Gut: the inside story of our body’s most under rated organ

GUT

BY GIULIA ENDERS

gut cover

This international bestseller “sets out to free toilet talk from its taboo,” according to The Times. In my family there is no such taboo! We talk about our guts, stools and movements often and openly. This isn’t out of vulgarity but more out of necessity as almost all of my nearest and dearest suffer with our guts – from the severity of diverticulitis to that familiar, uncomfortable bloated feeling.

I read Giulia Enders’ superb book in the hope of finding out more than my pill-pushing GP would ever bother to tell me. What I found has really opened my eyes. Enders shows the reader that rather than being the embarrassing, often overlooked body part, the gut is actually a spectacular miracle.

gut pic

We are shown what makes us vomit, the difference in dietary fibre and its effects on us plus how probiotics and prebiotics can help us. Whilst I struggle with mice being used in these experiments (humans please!), researchers are beginning to investigate the importance of “the gut-brain axis.” This includes how bacteria found in the gut can be linked to depression and the true impact of stress on our gut and in turn our mental health. Enders describes how an “emergency situation” develops between gut and brain when a person experiences anger, pressure or anxiety.

This book combining the perfect blend of accessible language with amusing, explanatory graphics (drawn by her sister), makes Gut as entertaining as it is informative. Enders compiles the latest scientific research that shows how the gut can play a role in everything – obesity, allergies, Alzheimer’s – and presents it as simply as one can such a complex organ. (That said the chapters on bacteria needed several re-reads before I got my grey matter around it!) Gut is a brilliant handbook that proves we can all benefit from getting to know our wondrous inner workings a lot better. Read on for some of the bits I found particularly fascinating:

  1. We have two sphincters! They work in tandem to make sure we don’t poop ourselves or break wind at a posh function!
  2. We are going to the loo wrong! We are meant to squat, not sit. Piles, constipation and other digestive diseases are common only in countries where people generally sit to do their business. Sitting piles (oops!) too much pressure on the end of the gut
  3. Booze makes us fart! Alcohol can multiply the number of gas-producing bacteria by a factor of up to a thousand!
  4. Looking to lose weight? You really need to read pages 49 and 50 about olive oil!
  5. the sound of our stomach “rumbling” actually comes from our small intestine. It doesn’t mean we’re hungry but instead it signals that enough time has passed between meals to allow a cleaning up process to begin
  6. Being bunged up when we’re on holiday is common! Travel constipation is due to our gut being a creature of habit. It knows what we usually eat and when, how much we drink and how often we move around. Travel is wrenching our gut out of its routine and who responds well to that?
  7. Calm at the dining table is crucial for the development of a child’s healthy gut and breastfeeding promotes good bacteria in the gut reducing the risk of obesity, intolerances and allergies later in life. No pressure there then Mums and Dads!
  8. How stool transplants work – amazing!
  9. How bacteria makes us fat – interesting, very interesting
  10. How in a US study, a bacteria previously only ever known to live off the coast of Japan was found in the belly button of a volunteer who’d never even been to Asia!

SOUTHSEA BOOKWORM RATING: 9/10

Notes on the author – Giulia Enders:

  • Two time scholarship winner of the Wilhelm Und Else Heraeus Foundation
  • Researching for her medical doctorate at the Institute of Microbiology in Frankfurt
  • In 2012 her presentation of Gut won her first prize at the Science Slam in Berlin and went viral on YouTube
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