Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

It is thought that 18-27% of the US population suffers from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), making it one of the most common gastrointestinal disorders in the country.

Caused by stomach acid coming into the esophagus, this condition can cause discomfort and pain, and in severe cases, can lead to more serious conditions such as cancer.

Many Americans are finding answers for how to address GERD through online searches and social media. What are the popular topics that emerge when people make such inquiries?

Search Trends

The Trends Section provides an overview of some of the most recent and relevant topics that relate to particular health conditions.

It features a selection of the topics that have the fastest growing Google search interest across the last three months, and reflects the inquiries of patients, healthcare providers, scientists, and others who are invested in the topic.

This is valuable to understand people’s interests and concerns at the present moment, and often include the U.S. states that have the highest interest in a topic. 

Quilt.AI brings these trends to life through an analysis that incorporates both cultural and scientific lenses.

When people are looking to manage GERD, what are the drugs they’re thinking about?

What is trending on search for GERD?

Search interest for how to stop acid reflux at night grew by 248% in the last 3 months, from May 2022 to July 2022.

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1.  Acid reflux: a nighttime nuisance

There has been an increase of search interest for ways to halt acid reflux at night. It’s likely that many of these searchers have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a chronic condition where stomach acid regularly comes up into the esophagus, causing irritation, pain and a variety of other symptoms.

Acid reflux intensifies in the evenings depending on the timing of meals, and the act of lying down can allow acid to come further up into the esophagus and throat.

Luckily there are many online articles from reputable sources that provide advice about addressing this particular problem.

2.  Convenient reflux relief wanted

This search reveals that people are looking for convenient ways to manage their GERD – that is, ones that do not require a consultation with and prescription from a physician. 

These searches yield information for GERD drugs that are available by prescription and in over-the-counter (OTC) form as well. These include drugs from the two main categories of acid-reducers: proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) and H2 histamine receptor antagonists (H2 blockers). PPIs are generally considered to be more effective than H2 blockers at reducing stomach acid production. However, H2 blockers are considered to be safer to use in the long term and are associated with fewer side effects. 

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Search interest for best OTC acid reflux medicine grew by 126% in the last 3 months, from May 2022 to July 2022.

Search interest for Ranitidine alternatives grew by 89% in the last 3 months, from May 2022 to July 2022. 

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3. Alternatives to a possible cancer-causer?

Ranitidine is a drug belonging to the H2 blocker category of acid reducers. It was among the most popular drugs prescribed to those with GERD (and other conditions that require stomach acid reduction) until its abrupt removal from the market in April 2020, as some products were found to contain carcinogenic contaminants.

The increase in search interest is likely due to recent public updates concerning the slew of lawsuits from former ranitidine takers, and may also be reflective of people’s desire to find acid reducers that are similarly effective. 

4. Battle of the antacids

Many of those who experience acid reflux or have been diagnosed with GERD are looking for non-drug acid relief that reduces the condition’s uncomfortable effects by either neutralizing acid or the resulting irritation to the esophagus. The search inquiry comparing two popular brand-name acid remedies, Gaviscon and Tums, has increased across the past three months.

These two antacids work in different ways to limit the damage that acid can do to the esophagus, and are household brands in US. This search results in many reputable articles that outline the pros and cons of the different types of  antacids available in the US.

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Search interest for Gaviscon vs Tums grew by 85% in the past 3 months, from May 2022 to July 2022.

Search interest for baby acid reflux medicine grew by 21% in the last 3 months, from May 2022 to July 2022.

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5. (Don’t) burn baby burn

Searches for acid reflux medications that can be given to babies have been up over the past three months. Reflux is common among babies and can be attributed to a poorly coordinated gastrointestinal tract. A diagnosis of GERD is less common in babies, but when it is given, it is cause for concern as it may impact growth.

If a parent or caregiver suspects that a baby has acid reflux or has this confirmed by an HCP, their medication options are similar to those used in adults: PPIs and H2 blockers, with the supplementary use of antacids. 

