Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is characterized by chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract and is associated with significant morbidity. The etiology of IBD has been extensively studied during the last several decades; however, causative factors in disease pathology are not yet fully understood. IBD is thought to result from the interaction between genetic and environmental factors that influence the normal intestinal commensal flora to trigger an inappropriate mucosal immune response. Although many IBD susceptibility genes have been discovered, similar advances in defining environmental risk factors have lagged. A number of environmental risk factors have been explored, including smoking, appendectomy, oral contraceptives, diet, breastfeeding, infections/ vaccinations, antibiotics, and childhood hygiene. However, most of these factors have demonstrated inconsistent findings, thus making additional studies necessary to better understand the etiology of IBD.
Keywords: Crohn's disease; Inflammatory bowel disease; environment; epidemiology; risk factors; ulcerative colitis.