Intestinal epithelial cells apically express glycans, especially α1,2-fucosyl linkages, which work as a biological interface for the host-microbe interaction. Emerging studies have shown that epithelial α1,2-fucosylation is regulated by microbes and by group 3 innate lymphoid cells (ILC3s). Dysregulation of the gene (FUT2) encoding fucosyltransferase 2, an enzyme governing epithelial α1,2-fucosylation, is associated with various human disorders, including infection and chronic inflammatory diseases. This suggests a critical role for an interaction between microbes, epithelial cells and ILC3s mediated via glycan residues. In this Review, using α1,2-fucose and Fut2 gene expression as an example, we describe how epithelial glycosylation is controlled by immune cells and luminal microbes. We also address the pathophysiological contribution of epithelial α1,2-fucosylation to pathogenic and commensal microbes as well as the potential of α1,2-fucose and its regulatory pathway as previously unexploited targets in the development of new therapeutic approaches for human diseases.