The microbial world within us includes a vast array of gastrointestinal (GI) tract communities that play an important role in health and disease. Significant progress has been made in recent years in describing the intestinal microbial composition based on the application of 16S ribosomal RNA (rRNA)-based approaches. These were not only instrumental in providing a phylogenetic framework of the more than 1000 different intestinal species but also illustrated the temporal and spatial diversity of the microbial GI tract composition that is host-specific and affected by the genotype. However, our knowledge of the molecular and cellular bases of host–microbe interactions in the GI tract is still very limited. Here an overview is presented of the most recent developments and applications of novel culture-independent approaches that promise to unravel the mechanisms of GI tract functionality and subsequent possibilities to exploit specifically these mechanisms in order to improve gut health.