Over the last 10-15 years, our understanding of the composition and functions of the human gut microbiota has increased exponentially. To a large extent, this has been due to new 'omic' technologies that have facilitated large-scale analysis of the genetic and metabolic profile of this microbial community, revealing it to be comparable in influence to a new organ in the body and offering the possibility of a new route for therapeutic intervention. Moreover, it might be more accurate to think of it like an immune system: a collection of cells that work in unison with the host and that can promote health but sometimes initiate disease. This review gives an update on the current knowledge in the area of gut disorders, in particular metabolic syndrome and obesity-related disease, liver disease, IBD and colorectal cancer. The potential of manipulating the gut microbiota in these disorders is assessed, with an examination of the latest and most relevant evidence relating to antibiotics, probiotics, prebiotics, polyphenols and faecal microbiota transplantation.
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Acknowledgements This review was commissioned by the Gut Microbiota for Health expert panel of the British Society of Gastroenterology.