The gut microbiome is the term given to describe the vast collection of symbiotic microorganisms in the human gastrointestinal system and their collective interacting genomes. Recent studies have suggested that the gut microbiome performs numerous important biochemical functions for the host, and disorders of the microbiome are associated with many and diverse human disease processes. Systems biology approaches based on next generation 'omics' technologies are now able to describe the gut microbiome at a detailed genetic and functional (transcriptomic, proteomic and metabolic) level, providing new insights into the importance of the gut microbiome in human health, and they are able to map microbiome variability between species, individuals and populations. This has established the importance of the gut microbiome in the disease pathogenesis for numerous systemic disease states, such as obesity and cardiovascular disease, and in intestinal conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease. Thus, understanding microbiome activity is essential to the development of future personalized strategies of healthcare, as well as potentially providing new targets for drug development. Here, we review recent metagenomic and metabonomic approaches that have enabled advances in understanding gut microbiome activity in relation to human health, and gut microbial modulation for the treatment of disease. We also describe possible avenues of research in this rapidly growing field with respect to future personalized healthcare strategies.