There is increasing evidence indicating health benefits by consumption of foods containing microorganisms, i.e. probiotics. A number of clinical trials have been performed to evaluate the effects in the prevention and treatment of gastrointestinal diseases caused by pathogenic microorganisms or by disturbances in the normal microflora. Gastrointestinal infections caused by Helicobacter pylori, traveller's diarrhoea, rotavirus diarrhoea, antibiotic-associated diarrhoea (AAD) and Clostridium difficile-induced diarrhoea are conditions that have been studied. There are also studies performed on the preventive effect of probiotics on radiation-induced diarrhoea and diarrhoea in tube-fed patients. Inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome, two idiopathic conditions where alterations in the normal microflora have been implicated as responsible for initiation, are two further areas where the use of probiotics has been regarded as promising. The results from clinical studies have not been conclusive in that the effects of probiotics have been strain-dependent and different study designs have been used. Treatment of acute diarrhoea in children and prevention of AAD are the two most justified areas for the application of probiotics.