A systematic review of integrated traditional chinese and Western medicine for managing irritable bowel syndrome

Li CY1, Ain Mohd Tahir N, Li SC. Am J Chin Med. 2015;43(3):385-406. doi: 10.1142/S0192415X15500251. Epub 2015 Apr 27.
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1Department of Gastroenterology, The First Affiliated Hospital of Dalian Medical University, Dalian 116011, P. R. China.


Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has been commonly used by Chinese practitioners to treat irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). However, the effectiveness of combining TCM with Western medicine in managing IBS has not been evaluated systematically. In this study, we evaluated the clinical effectiveness of combining TCM and Western medicine in the treatment of IBS via meta-analyses. We reviewed 72 eligible randomized controlled trials from January 2009 to December 2013 investigating the effectiveness of integrated TCM and Western medicine in the management of IBS. In the meta-analyses, the relative risks (RRs) and 95% confidence interval (95%CI) were calculated using raw data from each study, and low heterogeneity was detected. When compared to the Western medicine treatment alone, our result showed TCM combined with Western interventions significantly improved IBS global symptoms (RR, 1.21; 95%CI: 1.18-1.24). Additionally, there was no significant difference in therapeutic effects of the integrated approach in the meta-analyses involving the various IBS subtypes. Likewise, both Chinese proprietary herbal medicine plus conventional treatment and compound herbal preparations plus conventional treatment showed similar and statistically significant effects on global improvement compared with western treatment alone, with RRs of 1.22 (95%CI: 1.14-1.30) and 1.22 (95%CI: 1.18-1.27), respectively. These results demonstrated that treating IBS with integrated traditional Chinese and Western medicines showed better effectiveness than conventional Western medicine alone. Although due to the quality of the included studies, our results might possess a high risk of bias. TCM, particularly Chinese proprietary medicine, with the benefits of low-cost, easy to use, and good palatability, would be an attractive option to be used in conjunction with conventional Western medicine to manage IBS patients.

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