Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) use is reported to be higher among patients with irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease; however, demographic predictors and reasons for utilization for all GI conditions are less clear.
To determine prevalence, predictors, and reasons for CAM use among all patients attending a gastrointestinal (GI) clinic in a single academic center.
Adults attending outpatient GI clinics at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center completed a questionnaire to assess CAM utilization as well as perceived benefits, harms, and costs of CAM therapy. Fisher’s exact test was used to compare statistical differences between CAM and non-CAM users.
Survey questionnaires were completed by 269 patients. Prevalence of CAM use was 44 % (95 % CI 38–50). Users were more likely to be female (81 vs. 56 %, p < 0.01) and dissatisfied with conventional treatment (22 vs. 8 %, p < 0.01). There was no significant difference in age, race, education, income, GI diagnosis, and duration of symptoms between the two groups. Users reported “wish to feel generally better” as main reason for utilization, and a majority of patients (62 %) experienced improved GI symptoms. Among patients who did not discuss CAM with their physicians (30 %), they cited physician failure to ask about CAM as the major reason (82 %).
CAM is prevalent among patients attending a GI clinic, particularly among women and those who are dissatisfied with conventional therapies and “wish to feel better.” Greater awareness and understanding of CAM among GI physicians is necessary.