Complementary and alternative medicines and dietary interventions in multiple sclerosis: what is being used in South Australia and why?

Complement Ther Med. 2009 Aug;17(4):216-23. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2009.03.001. Epub 2009 Apr 21.


Objectives: To investigate the usage patterns of complementary and alternative medicines (CAMs), as well as dietary interventions, by South Australian people with multiple sclerosis (MS).

Design: Self-administered postal survey.

Setting: Questionnaire mailed to recipients of the South Australian (SA) MS Society newsletter (n=1230).

Main outcome measures: Patterns of CAMs use and dietary interventions, reasons for using/not using CAMs in MS, sources of CAMs information and monthly expenditure on CAMs/dietary interventions.

Results: A total of 428 surveys were returned (response rate 34.8%) of which 416 met the inclusion criteria for analysis. The majority of SA people with MS who responded reported using CAMs/dietary interventions (64.7%). Respondents with tertiary education and those with mild and moderate disease reported highest CAM use. The most frequently used CAM product categories were vitamins (81.8%), essential fatty acids (80.7%) and minerals (62.5%). Commonly used herbal products included Ginkgo biloba (18.2%) and valerian (16.4%). Popular diets were the low fat (39.8%), low/no sugar (23.8%) and gluten-free (16.4%) diets. The majority of those using CAMs/dietary interventions did so concurrently with conventional treatments (72.1%). Reasons for use included: general health and well-being; to alleviate 'general' as well as specific MS symptoms such as muscle weakness, urinary or memory problems and mobility. Conventional health professionals, and friends/family, were the most common sources of information. Monthly expenditure was most commonly AUD$20-49/month.

Conclusion: This study reports frequent use of CAM/dietary intervention amongst SA people with MS. The majority of users did so in conjunction with conventional treatments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Complementary Therapies / statistics & numerical data*
  • Educational Status
  • Fatty Acids, Essential / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Minerals / therapeutic use
  • Multiple Sclerosis / therapy*
  • Nutrition Therapy / statistics & numerical data*
  • Phytotherapy
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • South Australia
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Vitamins / therapeutic use


  • Fatty Acids, Essential
  • Minerals
  • Vitamins