Complementary and alternative medicine use by Canadian patients with inflammatory bowel disease: results from a national survey

Robert J Hilsden, Marja J Verhoef, Allan Best, Gaia Pocobelli
American Journal of Gastroenterology 2003, 98 (7): 1563-8

OBJECTIVE: Previous studies of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) use by patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) have relied on samples from specialty clinics. The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence of use and perceived outcomes of CAM in a large, diverse IBD population.

METHODS: A postal survey of the members of the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of Canada gathered data on demographic, disease, and conventional IBD treatment characteristics, and on the use and perceived effects of CAM. Respondents were characterized as not using CAM, as past or present users of CAM for their IBD, or as present users of CAM for other reasons. Comparisons between groups were made with the chi(2) test.

RESULTS: The final sample included 2847 IBD patients. Current or past use of CAM for IBD was reported by 1332 patients, of whom 666 continued their use of CAM. Use was lowest in the eastern provinces and highest in the west. Only 15% had used CAM before their IBD diagnosis. Herbal therapies were the most commonly used (41% of CAM users). Improvements in sense of well-being, IBD symptoms, and sense of control over the disease were the most commonly reported benefits. Only 16% of prior CAM users reported any adverse effect of CAM use. A complementary practitioner was consulted by 34%. During the previous year, 46% had spend more than $250 on CAM.

CONCLUSIONS: Use of CAM by IBD patients is very common. Most of these patients attribute significant benefits to their CAM use. Few report significant adverse events.

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