Functional dyspepsia (FD) occurs when your upper digestive tract shows symptoms of upset, pain, or early or prolonged fullness for a month or longer.
This condition is described as “functional” because there is nothing structurally wrong with the upper digestive area, but bothersome symptoms persist.
This condition can be chronic and can affect your quality of life. There are several ways to reduce discomfort caused by FD, including lifestyle changes, medications, and therapy.
There is no one single cause of FD. There may be several reasons why you develop FD, and some of the causes of the condition may include:
- intestinal microbiome changes
- the bacterium Helicobacter pylori
- above-normal acid secretion
- inflammation in the upper digestive tract
- a disruption in the stomach’s ability to digest food
- anxiety or depression
- side effects of medication like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
This wide range of possible causes of FD may result in your doctor testing you for additional conditions as well as discussing varied treatment options for the condition.
The symptoms of FD can vary from person to person, but you may experience:
- burning or pain in your upper digestive tract
- feeling full after eating just a small amount of food
- feeling full after eating a meal
- sour taste in the mouth
- weight loss
- psychological distress related to the condition
To be diagnosed with FD, you will generally have to experience symptoms for one month or longer. Your symptoms may come and go over time.
Your doctor may not diagnose you with FD initially. Your doctor instead may look for other conditions causing your symptoms and diagnose FD after ruling out those other possible causes.
FD can be confused for several other gastrointestinal conditions, including:
- gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- peptic ulcer disease
- irritable bowel syndrome
- upper abdominal-related cancers
Your doctor will first discuss your health history to determine your condition. There is no test for FD, so often you’ll be diagnosed with the condition after tests for other conditions come back as normal.
Tests for other non-FD conditions can include:
- esophageal pH monitoring
- barium X-ray
- blood tests
- bacterium tests, either through blood, stool, or breath
Your doctor may decide to conduct more tests if you:
- have lost weight
- are older than 60
- have a family history of cancer in your gastrointestinal tract
- are bleeding or vomiting
There are a wide range of treatment options for FD. There’s no known single cause of FD, and your symptoms may range quite significantly from someone else’s, so the types of treatment can differ from person to person. Your doctor may recommend several methods for relieving symptoms of FD.
Some treatment options for FD include:
- over-the-counter (OTC) medications to be used for a few weeks
- prescription medications for either short- or long-term use
- psychological interventions
- diet changes
- lifestyle adjustments
The severity of your symptoms will help your doctor decide what treatment is best for you. Often, you may be able to treat the condition without the use of any medication. Or you may need a short-term or long-term medication to manage symptoms.
Your doctor may recommend the following medications to help with FD symptoms:
- acid-neutralizing medications called H2 receptor blockers
- acid-blocking medications called proton pump inhibitors
- gas-relieving medications that include the ingredient simethicone
- antidepressants such as amitriptyline
- esophagus-strengthening medications called prokinetic agents
- stomach-emptying medications such as metoclopramide
- antibiotics if you have the H. pylori bacteria in your body
These medications may be available OTC or by prescription only. Your doctor will recommend the length of time you should use any given medication.
The symptoms of FD can interfere with your activities of daily living, so treating the mental component of the condition should be considered in your treatment plan.
There’s a lack of significant research on psychological intervention helping FD, but some studies show evidence that it can be useful to relieve symptoms. One study showed that participants receiving hypnotherapy had greater improvement in symptoms than those who didn’t receive it. Other forms of cognitive behavioral therapy may also help minimize FD symptoms.
Changing your diet may be one of the most important factors in managing FD. It may be that what or how you eat impacts your symptoms. There are no specific foods that are linked to FD, but you may find that certain eating behaviors or foods trigger FD.
Consider some of the following modifications to your food consumption to relieve FD symptoms:
- eat smaller meals more frequently
- skip high-fat foods because they may slow the emptying of your stomach
- avoid foods or beverages that may trigger FD symptoms (these might be spicy foods, highly acidic foods like tomatoes or citrus, dairy, alcohol, or caffeine)
There are other methods you can try at home to ease FD. These include:
- reducing stress in your life
- sleeping with your head elevated by a few inches
- losing weight if you are overweight to relieve pressure on your gastrointestinal system
You may find that living with FD adds certain challenges. Severe symptoms may interfere with your ability to complete daily tasks or cause you to avoid events based around eating.
Discussing the condition with your doctor or friends and family may offer a sense of relief. They can provide you with support as you navigate ways to manage your symptoms.
FD occurs in each person differently. Symptoms can vary, and it can take time to be diagnosed while your doctor rules out other conditions.
Remember to get the support you need to help manage the condition. You may find that modifications to your lifestyle, certain medications, and mental health support relieve symptoms and improve your quality of life.