Several pathophysiological mechanisms have been proposed in functional gastrointestinal (GI) disorders, e.g. altered GI motility and sensitivity. The aim of this study was to investigate gastric electrical activity (GEA) in patients with functional dyspepsia (FD) or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) compared with healthy controls (HC), and to assess if abdominal symptoms and delayed gastric emptying are associated with alterations in GEA, as determined by electrogastrography (EGG). Forty patients with FD, IBS or both were compared with 22 HC. EGG was performed before and after a standard meal. Frequencies and amplitudes pre- and post-prandially were analysed. Furthermore, gastric emptying and symptom scores were assessed. Eight of 40 patients (20%; three FD, three IBS, two FD and IBS) had delayed gastric emptying. Disturbed gastric emptying and lack of a postprandial increase in the EGG amplitude were significantly correlated (r = 0.8; P < 0.005). No differences between controls and patients were observed in the distribution of EGG frequencies. Treatment with the prokinetically active macrolide erythromycin improved gastric emptying, GEA and symptoms (n = 4). The data suggest that EGG could be useful as a diagnostic tool in patients with FD and IBS to identify a subgroup of patients with delayed gastric emptying.