A common but difficult-to-detect condition known as functional dyspepsia (FD) may be responsible for many symptoms usually blamed on reflux, according to a new study conducted by researchers at the University of Newcastle.
FD is a form of indigestion affecting around 10 per cent of Australians and those affected usually feel full early and experience gastric pain, bloating and burning.
The lack of unique symptoms makes it difficult for doctors to diagnose. Because of that, people with FD are often incorrectly treated for other diseases with similar symptoms, such as irritable bowel syndrome and gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD).
The cause of FD is not fully understood. Previous studies have suggested that the cause might be prior intestinal infections or the presence of Helicobacter pylori, a bacterium known to result in stomach ulcers.
Anxiety and depression are both more common in patients with FD although there is evidence to suggest that the psychological symptoms are simply a by-product of dealing with the physical discomfort.
The study recommends that FD patients eat regularly and have smaller, low-fat meals. Avoiding wheat, spicy food, and carbonated drinks can also reduce symptoms.
Other treatment methods require prescribed medicines such as prokinetics - which aid gut movement - and acid suppressors, although long-term use of these medications is associated with an increased risk of stomach cancer.
While its symptoms are uncomfortable, FD is not considered a serious disease and does not increase mortality.