The One for the Digestively Challenged and all those with Gut Feelings

Giulia Enders, Darm mit Charme (German 2014, English title : Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ, 2015)

There was a period two years ago when this book was mentioned in every copy of every woman’s magazine I picked up in every waiting room I was sitting. The writer is a beautiful young woman, very far from the cliché of the German scientist or doctor. The book is full of cute little doodles, very far from the expected dryness and complexity of a science book. And since everyone is born equipped with a digestive system that is put to (good?) use every single day, this book has a universal potential audience.

It is informative and fun, but it was too much for me. So much so, that my eyes glazed over soon after I passed the halfway mark and that I only skimmed the rest. This book is an easy target for bad puns, still I’m going to venture there: I could not digest the mass of information. Joking aside, I was slightly annoyed by the constant use of human metaphors to describe the “motivation” and “behavior” of diverse bacteria in our digestive system. It certainly helped understanding complex notions to laypeople like me, but it also felt infantilizing.

Still, I can’t deny that I learnt lots of stuff, especially on the structure of the digestive system. She is quite persuasive on the benefits of having bacteria inside our body, which explains why we shouldn’t use antibiotics but for the most acute illnesses and not for simple colds. The part where I was disappointed not to get more information about is the link between the digestive system and the rest of the body (brain, or other). I wish there would have been more about that topic, which was only alluded to.

Ms. Enders is very enthusiastic and endlessly fascinated by her subject, but it left me a bit cold. It might seem trite, but I couldn’t find a good timing to read this book. Reading it at night seemed too hard, reading it before mealtime made me hungry, and after mealtime made me way too self-absorbed in my own digestion.

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2 thoughts on “The One for the Digestively Challenged and all those with Gut Feelings

  1. Too bad this didn’t do it for you, but it sounds like you learned something. I’ve got a book about the digestive system and microbes coming to me from another library branch shortly called I Contain Multitudes by Ed Yong. I hope it’s not too dry!

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