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A Multimethod Research Study On The Use of Complementary Therapies Among Patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Marja J. Verhoef, PhD, Cathie M. Scott, MSc, and Robert J. Hilsden, MD, MSc, FRCPC

The use of complementary therapies is widespread in North America.1,2 Although most people rely on conventional medicine, they often turn to complementary healthcare if they feel that conventional medicine is limited or has somehow failed.3 This phenomenon applies especially to those with chronic conditions. Until recently, most North American physicians seemed unaware of the widespread use of complementary medicine and of the great diversity of the therapies involved.4 According to several studies,1,5 a substantial number of patients do not inform their physicians regarding their use of complementary therapies.

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) comprises a spectrum of diseases affecting the bowel—the most common of which are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Those with IBD live with a chronic, incurable condition that impairs their quality of life.6 Conventional medical therapies are used to induce and maintain remission. However, long-term remission—especially for Crohn’s disease—is unusual. Patients therefore must frequently take intermittent courses of potent medications for the treatment of active disease. Unfortunately, the most effective remission- inducing medications, corticosteroids, have serious side effects that limit the patient’s acceptance of these drugs.

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