Influence of environmental factors in the development of inflammatory bowel diseases

World J Gastrointest Pharmacol Ther. 2016 Feb 6;7(1):112-25. doi: 10.4292/wjgpt.v7.i1.112.


Idiopathic inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), Crohn's disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC), are multifactorial diseases that are manifested after disruption of a genetic predisposed individual and its intestinal microflora through an environmental stimulus. Urbanization and industrialization are associated with IBD. Epidemiological data, clinical observations and family/immigrants studies indicate the significance of environmental influence in the development of IBD. Some environmental factors have a different effect on the subtypes of IBD. Smoking and appendectomy is negatively associated with UC, but they are aggravating factors for CD. A westernized high fat diet, full of refined carbohydrates is strongly associated with the development of IBD, contrary to a high in fruit, vegetables and polyunsaturated fatty acid-3 diet that is protective against these diseases. High intake of nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drug and oral contraceptive pills as well as the inadequacy of vitamin D leads to an increased risk for IBD and a more malignant course of disease. Moreover, other factors such as air pollution, psychological factors, sleep disturbances and exercise influence the development and the course of IBD. Epigenetic mechanism like DNA methylation, histone modification and altered expression of miRNAS could explain the connection between genes and environmental factors in triggering the development of IBD.

Keywords: Crohn’s disease; Environment; Epigenetics; Ulcerative colitis.

Publication types

  • Review