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Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal Hardcover – 12 Apr 2013

4.4 out of 5 stars 79 customer reviews

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Hardcover, 12 Apr 2013
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (12 April 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393081575
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393081572
  • Product Dimensions: 15 x 3 x 21.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (79 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,074,173 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


As probing as an endoscopy, Gulp is quintessential Mary Roach: supremely wide-ranging, endlessly curious, always surprising, and, yes, gut-wrenchingly funny. --Tom Vanderbilt, author of Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us)"


'Fascinating [and] funny...Roach pulls off the serious stuff, too. She forces us to re-imagine ourselves not as spinal, brain-driven bipeds, but as splendid digestive tube that has evolved limbs, brain and everything else.' Sunday Times

'Gulp is far and away her funniest and most sparkling book, bringing Ms. Roach's love of weird science to material that could not have more everyday relevance. Having graduated from corpses (Stiff), the afterlife (Spook) and sex (Bonk, full of stunts featuring MS. Roach as guinea pig), she takes on a subject wholly mainstream. She explores it with unalloyed merriment. And she is fearless about the embarrassment that usually accompanies it.' The New York Times

'Utterly fascinating...Roach is unafraid to ask questions and her enthusiasm is infectious.' BRSBKBLOG
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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By ACB(swansea) TOP 50 REVIEWER on 1 Jun. 2013
Format: Paperback
Science journalist Mary Roach has chosen the alimentary tract as the subject of her latest book. She takes us on a tour through the digestive tube from the entrance to the back passage with flexible scope for illuminating the journey with extraordinary facts and figures on the way. The tales of eccentric scientists and their studies along with the footnotes are worth the price of admission to the exploration alone. Taste and smell are the doormen for the digestive tract, chemical scanners for possible dangerous elements (bitter, sour) and desirable (salty and sweet). Saliva is more than a lubricant. It contains enzymes that start breaking down food that are also used in laundry detergents. How we chew is a physiological fingerprint and we learn of Fletcherism, chewing each bite at least 70 times to release nutrients, still used today by some as a slimming aid. Chew and spit as a weight loss strategy is mentioned. Elton John was falsely accused of practising this by a tabloid and received healthy damages. Chewing without swallowing is counterproductive. Everything above the neck (smelling, tasting, seeing) drives eating and everything below puts the breaks on. Why do we enjoy crispy, crunchy foods that the food industry has exploited? Why do Inuits prefer Caribou liver, brain, eyes and stomach contents to eat rather than steak, or babies preferring brain and bone marrow over sweet foods when presented with a selection of mashed foods? The likely answers are here.

Air swallowing (aerophagia) or overeating producing burps , belching and heartburn are explained, as are stomach rupture and competitive eating with startling revelations.
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By prisrob TOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 7 April 2013
Format: Paperback
'Laundry detergent is essentially a digestive tract in a box.' Now, where else but in a book written by Mary Roach, the author who loves wierd science, would we learn such a thing? I mean, it makes sense, but I have never seen anyone write those words. In her new book, 'Gulp' etc, Mary Roach takes us from the mouth to the anus, and all the by-ways in-between. It is one of the more fascinating and informative books I have read in a long time. I am a health care practitioner, but I have learned more about our alimentary canal and the research involved in it's mysteries, than any of my Anatomy and Physiology books. There is so much to know and learn, I want to cover it all, but I won't, I will leave it to you to go on this journey.

"The human digestive track is like the Amtrak line from Seattle to Los Angeles; transit time is about thirty hours , and the scenery on the last lag is pretty monotonous". There you have it, from the first bite of food that is first smelled, chewed, oral digestive acids acted up on, moved down the esophagus to the stomach and into the bowels, large and small intestine and then into the anus, where the food that went in is expelled. The circuitous route taken is fascinating.

Chewing leads to a discussion of saliva, and we learn "Bodily fluids, gas and excrement may disgust us once they leave the body, but "we are large, mobile vessels of the very substances we find most repulsive." We learn a lot about 'gas', it's make-up, smell, testing, who makes the most gas, farting, and on and on. Megacolon, the large bowel dilatation that causes much straining to release it's contents and can cause cardiac arrhythmia and death, as it probably did for Elvis Presley.
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Comment 11 of 11 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Paperback
Gulp. Adventures on The Alimentary Canal

By Mary Roach

Though author Roach was recently called "America's funniest science writer" (Washington Post) she is not a scientist and claims that she often times has to fake her way through interviews with the experts. This alone was enough of an endorsement to get my attention, yet I've read her work before and pretty much knew what I was in for. Or did I?

Though author Roach starts off with a non-alimentary canal location (the nose) it's quickly explained that it is through the process of smell that we eat what we do, not necessarily because of how it tastes. Eighty to Ninety percent, to be exact. And on she travels, down our inner tubing, splashing next into the stomach. Since mine is on the sensitive side, I paid close attention to this particular chapter, before moving on down.

"...stomachs can digest themselves. Gastric acid and pepsin digest the cells of the stomach's protective layer quite effectively...the organ swiftly rebuilds what it breaks down. A healthy adult has a new stomach lining every three days."

Food for thought indeed.

The author offers tons of interesting facts, figures and things to consider, here are just a few; Laundry detergent is essentially a digestive tract in a box, fecal transplants can cure intractable C. diff infection, internal cleansings are very unhealthy, humans secrete two types of saliva--stimulated and un-stimulated and Elvis did not die of an overdose. I'm not telling, you'll have to read this baby to find out the truth.

Over the years, as you can well imagine, many, in the name of science, came up with all sorts of reasons why and how the body digested food and ways to help the process along.
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