Abstract Serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine, 5-HT) is present in abundance within the gut, most stored in enterochromaffin cell granules. It is released by a range of stimuli, most potently by mucosal stroking. Released 5-HT stimulates local enteric nervous reflexes to initiate secretion and propulsive motility. It also acts on vagal afferents altering motility and in large amounts induces nausea. Rapid reuptake by a specific transporter (serotonin transporter, SERT) limits its diffusion and actions. Abnormally increased 5-HT is found in a range of gastrointestinal disorders including chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, carcinoid syndrome, coeliac disease, inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) with diarrhoea (IBS-D), especially that developing following enteric infection. Impaired SERT has been described in IBS-D and might account for some of the increase in mucosal 5-HT availability. 5-HT3 receptor antagonists inhibit chemotherapy-induced nausea and diarrhoea associated with both carcinoid syndrome and IBS. While IBS-D is associated with increased 5-HT postprandially, IBS with constipation (IBS-C) is associated with impaired 5-HT response and responds to 5-HT4 agonists such as Prucalopride and 5-HT4 partial agonists such as Tegaserod.