Complementary and Alternative Medicine Use in Pediatric Functional Abdominal Pain Disorders at a Large Academic Center

J Pediatr. 2020 Dec;227:53-59.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2020.08.027. Epub 2020 Aug 13.


Objective: To describe the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in pediatric functional abdominal pain disorders at a large Midwestern pediatric gastroenterology center.

Study design: A survey of patients attending a follow-up visit for functional abdominal pain disorders was completed. Data were collected on demographics, quality of life, use of conventional therapies, patient's opinions, and perception of provider's knowledge of CAM.

Results: Of 100 respondents (mean age, 13.3 ± 3.5 years), 47 (60% female) had irritable bowel syndrome, 29 (83% female) had functional dyspepsia, 18 (67% female) had functional abdominal pain, and 6 (83% female) had abdominal migraine (Rome III criteria). Ninety-six percent reported using at least 1 CAM modality. Dietary changes were undertaken by 69%. Multivitamins and probiotics were the most common supplements used by 48% and 33% of respondents, respectively. One-quarter had seen a psychologist. Children with self-reported severe disease were more likely to use exercise (P < .05); those with active symptoms (P < .01) or in a high-income group (P < .05) were more likely to make dietary changes; and those without private insurance (P < .05), or who felt poorly informed regarding CAM (P < .05), were more likely to use vitamins and supplements. Seventy-seven percent of patients described their quality of life as very good or excellent.

Conclusions: The use of CAM in children with functional abdominal pain disorders is common, with a majority reporting a high quality of life. Our study underscores the importance of asking about CAM use and patient/family knowledge of these treatments.

Keywords: abdominal migraine; functional abdominal pain; functional dyspepsia; functional gastrointestinal disorders; gastroenterology; irritable bowel syndrome.

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Pain
  • Academic Medical Centers
  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Complementary Therapies / methods*
  • Complementary Therapies / psychology
  • Complementary Therapies / statistics & numerical data
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / psychology
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / therapy*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Probiotics / therapeutic use
  • Quality of Life
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Vitamins / therapeutic use


  • Vitamins