Complementary and alternative therapies for IBD

Diet is an important part of IBD management. This includes general assessments of overall nutrition and adequate caloric intake. Elemental diets are sometimes used with success to induce remission, though these are poorly tolerated as longterm options and most patients have a return of disease activity once regular diets are re-established. Self-reported food intolerances are common in IBD patients, but exclusion diets have not been shown to be beneficial, and can lead to serious malnutrition in patients who are already at risk for inadequate caloric intake and micronutrient deficiency.
Individual supplemental nutrients are constantly under investigation for benefits in IBD, for their theoretical or observed antimicrobial or antiinflammatory effects in other illnesses or in animal models. As a whole, these therapies may provide at most a mild additive effect to medical management. No individual nutrient has shown success in inducing or maintaining remission as sole therapy. Omega-3 fatty acids are among the most-studied, with individual studies on several other substances like pineapple juice and tumeric.
Complementary and alternative therapies targeted at general well-being, stress relief, anxiety reduction, and pain control may be benificial in any patient with chronic illness, and IBD is no exception. There is no contraindication to trying breathing exercises, biofeedback, acupuncture, aromatherapy and so on. As with all conditions, it is best for the patient and family to work with the medical team and keep them informed of complementary therapy attempts, especially prior to their initiation.


Information & Support

For Professionals

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Information about using complementary and integrative medicine for digestive conditions; National Center for Complementary and Integrative Medicine

Authors & Reviewers

Initial publication: December 2010; last update/revision: January 2011
Current Authors and Reviewers:
Author: Mark Deneau, MD