GERD in Culture

The Culture Section highlights emerging cultural trends, new products, and notable dialogue about a variety of health conditions. The purpose of this section is to zoom in on what has been happening within the cultural and professional landscape of a particular health condition–stories that are often missed by quantitative searches.

By featuring influential social media items, patient discourse, professional dialogue, product innovations, and impactful news items, this section illuminates the lived experiences of many patients, while also providing a snapshot of the developments happening around them. 

Here, Quilt.AI offers a detailed and nuanced perspective of what is new and what is meaningful.

1. HCPs providing education and practical advice 

TIkTok is the social media platform most utilized by HCPs as they put out GERD-related content. Among the most popular is Dr. Michael Murray, a Nevada-based surgeon (@drmichaelmurray) who has 22.5K followers. His May 20 video offering practical advice on dietary choices to limit GERD symptoms has 338.9K views, and to the disappointment of many, recommends avoiding chocolate.

Another popular HCP is Florida-based gastroenterologist Dr. Joseph Salhab (@thestomachdoctor), who calls himself ‘Dr. GI Joe’ and posts a variety of informational resources about GI health to his 77.1K followers. One of Salhab’s videos, which advocates for diaphragmatic breathing to address GERD symptoms, has been viewed 19.1K times. 

HCPs are credible experts in this space, and the popularity of their videos underscores the importance of managing GERD, as well as science-backed management strategies.  

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2.  Alternative GERD advice on TikTok

Many others on TikTok are joining the GERD-management discussion, including those taking more natural or holistic approaches. These non-HCPs have different approaches, and their advice often overlaps with mainstream biomedical advice.

Health and life coach Nate’s (@begreatwithnate) video discussing GERD and ways to address it through diet and supplements has been viewed 45.7K times. Joseph Octaviani (@lifetheplantway) advocates for plant-based solutions to addressing the condition in a recent video that has had 92.9K views. Drawing on wisdom from Ayurveda, Monica Yearwood (@iammonicayearwood) gives dietary advice in her video that has been viewed 21.2K times. The popularity of these videos indicates the large amount of interest  in non-medical ways to manage GERD.

3. Cancer fears shared among GERD sufferers and HCPs 

Many GERD sufferers live with the fear that their condition will eventually progress to esophageal cancer,  as the cells in the esophagus undergo changes due to prolonged exposure to stomach acid (that is, with chronic, inadequately controlled GERD). Before it progresses to cancer, GERD can often manifest as Barrett’s esophagus, a precancerous condition that requires monitoring. Some people who have had GERD progress to Barrett’s esophagus have taken to TikTok to raise awareness. 

One HCP who has had impact in this discussion is Dr. Gilbert Simoni (@tifdoc), a gastroenterologist based in California. He posts many videos on the topic of GERD, including dispelling myths and providing diet and lifestyle advice to his 15.8K followers and beyond. One of his most popular videos warns about the danger of esophageal cancer; this video has been viewed 842.8K times.  

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4. Good-looking GERD infographics on Instagram

Instagram contains a wide variety of diet-related infographics that are intended to support GERD sufferers in making appropriate dietary decisions to minimize the impact of their condition. These colorful infographics – created by individuals as well as larger health and wellness companies – are eye-catching and informative, serving as a quick reference for GERD-friendly eating.

5. Fiery humor by GERD sufferers on TikTok

Humor is also a part of the GERD dialogue online. TikTok features several popular creators that lament the implications of adhering to a GERD-management plan through diet and medication. 

User ‘Baroquenviolin’ (@baroquebetch) created a very popular video that has been viewed over 1.1M times. In it, he addresses getting diagnosed with GERD and the extensive dietary restrictions that are often advised by HCPs in a humorous recreation of that encounter. Comedian Chris Distefano’s (@chrisdcomedy) video – which has been viewed 641.6K times – pokes fun at some of the side effects of GERD medications, including – curiously – the inability to sneeze. 

The popularity of these videos can be partially attributed to GERD’s widespread prevalence: they resonate with people who are looking for a productive way to deal with their GERD diagnosis.