The human gut harbours a tremendously diverse and abundant microbial community that correlates with, and even modulates, many health-related processes. The mucosal interfaces are particularly active sites of microorganism-host interplay. Growing insight into the characteristic composition and functionality of the mucosal microbiota has revealed that the microbiota is involved in mucosal barrier integrity and immune function. This involvement affects proinflammatory and anti-inflammatory processes not only at the epithelial level, but also at remote sites such as the joints. Here, we review the role of the gut microbiota in shaping local and systemic immune responses and how disturbances in the host-microorganism interplay can potentially affect the development and progression of rheumatic diseases. Increasing our understanding of how to promote host-microorganism homeostasis could therefore reveal novel strategies for the prevention or alleviation of rheumatic disease.