Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis represent the two main forms of the idiopathic chronic inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD). Currently available blood and stool based biomarkers provide reproducible, quantitative tools that can complement clinical assessment to aid clinicians in IBD diagnosis and management. C-reactive protein and fecal based leukocyte markers can help the clinician distinguish IBD from noninflammatory diarrhea and assess disease activity. The ability to differentiate between forms of IBD and predict risk for disease complications is specific to serologic tests including antibodies against Saccharomyces cerevisiae and perinuclear antineutrophil cytoplasmic proteins. Advances in genomic, proteomic, and metabolomic array based technologies are facilitating the development of new biomarkers for IBD. The discovery of novel biomarkers, which can correlate with mucosal healing or predict long-term disease course has the potential to significantly improve patient care. This article reviews the uses and limitations of currently available biomarkers and highlights recent advances in IBD biomarker discovery.