Patients and physicians often have many questions regarding the role of complementary and alternative medicines (CAMs), or nonallopathic therapies, for inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs). CAMs of various forms are used by more than half of patients with IBD during some point in their disease course. We summarize the available evidence for the most commonly used and discussed CAMs. We discuss evidence for the effects of herbs (such as cannabis and curcumin), probiotics, acupuncture, exercise, and mind–body therapy. There have been few controlled studies of these therapies, which have been limited by their small sample sizes; most studies have been uncontrolled. In addition, there has been a lack of quality control for herbal preparations. It has been a challenge to design rigorous, randomized, placebo-controlled trials, in part owing to problems of adequate blinding for psychological interventions, acupuncture, and exercise. These barriers have limited the acceptance of CAMs by physicians. However, such therapies might be used to supplement conventional therapies and help ease patient symptoms. We conclude that physicians should understand the nature of and evidence for CAMs for IBD so that rational advice can be offered to patients who inquire about their use. CAMs have the potential to aid in the treatment of IBD, but further research is needed to validate these approaches.
- Herbal Medicine