The gastrointestinal tract functions as a barrier against antigens from microorganisms and food. The generation of immunophysiologic regulation in the gut depends on the establishment of indigenous microflora. This has led to the introduction of novel therapeutic interventions based on the consumption of cultures of beneficial live microorganisms that act as probiotics. Among the possible mechanisms of probiotic therapy is promotion of a nonimmunologic gut defense barrier, which includes the normalization of increased intestinal permeability and altered gut microecology. Another possible mechanism of probiotic therapy is improvement of the intestine's immunologic barrier, particularly through intestinal immunoglobulin A responses and alleviation of intestinal inflammatory responses, which produce a gut-stabilizing effect. Many probiotic effects are mediated through immune regulation, particularly through balance control of proinflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokines. These data show that probiotics can be used as innovative tools to alleviate intestinal inflammation, normalize gut mucosal dysfunction, and down-regulate hypersensitivity reactions. More recent data show that differences exist in the immunomodulatory effects of candidate probiotic bacteria. Moreover, distinct regulatory effects have been detected in healthy subjects and in patients with inflammatory diseases. These results suggest that specific immunomodulatory properties of probiotic bacteria should be characterized when developing clinical applications for extended target populations.