An international survey of the use and attitudes regarding alternative medicine by patients with inflammatory bowel disease

Am J Gastroenterol. 1999 May;94(5):1298-303. doi: 10.1111/j.1572-0241.1999.01080.x.


Objective: There is a perception of increasing and widespread use of alternative medicine for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). We assessed the usage of alternative therapies among patients with IBD, whether there were similar or contrasting variables that were predictive of such use, and contrasted the use in four different centers in North America and Europe.

Methods: Patients in four IBD centers completed a self-administered questionnaire regarding alternative medicine. The centers were in Cork, Los Angeles, Stockholm, and Winnipeg. Patient demographics, the use of 18 types of alternative medicine, and attitudes towards alternative and conventional medicine were compared. A multiple logistic regression analysis was used.

Results: Fifty-one percent of 289 patients used some form of alternative medicine. The percentages of use by site were Cork = 31%, Los Angeles = 68%, Stockholm = 32%, and Winnipeg = 57%. The six most commonly used therapies in descending order were: exercise (28%), prayer (18%), counseling (13%), massage (11%), chiropractic (11%), and relaxation (10%). Only 7% used acupuncture or homeopathy and 5% used herbal medicine. The highest odds ratios (confidence intervals [CIs]) for using any form of alternative medicine were associated with: being single 3.1 (1.7-5.7), Los Angeles patient 4.4 (2.3-8.3), Winnipeg patient 2.7 (1.3-5.9), and an increase of alternative medicine use of 2.7% for every M.D. visit (CI, 2-11%/visit). The patient age, gender, disease diagnosis, or duration of disease were not predictive of any type of alternative medicine use. Regarding attitudes, respondents from Cork were most favorable toward alternative medicine use and least favorable toward conventional medicine. Based on attitudes, subjects were more likely to use alternative medicine if they were not satisfied with conventional therapy, viewed hospitals as dangerous places, thought that alternative medicine practitioners should have a role in hospitals, and felt their medical situation was hopeless.

Conclusions: Fifty-one percent of respondents used some form of alternative medicine. The use was greater among the North American patients than the European ones. Respondents were more likely to use alternative medicine if they were single, in a higher income bracket, and an urban dweller.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attitude*
  • Complementary Therapies / statistics & numerical data*
  • Data Collection
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / psychology
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / therapy*
  • Ireland
  • Los Angeles
  • Male
  • Manitoba
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Sweden