Friday, 28 November 2014

The Importance of a Catchy Title

Not everyone's favourite view of our insides

The workings of the human digestive system have always been a somewhat embarrassing topic (until one gets older and we are all in the same boat).  So approaching the topic with humor is obviously the way to go.  I've just listened to the author Mary Roach, who writes books about popular science, being interviewed on the radio. Her latest offering is entitled : "Gulp" and its about, I gather, how to keep oneself 'regular' amongst other related things.  We should live in constant appreciation of our marvelous digestive systems, she says.  In fact "we should give a round of applause to the human rectum!" which functions perfectly well if we treat its needs with respect and 'go' immediately we feel the urge, preferably at the same time each day. The author mentions that she was born when her father was 65 (good for him), and that the mood of their household was 'somewhat bowel dependent'.  This was a hilarious interview  (BBC Woman's World, some time this week).  Apparently, titles of the author's previous books include:  "Stiff" (death) and "Bonk" (self-explanatory).  I am sure they are just as entertaining with much sage advice.

1 comment:

  1. I have read some of Roach's other titles, and she is an incredible writer. Stiff was a book about the use of cadavers to forward science and human understanding, Bonk was about the scientific research of sex, some of which Roach participates in herself. Spook was the scientific study of ghosts and for me was somewhat disappointing compared to the other two titles. Bonk was my favorite, of course. She is a wonderful writer and thank you for reminding me about her, I see she has several other titles that I did not know about. I need to catch up with her work. Extremely enjoyable writer.

    One of the neatest explanations of the digestive tract that I have read recently was to describe human beings as being a torus, that is having the topography of a donut. We tend to think of the interior of the gut as being a part of us but actually it is not. It is inside us and our bodies tend to control the environment, maintaining a constant temperature, adding and subtracting water, enzymes, acids etc, not to mention a huge compliment of dead red blood cells giving our emanations its characteristic brown color. Nothing like crapping rust! But the idea of the inside of our digestive tracts being us, part of "self" is wrong. The inside walls of our digestive tract are just as much an exterior border to self as our skin is on the outside. So what is inside is foreign space, a very controlled foreign space, by none the less foreign. It is a vast chemical pit in some places and a microcosm of other life forms, something of a greenhouse, that when well balanced and well behaved treats us well and help us to nourish our insides. Let it get out of balance or the little beasties within us die off and we can be in deep doo-doo.

    So in some ways we should feel less guilty about the various noises and eruptions from "our" digestive tract. It is really not us but rather a long internal tube of foreign space isolated from the exterior world by a series of valves. Yes we have control of what we put into that torus, and some temporary control of what comes out. As such eating beans or cabbage prior to a night of dancing or a yoga session is still something we may want to consider under advisement.

    Another fascinating thing I read is that there is some hopeful research being done with donor poop to treat chronic bowel disorders such as Crohn's disease. Donor poop provides the proper digestive tract flora to correct the problems from the disease. Of course, one can't help but wonder how is the poop donated? Hmmm! Carefully encapsulated. The patient takes oral capsule designed to dissolve when the capsule arrives at the proper locale. Taking donor poop is no more disgusting than taking a vitamin caplet, just don't think too much about what is inside the capsule.