A new study shows that people living in rural areas, and young children in particular, are at a lower risk of developing inflammatory bowel disease. 

Researchers at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario, the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, and the Canadian Gastro-Intestinal Epidemiology Consortium discovered that environmental factors can either help or hinder gastrointestinal health. 

IBD infographic

Rural residents have a lower rate of contracting inflammatory bowel disease, compared to people who live in urban areas. (CHEO/Supplied)

"Our findings show that children, particularly those under the age of 10, experience a protective effect against IBD if they live in a rural household," said Eric Benchimol, lead author of the study published Tuesday in the American Journal of Gastroenterology.

"The findings also strengthen our understanding that environmental risk factors that predispose people to IBD may have a stronger effect in children than adults."

children's hospital eastern ontario cheo logo sign ottawa

The Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa was one of the research units of the new IBD research study. (CBC)

Lifelong health conditions like Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis fall under the umbrella of IBD. The symptoms can include an inflamed digestive tract, abdominal pain and weight loss. 

Canada has one of the highest rates of IBD in the world, with cases rising among young children, according to the researchers.