Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is used increasingly by patients with chronic diseases. We have assessed the use of CAM in general medicine and gastrointestinal outpatients focusing particularly on factors predisposing to its use in patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
239 consecutive patients attending gastrointestinal and general medical outpatient clinics answered a questionnaire about their use of CAM: patients with IBD also completed a validated disease-specific quality of life (QOL) inflammatory bowel disease questionnaire (IBDQ).
26% of all patients used CAM, most commonly herbal remedies (43%). CAM was used significantly more by younger than older patients and by single than married or widowed ones. There were no differences by gender or ethnicity. More patients with irritable bowel syndrome used CAM than those with other diagnoses. In IBD patients, CAM users had significantly poorer QOL scores for emotional and social factors than nonusers. 53% of users stated that CAM alleviated their symptoms.
Use of CAM is common in gastroenterological outpatients, particularly if they are young, single, or have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Most patients deem it helpful. In IBD, poor QOL predisposes to use of CAM. Conversely, use of CAM may serve as a marker of emotional or social unease in these patients. Physicians need to be aware of widespread usage of CAM by their patients.