Background: Oral administration of health-promoting bacteria is increasingly used in clinical practise. These bacteria have anti-inflammatory characteristics and modulate the immune system without major reported side effects. The mechanisms of action are not yet fully defined. Our aim was to study systemic effects of probiotics by measurements of leukocytes as well as local effects on rectal mucosal biopsies after adding a standardized inflammatory stimulus in vitro. Methods: Fourteen healthy subjects were randomized to receive 1010 colony forming units/day orally of the probiotic strain Lactiplantibacillus plantarum 299 (Lp299), n = 7, or Bifidobacterium infantis CURE21 (CURE21), n = 7, for six weeks. Rectal biopsies were taken before and after ingestion of either probiotic strain product, for stimulation in vitro with tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) at 10 and 100 ng/ml respectively up to 8 h. Blood tests were sampled before and after treatment. Lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) confirmed viable tissue. Results: Composition of the intestinal microbiota was not changed. Systemic leukocytes decreased after administration of CURE21 (P<0.05) and Lp299 (P<0.01). Levels of the pro-inflammatory cytokine IL-6 in rectal mucosa after stimulation with TNF-α were attenuated after ingestion of Lp299. No effect was seen with CURE21. Conclusions: Administration of these probiotic strains to healthy humans show both a systemic and local reduction of inflammatory response by lowering leukocyte counts, and for Lp299 IL-6 levels in rectal mucosa. Probiotics may play an important role in the reduction of inflammatory responses expected after trauma during surgery or after pelvic irradiation. Trial registration Clinical Trials, registration number NCT01534572, retrospectively registered (http://www.clinicaltrials.gov).