“No Solid Conclusions” for Alternative/Complementary Therapies for Inflammatory Bowel Disease

In this clinical review (N Chande et al Inflamm Bowel Dis 2020; 26: 843-51) assess evidence from Cochrane reviews of four popular nontraditional treatments for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD):

  • Fecal Microbiota Transplantation (FMT)
  • Nutritional Therapies including Enteral Nutrition (EN)
  • Naltrexone for Crohn’s Disease (CD)
  • Cannabis for IBD

So what does the literature have to say about these treatments:

  • FMT: FMT for mild to moderate ulcerative colitis (UC) increased the proportion of patients achieving clinical remission. “However, the number of included studies was small and the quality of evidence was low.”  Other problems included uncertainty regarding serious adverse events and short duration of followup.
  • “As a result, no solid conclusions [the authors did not indicate this as a pun] can be drawn at this time.”

  • Nutritional Therapies: For remission in CD, “EN may be more effective than corticosteroids in children, although the opposite was true in adults.”
  • “Exclusion diets did not promote clinical remission or reduce clinical relapse in UC”
  • “The overall certainty of evidence in these studies were generally very low, largely due to sparse data.”

  • Naltrexone for Crohn’s Disease (CD): “The paucity of data makes it impossible to draw any firm conclusions about the effectiveness and safety” of low dose naltrexone.

  • Cannabis for IBD: “The risk of adverse events was significantly higher in cannabis-treated patients”…though these events were generally mild (eg. sleepiness, confusion, nausea).
  • “The results of these studies suggest that cannabis is not effective for the treatment of IBD”  This conclusion is limited by the small number of patients in prior studies.  Cannabis may be helpful as an adjunct for some symptoms though this “warrants further study.”

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