Published online Aug 7, 2012. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v18.i29.3814
Revised: March 26, 2012
Accepted: March 29, 2012
Published online: August 7, 2012
Besides their possible effects on the development of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), some environmental factors can modulate the clinical course of both ulcerative colitis (UC) and Crohn’s disease (CD). This review is mainly devoted to describing the current knowledge of the impact of some of these factors on the outcome of IBD, with special emphasis on smoking and diet. Although the impact of smoking on the susceptibility to develop CD and UC is firmly established, its influence on the clinical course of both diseases is still debatable. In CD, active smoking is a risk factor for postoperative recurrence. Beyond this clinical setting, smoking cessation seems to be advantageous in those CD patients who were smokers at disease diagnosis, while smoking resumption may be of benefit in ex-smokers with resistant UC. The role of dietary habits on the development of IBD is far from being well established. Also, food intolerances are very frequent, but usually inconsistent among IBD patients, and therefore no general dietary recommendations can be made in these patients. In general, IBD patients should eat a diet as varied as possible. Regarding the possible therapeutic role of some dietary components in IBD, lessons should be drawn from the investigation of the primary therapeutic effect of enteral nutrition in CD. Low-fat diets seem to be particularly useful. Also, some lipid sources, such as olive oil, medium-chain triglycerides, and perhaps omega-3 fatty acids, might have a therapeutic effect. Fermentable fiber may have a role in preventing relapses in inactive UC.