Functional dyspepsia (FD) refers to chronic indigestion that has no known structural cause. Medications and other treatments may help manage symptoms.

A doctor may diagnose functional dyspepsia (FD) in people with constant or very regular indigestion problems but no issues with the structure of the upper abdominal tract.

As the cause of FD is unclear, treatment involves ruling out known causes and managing symptoms.

Read on to learn more about FD. This article looks at symptoms, factors that can increase the likelihood of the condition, treatment options, and more.

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Symptoms of FD can include:

According to the Rome 4 criteria, a doctor may diagnose FD if an individual experiences symptoms at least once per week for 3 months or longer. A person must also have begun experiencing symptoms at least 6 months before the diagnosis.

A doctor may diagnose one of two subtypes of FD, depending on the symptoms present, including epigastric pain syndrome and postprandial distress syndrome, which is fullness or discomfort after eating.

It is important to inform a doctor about all symptoms a person may be experiencing so that they can reach an accurate diagnosis and advise on the most suitable treatment plan.

Learn more about indigestion.

The causes of FD are not clear. A 2020 paper suggests that it likely relates to communication problems between the brain and the gut. These might affect:

  • how quickly food moves through the gut
  • the gut’s sensitivity
  • the balance of bacteria in the gut
  • the effectiveness of the gut lining and immune system
  • how the brain processes nerve signals from the gut

Several different factors can increase a person’s risk of FD, including:

People assigned female at birth are also more likely to develop FD, though it can affect anybody.

Generally, diagnosing FD involves ruling out conditions that cause similar symptoms.

Doctors will start by taking a history of symptoms and checking for structural or metabolic causes with a blood test. This might include:

  • a blood count
  • thyroid function tests
  • tests for inflammatory markers
  • a complete metabolic panel, including blood sugars

They may also test for H. pylori, as more than 50% of people carry the bacteria worldwide.

A doctor might request routine endoscopy testing, such as an esophagogastroduodenoscopy, with a biopsy in some cases. It may be useful for people ages 60 years or older or those with certain symptoms, such as:

Treatments for FD can include:

  • medication
  • dietary changes
  • lifestyle modifications
  • psychological therapy

Medication

Medications a doctor may recommend for FD include:

  • antibiotics and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) for H. pylori
  • H2 receptor agonists
  • tricyclic antidepressants
  • prokinetic agents, which help food move through the digestive tract

Learn more about medications for indigestion.

Dietary changes

A 2017 review suggests that certain dietary changes may be beneficial for people with FD, including:

  • avoiding high fat meals
  • eating smaller meals more often rather than larger meals three times daily
  • avoiding coffee
  • avoiding alcohol use

However, the review authors stated that more reliable evidence is necessary to confirm how effective these may be.

A doctor may recommend contacting a registered dietitian to discuss eating plans. This can help prevent an unnecessarily restrictive diet.

Lifestyle changes

Getting enough regular exercise or physical activity might support symptom control.

A 2021 randomized controlled trial found that five 30-minute sessions per week of aerobic exercise significantly reduced FD symptoms after 6 weeks. However, the sample size was small, and more research is necessary to assess the benefits of exercise on FD symptoms in detail.

Smoking may be a trigger for FD symptoms. Quitting smoking where applicable may also help.

Psychological therapy

FD can contribute to depression and anxiety, as it may affect a person’s quality of life. Talk therapy may help individuals with FD navigate life with these symptoms.

A 2021 review found psychological treatment may help people with FD. Additionally, a 2022 article found that people with FD may benefit from therapies such as:

How commonly FD occurs is unclear.

A 2023 article suggests that FD occurs in more than 1 in 5 people (20%) worldwide.

Guts UK suggests that 7% of people have FD.

According to a 2020 review, it affects up to 16% of the general population. Additionally, around 20% of people with indigestion experience FD.

A person needs to contact a doctor if they frequently or consistently experience symptoms such as:

  • indigestion
  • repeated vomiting
  • the sensation of a lump in the stomach
  • blood in the stool or vomit
  • excessive unexplained weight loss
  • difficulty swallowing
  • severe pain

There are numerous possible causes for these symptoms, so it is important to receive an accurate diagnosis.

Below are answers to common questions about functional dyspepsia.

Is functional dyspepsia serious?

FD has no links to an increased risk of mortality. However, 10% to 25% of people with FD find that the social effects are significant enough to contact a doctor. FD may also affect a person’s quality of life by causing physical and mental distress.

What foods trigger functional dyspepsia?

There is minimal information about what foods may trigger FD. However, the Canadian Society of Intestinal Research advises that some individuals have reported symptoms after consuming beverages containing alcohol and caffeine, citrus fruits, fatty or fried foods, milk, mint, certain spices, and tomatoes.

Food reactions are highly individual, so this may not apply to all those with FD. People can try keeping a food diary to monitor which foods trigger indigestion symptoms.

How do you fix functional dyspepsia?

Some medications may help reduce FD symptoms. These include antibiotics, proton pump inhibitors, H2 receptor agonists, and tricyclic antidepressants. Psychotherapy may help people manage the emotional aspect of FD. Additionally, lifestyle modifications such as aerobic exercise might support symptom control.

Functional dyspepsia (FD) refers to abdominal pain and other digestive symptoms that have no identifiable structural cause. It can lead to pain, burning, and quickly feeling full while eating.

The cause is not clear, but FD might involve problems in how the brain and gut communicate. Infections, such as Helicobacter pylori, may also relate to FD symptoms.

Certain medications, psychotherapy, and some lifestyle modifications may help reduce the symptoms of FD and how it affects a person’s quality of life.