Complementary and Alternative Medicines for IBD

Tracy Davenport, Ph.D. Health Guide
  • About half of patients who live with IBD use some form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) and that number is on the rise. Even though the use of alternative therapies is becoming more popular, there are still more questions than answers about the effectiveness on bowel disease. However, there are some things we do know about complementary and alternative treatments:


    1) Those with IBD mostly choose from one of the following complementary and alternative medicines: exercise, prayer, counseling, massage, chiropractic, and herbal medicine.


    2) Patients with IBD are more likely to use alternative therapies if they are women, are single, are in a higher income bracket, live in an urban area, are not satisfied with conventional therapy, and live in the United States, versus Europe.

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    3) The use of complementary and alternative medicines is also increasing among children and adolescents. Some studies report numbers as high as 75 percent of younger patients using CAM. The most common alternative treatments given to children and adolescents with IBD are probiotics and fish oils. One study showed about 1 in 10 parents report that their child's alternative treatments are very effective, and about half of the parents report partial benefits for their children.


    4) Some of the most commonly reported benefits of using alternative therapies for treatment of IBD are: improvements in a patient's sense of well-being and disease symptoms, and a sense of control over the disease.


    5) While many report significant benefits of using alternative therapies, one study showed that 16 percent of IBD patients reported adverse side effects of CAM use.


    Complementary and alternative medicines can absolutely be used with traditional treatments for IBD. If you are interested in trying alternative therapies, you should first discuss your ideas with your physician. You may find him or her to be surprising open minded about the use of alternative therapies. Even the most conservative of medical journals are now including articles about the prevalence of the use of alternative therapies by digestive patients.


    And, if your doctor is up to date, he or she may be able to give you additional information on the alternative therapy you are considering. Another reason your doctor should be brought into your treatment plan is because there is a small, but very real chance that an alternative and complementary therapy could react adversely to a traditional medication you are already taking.

Published On: January 22, 2009