While searching for a diagnosis for stomach pain some patients may find themselves in the category of functional dyspepsia. GERD and functional dyspepsia can overlap but are not the same condition. GERD is caused by acid splashing back up into the esophagus and causing pain or damage to those tissues. Functional dyspepsia usually has no identifiable cause.
There are several theories regarding why some people get functional dyspepsia. One involves the motor or nerve connection. The digestive tract involves a complicated process of coordinated movements between the nerves and muscles in order to digest food. In some people this process is flawed leading to slower emptying of the stomach or other problems. Slow emptying, also called gastroparesis, can cause you to feel full quickly. It can also cause bloating, nausea and vomiting in some patients.
Infections can also cause functional dyspepsia. One of the most common infections associated with this problem is a bacterial infection called H. pylori. If you have these symptoms and have not been tested for this infection it would be wise to do so. H. pylori can be effectively treated with antibiotics to kill the bacteria and medications to repair any inflamed areas. Left untreated an H. pylori infection can lead to ulcers.
In some people an increased pain sensitivity as well as emotional distress, such as depression or anxiety, can cause symptoms of functional dyspepsia. It is just as important to treat the underlying conditions in these instances. The pain is not “in the patient’s head” and the effect of untreated pain can precipitate the emotional distress thus perpetuating the cycle. Some stress relieving activities like moderate exercise, yoga or controlled breathing techniques may also help some patients.
Stomach pain can be frustrating and diagnosis may seem elusive at times. It is important to maintain an open dialog with your physician and report any new symptoms to provide the best treatment possible.
Jennifer Rackley is a nutritionist and mother of three girls. Two of her children have dealt with acid reflux disease, food allergies, migraines, and asthma. She has a Bachelor of Science in dietetics from Harding University and has done graduate work in public health and nutrition through Eastern Kentucky University. In addition to writing for HealthCentral, she does patient consults and serves on the Board of Directors for the Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association.