Public Health. 1998 Jul; 112(4): 269-71.
The role of complementary medicine in European and Asian patients with inflammatory bowel disease.
Gastrointestinal Research Unit, Leicester General Hospital.
Three hundred and eighty-two patients with known inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) (190 European and 192 Asians) and 190 with coeliac disease were sent a previously validated questionnaire to investigate patients' use of alternative medicine and their views on its effectiveness. Details sought included whether they have ever consulted an alternative practitioner, whether they had followed a course of treatment and its clinical effects. Information about where patients had heard about such alternative practitioners and whether they were told to discontinue their current allopathic medication was sought. Results were analysed after three consecutive mailings, including one in Gujurati to Asian patients. A randomly selected group was re-interviewed four months later. To validate the study alternative medicine practitioners were also interviewed to investigate what percentage of their attendees have IBD and how many of those clients were Asians. One hundred and fifty-eight questionnaires were returned from European patients with IBD (response rate = 83%), 145 from patients with coeliac disease (response rate = 76%) but only 81 Asian patients with IBD (response rate = 42%). Forty-seven European and Asian patients with inflammatory bowel disease sought advice or treatment from an alternative practitioner, compared with only 11 with coeliac disease (chi(2) = 11.64, df = 12, P < 0.003). There was no significant difference in consultation rates between Asian and European patients with IBD (Yates corrected chi(2) = 0.78, ns). The most common practitioners consulted by all groups were homeopaths (n = 23) and herbalists (n = 27) but 20 patients consulted more than one practitioner at a time. Patients with coeliac disease and European patients with IBD had consulted osteopaths (n = 6) and reflexologists (n = 7). Ten patients with IBD had also attended a spiritualist and five Asian patients a hakim. Common sources of information about alternative remedies included friends and relatives (n = 13), the media (n = 11), word of mouth (n = 11) and family practitioners (n = 6). Most patients were advised to continue their current medications, although two had been told to stop and 10 advised to reduce the dose of their allopathic medications. Twenty alternative medicine practitioners stated that overall between 2-5% of their attendees have IBD with 10% of those clients being Asian. Asians preferred to consult Asian practitioners rather than European practitioners. There was no clear consensus as to whether complementary therapies were felt beneficial, although many patients with IBD believed them to be helpful.