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Patterns of Utilization of Complementary and Alternative Medicine in 2 Pediatric Gastroenterology Clinics

Adams, Denise*; Schiffgen, Miriam; Kundu, Anjana; Dagenais, Simon§; Clifford, Tammy||; Baydala, Lola; King, W. James#; Vohra, Sunita*

Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition: September 2014 - Volume 59 - Issue 3 - p 334–339
doi: 10.1097/MPG.0000000000000439
Original Articles: Gastroenterology

Objectives: The aim of the present study was to assess the prevalence and patterns of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) use among pediatric patients with gastrointestinal (GI) disorders at academic clinics in Canada.

Methods: The survey was carried out at 2 hospital-based gastroenterology clinics: the Stollery Children's Hospital in Edmonton and the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) in Ottawa.

Results: CAM use at the Stollery was 83% compared with 36% at CHEO (P < 0.001). The most common reason for not using CAM was lack of knowledge about it. Most respondents felt comfortable discussing CAM in their clinic and wanted more information on CAM. The most common CAM products being taken were multivitamins (91%), calcium (35%), vitamin C (32%), probiotics (14%), and fish oil/omega-3 fatty acids (13%). The most common CAM practices being used were massage (43%), chiropractic (27%), faith healing (25%), and relaxation (18%). Most respondents believed that CAM was helpful, and most of the 23 reported adverse effects were minor. Seven were reported as moderate, and 3 were reported as severe. Many (42%) patients used CAM at the same time as prescription medicines, and of these patients, concurrent use was discussed with their physician (76%) or pharmacist (52%).

Conclusions: CAM use is high among pediatric patients with GI disorders and is much greater among those in Edmonton than in Ottawa. Most respondents reported their CAM use as helpful, with little or no associated harm. Many patients fail to disclose their concurrent use of CAM and conventional medicines to their doctors, increasing the likelihood of interactions.

*CARE Program, Department of Pediatrics, University of Alberta, Edmonton General Hospital, Edmonton, Canada

Department of Urology, University Hospital Bonn, Bonn, Germany

Department of Anesthesiology, Nationwide Children's Hospital, Columbus, OH

§Palladian Health, West Seneca, NY

||Departments of Pediatrics and Epidemiology & Community Medicine, University of Ottawa

Department of Pediatrics, Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Alberta, Edmonton

#Division of Pediatric Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, University of Ottawa, Canada.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Sunita Vohra, Department of Pediatrics, Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry and School of Public Health, University of Alberta, 8B19-11111 Jasper Ave, Edmonton, AB, Canada T5K 0L4 (e-mail:

Received 15 August, 2013

Accepted 12 May, 2014

The work was supported by a grant from the SickKids Foundation. S.V. receives salary support from Alberta Innovates-Health Solutions (formerly Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research). The other authors report no conflicts of interest.

© 2014 by European Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition and North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology,