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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Reader's Digestion
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...
Published 16 months ago by ACB(swansea)

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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Funny but sometimes at the expense of accuracy
Let me first say i very much enjoyed reading this book. Mary Roach is an accomplished and personable writer with a style that makes a refreshing change from some of the rather dry reading provided by other popular science books.

However i did notice a few inaccuracies in 'Gulp' such as the notes on the origin of the term 'Quack' and more worryingly the doubts...
Published 17 months ago by Journeyman


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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Reader's Digestion, 1 Jun 2013
By 
ACB(swansea) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
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. The small bowel is not given much detail (it absorbs digested food) although stories of 'tummy' rumbles due to gas (borborygmi) led patients to believe they had snakes, frogs or newts inside them sometimes resulting in needless surgery, in the 1800's. The large bowel (colon) and beyond are more interesting to the author. Smuggling drugs, mobile phones, razor blades, but not explosives, either by swallowing or rectal insertion (hooping) are covered. Flatus and it's many properties are discussed in detail with anecdotes of the dangers of its flammability. Megacolons (both grossly increased in length and diameter) are linked to constipation and death. Elvis Presley is subjected to lengthy speculation concerning the role of his large bowel in the cause of his demise. The colon is a drying machine with the products stored in the rectum before passage to the sensitive anus ('it has to know what's knocking on it's back door') before defaecation. The use of per anum (via the anus) is amusingly confused with per annum (yearly). Hence the Sri Lankan importer who needed 3,600 metric tons of garlic per anum and someone who questioned how many people died from horse riding per anum?

Mary Roach has given a humorous well-researched account of the subject in her inimitable style. As a doctor I am familiar with the digestive tract and particularly enjoyed the history, bizarre facts and presentation from a completely different perspective. Recommended as a funny and educational read without laying the science on too thickly.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars You Are What You Eat, 7 April 2013
By 
prisrob "pris," (New England USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
'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. Mary Roach spent a great deal of time in her research for this book, traveling the world. Somehow she knew what questions to ask, who to meet, what experiments to take part in.

This really is one of the best books I have read this year. I am a mystery lover, and this book has uncovered mysteries I never knew existed.

"Most of us pass our lives never once laying eyes on our organs, the most precious and amazing things we own. Until something goes wrong, we barely give them thought. This seems strange to me. It is, of course, possible that I seem strange. You may be thinking, 'Wow, that Mary Roach has her head up her a**.' To which I say, 'Only briefly, and with the utmost respect!" Mary in her own words!

Recommended. prisrob
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Seriously funny, 29 Mar 2013
I've been lucky enough to read a preview copy of her book. I was an enormous fan of Bonk, and whilst I was dubious that I'd be as entertained during "Gulp" as I'm not a fan of scatological humour and I'm a doctor- so I'm fairly familiar with the alimentary tract- I had underestimated Mary Roach. I think she'd be top on my list for a fantasy dinner party. She takes ordinary things and thinks about them in the most extraordinary way. So this isn't a dull journey through biology, instead it touches on topics ranging from tasting cat biscuits to smuggling smartphones up your bum into jail to why suicide bombers have never "bodypack" their explosives. There is more focus on the top end and the bottom end (to be honest there really isn't much of interest to say about the jejunum no matter how enquiring your mind is) but it a substantial length and you never get tired of it. If you enjoyed her previous books, or are just curious about the human body you will love this. Also a great gift for any scientist in your life.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mary Roach never disappoints, 13 Sep 2013
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However disgusting it gets, it's impossible not to keep on reading. Immense fun, and the knowledge slips down easily. The digester's read.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Fun and fascinating as long as you have a strong stomach, 30 Sep 2014
By 
Brian Clegg "Brian Clegg" (Wiltshire, England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal (Paperback)
I have to be honest, I wasn't particularly looking forward to this book, and put off reading it for quite a while. In part this because anything vaguely medical makes me feel queasy, while as someone who suffers from a serious chronic gastrointestinal problem, Mary Roach's subtitle 'adventures on the alimentary canal' was not encouraging. As it happens, though, the experience was not all bad.

In her usual style, Roach pulls in a lot of characters along the way, from sword swallowers to 'fartistes' (sic) including the inevitable lighting of inflammable gasses, which is where a lot of the fun in the book comes from. Her humorous writing style lacks the subtlety of a Bill Bryson - if I'm honest, I find it a trifle irritating - but a lot of people do like it, with newspaper reviews describing it as 'seriously funny' and 'laugh a minute.'

What's more you certainly will learn a lot more about a part of our bodily system that few of us (who don't suffer from GERD) give little thought to as we pile in the food, really forgetting it after the eating part of the experience, and then dispose of the, erm, detritus from the other end. So it genuinely is educational and sometimes fascinating. I particularly enjoyed, for instance, the section on being swallowed alive, where at least there was a chance to get away from the human digestive tract for a while.

This is without doubt a good book, which is why I've given it more stars than I would on my own personal reaction. However, to get the most out of it, I think it's fair to say you need a strong stomach, which I don't have. So I'm afraid it's a book that is more likely to get flushed than to come back for a second tasting.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating look at some things you don't always think about, 21 Sep 2014
By 
Anne (Sheffield, Yorkshire) - See all my reviews
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This book is a clever idea and mostly I found it fascinating. It is the story of our digestive system from the mouth (saliva, taste, tongue, etc.) all the way through the body to the end ... The author tells us some science about it, some anecdotes about strange anomalies that people have had, and how scientists have discovered the facts about our body as well as some of the inaccurate ideas that they had in the past.

The book is a bit of a mixture and dots around from topic to topic whilst keeping in the same area of the body. What is included seems to be at the author's whim rather than anything systematic so you learn more science about one part of the body and more anecdotes about others. I liked the eclectic nature of the content and found the stories and science equally fascinating.

The author has a particular writing style which involves humorous quips as asides and footnotes. This is quite amusing to start with but rather grates by the end - a little too much of a good thing. She is also rather obsessed with what her interviewees are wearing.

I wouldn't say that the book was gruesome but it is dealing with bodily functions (you can work out which ones) and thus is quite graphic in places. Some of the anomalies people have had in their digestive systems are described with a certain amount of glee and there is also some description of some disturbing animal experiments (in the past). I didn't have an issue with any of this because it all added to the book and the story that the author was telling but if you get a bit queasy you might want to avoid some of the pages.

I was pleased I had read this book - I was entertained and informed.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Instructive and entertaining, but selective rather than comprehensive, 9 Dec 2013
By 
T. D. Welsh (Basingstoke, Hampshire UK) - See all my reviews
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Like other reviewers I was struck by Mary Roach's pleasant, humorous take on the many wonderful and disgusting facts about the alimentary canal. Of the 17 chapters, about six and a half relate to the anus, rectum, and intestines and their products. There are also chapters on what goes on in your mouth when you eat, how much you can eat before you burst (literally), the properties of saliva, why some foods smell and taste more attractive, etc. What I missed - and what I really bought the book to learn about - was a systematic account of digestion, and how the oesophagus, stomach, duodenum, and small intestine work together to process food and extract nutrients. Whether because the author failed to find sufficiently colourful scientists doing research on those subjects, or because they are too well (or inadequately?) understood, I found little useful material of that kind. But don't let that put you off (unless you too are seeking specific information). It's almost impossible to read this book without learning a great deal, thinking "eeeeeew" from time to time, and laughing quite often.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars For Anyone Curious as To How Your Tubing Works---& It's Hilarious Too, 4 Sep 2013
By 
Jay Gilbertson "Published Author" (Prairie Farm, WI USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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. Take Horace Fletcher, the nut-case who instigated a famous fad for extreme over-chewing called Fletcherizing. He suggested that the best and most efficient way to get the biggest buck from every bite was to chew one's food until it was completely liquefied. Talk about long lunches!
Then author Roach researched the famous surgeon William Beaumont's case proving once and for all how little chewing is needed to digest most foods completely. It was done under rather unsavory conditions, but makes for some fascinating after-lunch reading.

Trust me, read it after.

She also delves into stuffing yourself for a living, using the lower intestine to transport items, nose-picking frequency and the history of flatulence research (you won't believe the ending).

"If things go as they should, the bacteria hysteria so lucratively nurtured by the likes of Purell and Lysol will begin to subside."

According to Roach, Bacteria is what keeps our system literally chugging along, without it, well, things that should move on and out (think grown children) can turn into all sorts of discomforts. She does hop around a great deal and touches on pet food science for some bizarre reason, but overall this is a hilarious as well as informing read.

"Most of us pass our lives never once laying eyes on our organs, the most precious and amazing things we own. Until something goes wrong, we barely give them thought."

This book will give you much to chew on.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must read!, 13 May 2013
Too few people understand their insides, not giving food or its digestion a second thought once swallowed. This beautifully written book brings comedy to science. Everyone should read it so they understand more abou their bodies.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful read about all those things we don't ant to talk about, 26 May 2013
By 
Harold Toms (Crawley in West Sussex UK) - See all my reviews
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I really enjoyed reading this book. It is not one for the squeamish but if you want to find out, in a light hearted manner, how your digestive system works then read this book. It is well written, amusing, enlightening.and I am more than happy to give it it's 5 star rating.
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Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal
Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal by Mary Roach (Paperback - 6 Mar 2014)
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