Trillions of microbes inhabit the human intestine, forming a complex ecological community that influences normal physiology and susceptibility to disease through its collective metabolic activities and host interactions. Understanding the factors that underlie changes in the composition and function of the gut microbiota will aid in the design of therapies that target it. This goal is formidable. The gut microbiota is immensely diverse, varies between individuals and can fluctuate over time - especially during disease and early development. Viewing the microbiota from an ecological perspective could provide insight into how to promote health by targeting this microbial community in clinical treatments.