More people are seeking natural alternatives to medicine and products containing probiotics have flooded the marketplace. Probiotics are safe and tolerable but their value remains unknown. Studies are being done with specific illnesses to see if probiotics work and how.

A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial found that the probiotic Saccharomuces boulardii (S. boulardii) does not appear to have any significant beneficial effects for patients with Crohn's disease who are already in remission.

Probiotics are microorganisms that data has shown can benefit an individual's health. S. boulardii is a probiotic made from a strain of yeast and sold in local drug stores or supermarkets as capsules. It has been shown effective in the treatment of traveler's diarrhea, diarrhea occurring in subjects infected with the human immunodeficiency virus and the prevention of diarrhea associated with antibiotics. 

Previous data said S. boulardii had beneficial effects but the new study in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology did not find that S. boulardii prevents clinical relapse in patients with Crohn's disease.

In the randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, the probiotic yeast S. boulardii was tested as a preventive therapy in patients with moderately severe Crohn's disease who were currently in remission following steroid or salicylate therapies. At the end of the one-year follow-up period, 50 percent of patients had relapsed — 47.5 percent in the S. boulardii group and, similarly, 53.2 percent in the placebo group. Further, the time-to-relapse was not statistically different between patients treated with S. boulardii or placebo.

While this probiotic showed no positive effects for Crohn's disease patients, further studies are needed to determine the potential therapeutic efficacy of probiotics in other forms of IBD, such as ulcerative colitis and pouchitis.

Citation: Arnaud Bourreille, Guillaume Cadiot, Gérard Le Dreau, David Laharie, Laurent Beaugerie, Jean–Louis Dupas, Philippe Marteau, Patrick Rampal, Dominique Moyse, Ashraf Saleh, Marie–Emmanuelle Le Guern, Jean–Paul Galmiche, FLORABEST Study Group, 'Saccharomyces boulardii Does Not Prevent Relapse of Crohn's Disease', Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology Volume 11, Issue 8 , Pages 982-987, August 2013  DOI: 10.1016/j.cgh.2013.02.021