Use of alternative and complementary therapies by inflammatory bowel disease patients in an Italian tertiary referral centre



Alternative and complementary therapies are increasingly used by patients with inflammatory bowel disease, but no data are available on their use in Italy.


To ascertain the prevalence and pattern of the use of alternative and complementary therapies, and demographic and clinical factors associated with their use in a large sample of Italian inflammatory bowel disease patients.


A structured questionnaire was administered to a cohort of outpatients at a tertiary referral centre.


Five hundred and fifty-two patients completed the questionnaire; 156 (28%) reported using alternative and complementary therapies, which mainly involved homeopathy (43.6%), followed by controlled diets or dietary supplements (35.5%), herbs (28.2%), exercise (25.6%) and prayer (14.7%). Alternative and complementary therapies were used to ameliorate intestinal symptoms (52.5%), in the hope of being cured (41%) and to reduce the intake of drugs (39.7%). An improvement in well-being (45.5%) and inflammatory bowel disease symptoms (40.3%) were the most commonly reported benefits. A higher education (p = 0.027), a more frequently relapsing disease (p = 0.001) and dissatisfaction with the doctor’s communication (p = 0.001) correlated with alternative and complementary therapy use. Non-compliance with conventional drugs, disease severity and curiosity regarding novel therapies were predictors of alternative and complementary therapy use.


Alternative and complementary therapies are frequently used by Italian inflammatory bowel disease patients. Doctors should improve their empathy and their understanding about possible benefits of alternative and complementary therapies.


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