Review on efficacy and health services research studies of complementary and alternative medicine in inflammatory bowel disease

Chin J Integr Med. 2011 Jun;17(6):403-9. doi: 10.1007/s11655-011-0758-3. Epub 2011 Jun 10.


Objective: To assess the evidence of the use and efficacy for complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Methods: A systematic literature search in MEDLINE was performed for randomized controlled trials (RCTs) in Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. Moreover, a selective literature search for health services research studies on the use of CAM in patients with IBD was performed.

Results: Health services research studies showed a high use of CAM in adult and pediatric patients with IBD worldwide. In contrast to the high use among IBD patients, there was a lack of high-quality data for many of the used CAM methods. Although most of the studies showed positive results, the methodological quality of most studies was rather low; therefore, the results had to be interpreted with caution. While there were many studies for probiotics and fish oil, RCTs for the highly used method homeopathy, for most herbal products, and for traditional Chinese medicine methods apart from acupuncture RCTs were completely lacking.

Conclusions: The lack of high-quality studies might be the consequence of the problems: associated with the funding of clinical trials involving CAM. However, having the high user rates in mind, high-quality studies assessing efficacy and safety of those methods are urgently needed. Furthermore, there is a quality need for better representation of CAM in undergraduate and postgraduate medical education.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Complementary Therapies*
  • Health Services Research*
  • Humans
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / therapy*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Treatment Outcome