Alternative medicine

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Many people with digestive disorders have used some form of complementary or alternative therapy. Some commonly used therapies include:

  • Herbal and nutritional supplements
  • Probiotics
  • Fish oil
  • Acupuncture

Side effects and ineffectiveness of conventional therapies are primary reasons for seeking alternative care.

The majority of alternative therapies aren't regulated by the FDA. Manufacturers can claim that their therapies are safe and effective but don't need to prove it. In some cases that means you'll end up paying for products that don't work. For example, studies done on fish oil and on probiotics for the treatment of Crohn's haven't shown benefits to using these products. What's more, even natural herbs and supplements can have side effects and cause dangerous interactions. Tell your doctor if you decide to try any herbal supplement.

Some people may find acupuncture or hypnosis helpful for the management of Crohn's, but neither therapy has been well studied for this use.

Unlike probiotics — which are beneficial live bacteria that you consume — prebiotics are natural compounds found in plants, such as artichokes, that help fuel beneficial intestinal bacteria. An initial study on prebiotics had promising results. More studies are under way.

Aug. 09, 2011

You Are ... The Campaign for Mayo Clinic

Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit organization. Make a difference today.