Background Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is used often by patients with different diseases. While some authors subsume religiousness and spirituality to CAM, others do not. The objective of the present study was to assess the prevalence and types of CAM usage as well as the participants' spirituality/religiousness in an outpatient department for endocrinology and metabolic diseases. Methods All individuals visiting the outpatient department at a German university hospital from April to June 2009 were offered a standardized questionnaire on the use of dietary supplements and alternative therapies as well as their religiousness/spirituality. Demographic and clinical data of 428 respondents were taken from the electronic health record. Results Of the respondents, 16.4% (n = 66) classified themselves to be religious/spiritual and 67.9% (n = 273) as not religious/spiritual. Women were more religious/spiritual than men (p = 0.02). 41.4% of the respondents used supplements and 27.4% additional therapies. The use of supplements and additional therapies was more frequent in people with higher religiousness/spirituality (p = 0.005 and p = 0.01,resp.) but there were no associations between religiousness/spirituality and the number of consultations, costs for drugs, appraisal of the physicians treatment methods, the perceived effectiveness of prescribed drugs, fear of late complications or of side effects. Conclusions A higher religiousness/spirituality is associated with a more frequent use of supplements or additional therapies in individuals with endocrinopathies or metabolic diseases. As CAM has been shown to be associated with worse outcome, addressing religiousness/spirituality which stresses the responsibility of the person for his life might offer an additional resource and should be further studied.
Keywords: complementary and alternative medicine (CAM); herbs; metabolic diseases; supplements; vitamins.