Complementary Medicine Risks and Benefits

Complementary medicine includes a variety of treatment options that are not considered conventional medicine. It’s important to discuss your interest in complementary medicine with your healthcare provider before starting. Complementary medicine may be used in tandem with your prescribed medications. 

How often is complementary medicine used?

A 2012 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) found that complementary medicine is used by

  • 33.2% of adults 
  • 11.6% of children

Dietary supplements, other than vitamins and minerals, were used by 17.7% of American adults in the past year.

We know that the use of complementary therapy use is high among IBD patients.

Weighing the risks

Before deciding to incorporate complementary therapies into your treatment plan, it’s important to weigh the potential risks and benefits. Unlike conventional medicine, complementary therapies are not regulated by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA). There is generally less research on the safety and effectiveness of complementary medicine as compared with traditional medicine. 

Although we are seeing an increasing number of scientific trials in IBD, there is a need for more well-designed studies that address the following questions: 

  • Is there an adequate number of patients in the study to be meaningful? 
  • Are the complementary therapies in patients with mild disease, moderate and severe disease?  
  • Is the research a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study
  • Is the study designed to answer a specific medical questions (outcomes)? 
  • Is the study free of commercial or other bias?