Hormones from the gastrointestinal (GI) tract are released following food ingestion and trigger a range of physiological responses including the coordination of appetite and glucose homoeostasis. The aim of this review is to discuss the pathways by which food ingestion triggers secretion of cholecystokinin (CCK), glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP) and glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) and the altered patterns of gut hormone release observed following gastric bypass surgery. Our understanding of how ingested nutrients trigger secretion of these gut hormones has increased dramatically, as a result of physiological studies in human subjects and animal models and in vitro studies on cell lines and primary intestinal cultures. Specialised enteroendocrine cells located within the gut epithelium are capable of directly detecting a range of nutrient stimuli through a range of receptors and transporters. It is concluded that the arrival of nutrients at the apical surface of enteroendocrine cells is a major stimulus for gut hormone release, thereby coupling these endocrine signals to the arrival of absorbed nutrients in the bloodstream.