atrophy towards cancer. A correct clinical strategy in the management of Hp infected patients should be then to early identify body involvement, a diagnosis generally missed in that body biopsies are not routinely performed. The use of gastric serological markers, gastrin and pepsinogens, are helpful in suspecting the presence of mucosal atrophy but their diagnostic accuracy for non-atrophic chronic gastritis topography is not adequate despite a good specificity due to the low sensitivity, of all the available biomarkers. Gastric serology associated to anemia/iron-deficiency screening might nevertheless been helpful in the framing of patients that undergo endoscopy in order to highlight the need of extensive mucosal biopsies sampling.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Absorption
  • Anemia / etiology
  • Biomarkers
  • Biopsy
  • Gastric Acid / metabolism*
  • Gastrins / blood
  • Gastritis / classification
  • Gastritis / diagnosis
  • Gastritis / physiopathology*
  • Gastritis, Atrophic / blood
  • Gastritis, Atrophic / diagnosis
  • Gastritis, Atrophic / pathology
  • Gastritis, Atrophic / physiopathology
  • Helicobacter Infections / physiopathology
  • Helicobacter pylori
  • Humans
  • Intrinsic Factor / metabolism
  • Micronutrients / pharmacokinetics
  • Models, Biological
  • Parietal Cells, Gastric / metabolism*
  • Pepsinogens / blood
  • Pepsinogens / metabolism
  • Secretory Rate
  • Stomach / innervation
  • Stomach / pathology


  • Biomarkers
  • Gastrins
  • Micronutrients
  • Pepsinogens
  • Intrinsic Factor