Gut [Book Review]

Everyone has heard their stomach growl. I’m currently at an airport on a Sunday after skipping breakfast, and I’m experiencing this at this exact moment. I always thought it was just one of the ways your body communicated to you when it’s an ideal time to eat again. However, this is the acoustical effect caused an internal process called the “migrating motor complex,” which is a fancy way of saying how the stomach and intestines are doing a routine cleanup of your digestive tract. The stomach releases a powerful wave into the small intestines to “sweep away” the interior walls of all residual food particles for some internal maintenance.

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This is one of the many new facts that I learned while reading Gut, by Giulia Enders. You would think that this book would be another book of boring fact as of old…..the stomach is filled with acid to break down food, the liver creates bile to help break down fats, the small intestines is made up of villi and microvilli…..blah blah blah. But it turns out there is so much more that the author gladly writes about, and she knows which facts are enticing for the audience to discover, regardless of their background. And it all starts with the topic of pooping.

What a way to capture an audience’s attention, right? The story of the cooperative tango between your two sphincters making up the rectum: one voluntary…..one involuntary. While the internal sphinctor is constantly moving material through out of your system, you have the final say when it comes to “cleaning out the back end,” regardless if it’s solid, liquid……or gas.

And don’t worry, there’s more “shit” where that came from, halfway through the book!

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Reviewing the underlying themes in this book, food digestion by itself is roughly only a third of the material. Another large chunk is the interaction between the digestive and immune systems. Tonsils are known to play a strong role in bacterial and viral detection, playing the role of a sampling center delivering a small dose of what the body can expect down the road. The appendix has been theorized to have a similar role with the additional function as a microbial warehouse that is extracted after the person has gone through diarrhea and flushed all the beneficial microbes out of their large intestines.  While the entire gastrointestinal system has many additional sites for collaboration, the tonsils and the appendix are commonly known to have the largest concentration of inflammable tissue from bacterial-immune cell interaction. Thus, these two locations tend to have a higher rate of surgical removal in our current age.

The last third of the book is on your gut micro-biome. While most of the bacterial in your body thrive in the large intestines, they also survive and have an apparent impact in your mouth (cavities), your stomach (ulcers), and your small intestines (inflammation). While bacteria are mostly associated with negative events, it’s rarely ever a parasitic relationship. Many bacteria supply assistance in the breakdown of complex molecules, the production of essential nutrients, and the regulation of hormonal balances in the body. There is evidence that these gut residences can play a significant role in their host’s mood and unconscious desires, sometimes even suicidal ones!

All of this information, including theadditional subjects not listed above, captivated my attention and flowed smoothing between chapters. While no non-fiction book is a page-turning thriller, I always looked forward to the next page in this novel.

One of the largest barriers in reading a non-fiction book is for the audience to keep track of all the unfamiliar terminology. This is not an issue here. Remember the term “migrating motor complex?” It’s only stated once, as it’s a simple name tag in case one wants to dig through a dusty, out-of-date text book that’s been waiting for some love at the bottom of your bookshelf…….sorry, old radar handbook of mine. While it does help that Gut is about the human body, a topic we are acquainted with on a daily basis, the author does take great care to remove any literary road blocks and make the eye-opening theories stand out.

I also have to bring up the illustrations throughout the book. They are all done by the author’s sister, Jill Enders. And they are a riot! They make the book seem childish at times, but they always related to the scientific text in such a creative way. Graphics in a book not just help explain the topics in a book, but they also help you remember prior chapters and allow one to look back at the work as a whole and re-navigate it if backtracking or re-capping is necessary.

As you can tell, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. If the author has another novel on the shelves, I’m definitely picking it up. Giulia has proven to me that reading her books is worth the investment, and this includes the numerous “small talk” subjects that have occurred since I started reading this book around a month ago.

 

Random fact: Sea squirts digest their own brain once they settle down…… a habit that I’m grateful that humanoids, myself included, don’t possess!

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