Why your wind smells of roses – The Life of Poo book review

Well now, a book all about poo, why would anyone want to read this you may ask, surely the grim subject of poo is not something to read about – certainly not in public or polite company, I imagine you thinking. This thought briefly entered my head as I picked up the book in the bookstore and I do confess, even as a professional working in the area of digestion and more than happy to talk about poo in clinic, I purchased it online – it came in a brown package. If you are wondering whether to read on – this is not a post for those with a ‘delicate’ disposition (who perhaps belong in the eighteenth century) or one to read on your tablet at the breakfast table. You have been warned.

It might surprise you to know, you really ought to read this book. How can I persuade you to take a quick peek? How about the post title? Have you ever said, with an air of superiority, ‘my wind smells of roses, that smell cannot possibly be down to me’? You are correct it seems, at least in very small doses anyway. The ‘flower’ odour usually appears at much lower doses than is produced by a ‘silent but deadly’ however, but I’d bet you didn’t expect that did you? Adam writes that skatole and indole, the gases found in malodorous wind, smell of flowers in small concentrations.

A very surprising incident happened whilst out walking yesterday, my hubby stated this very fact when smelling hawthorn blossom. Wow, I thought, how does he know that? I really couldn’t believe it, I had only read this fact in Adams book the day before.  Well the story behind his knowledge is a bit more grim than Adam’s fascinating publication. So now I have told you about my husbands experience you want to know about it, don’t you? My husband is a chemist, he worked in a company making pharmaceutical products, one of which utilised the chemicals indole and skatole – “oh, good grief”  I exclaimed, “what sort of pharmaceutical product uses those?” “dog trainer liquid” was the response – the mind boggles. My husband had the unfortunate experience of contaminating his lab coat with these very chemicals and not only that, then proceeded to wander down to the restaurant in said lab coat, at lunch time. Chaos ensued, this had the effect of teaching him the very good lesson of removing his lab coat before dining, which one should always do, to prevent ingestion of nasty chemicals and nauseating diners. He showed absolutely no sense of embarrassment though, surprisingly enough and regaled the story with a good degree of relish.

Now, back to the topic in hand. This book is factually correct, very amusing in places and does have a small reference to irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease in it’s chapters – something for everyone then! It discusses the microbiota, antibiotics, prebiotics, probiotics and the microbiota’s relationship with health and disease. Very topical and containing everything of interest to me. I really like the examples used in the book to describe some complex concepts in simple easy to read form. If you want to know more about poo – yes you really do, think of it this way, it’s like looking in the bowl before flushing, you know you really should (but DO put the lid down before the flush, read a lot more about that in the book) – then I can’t think of a better book to buy.

 

This book was purchased by myself.

Which path will you choose?

You might consider that this post is not relevant to IBS, but everyone has to make some changes, when diagnosed with a medical condition. Changes perhaps try a new diet, a new medication or treatment, these naturally will require some change to a persons usual lifestyle. I was lucky enough to train with an inspirational dietitian during my clinical placements and one experience I had during training was listening to my mentor explaining to a patient, using the metaphor of a path, for explaining the challenges of changing any behaviour that we need to, in life. She explained that choosing to change a behaviour is like choosing a path to walk and the path we all use as a default, as human beings, is often the easy, well trodden route. Or the path of least resistance. This is a human trait – it is certainly not being lazy, a comment I often hear from people – you are not lazy – you are human. Making changes is challenging, a difficult path to follow, often with steep slopes, an uneven, meandering, overgrown path – a formidable terrain. Initially both paths follow close to each other.

Often, when starting out on a demanding route, it is very easy to start to follow the more difficult path and step from the difficult route back to the easy one. This is very much to be expected – but when this happens, look behind you – how far have you come? You now have a decision to make – and this decision is solely yours, so take full ownership of it. You can continue to follow the well trodden route, consider what this will ultimately achieve – weigh up the costs and benefits of staying on your chosen path. If you choose to stay on the well trodden path then do not feel disappointed, don’t berate yourself for your choice. You have made a choice and there will be very good reasons for it. Maybe this is not the time for difficult challenges and believe it or not, it is perfectly acceptable to reach such a conclusion. Walk a little further and consider again whether you are ready to try the more difficult path, it will always be possible to step back onto it, from the easy route. People can hop from one path to the other a few times before they find that they are actually some way down the tough route and realise that the path actually does have very manageable sections. Now the easy path is some way in the distance and this tougher path has surprisingly become the new default. Think about the achievement you can make and the views you can expect to see, when following the challenging paths in life!

Why does asparagus make your wee smell? – Book Review

My husband has received this book as a Christmas present and I am afraid he has not had much chance to read it yet! I am a bibliophile and I also have a passion for graphic design and chemistry (I gained a degree in polymer science and technology before I studied dietetics.) This book covers all my passions and as such I’m afraid I pinched it on the very day he received it and have not put it down yet. Of course he can have it back 🙂 – but he doesn’t usually settle down to read a book present immediately he has opened it (unlikely a bibliophile then!) and he does know I have it, so I am not being that mean!

Now back to the book, it is written in a very clear and understandable way, very important for a book covering the chemistry of popular food science and the info-graphics are a great way of showing the compounds involved. I wish info-graphics were available when I learned about chemistry, as my method of learning is very much visually I would have found this process a little easier. The author Andy Brunning is a chemistry teacher in Cambridge who is also the author of the website http://www.compoundchem.com/ which has similar blog posts, the website is really worth a visit if you have an interest in chemistry. I cannot find any negative aspects to this book, even the price is affordable for a hardback.

Some of the questions that particularly attracted my attention were:

Why do some people hate Brussels sprouts? – this might not be the reason you are thinking of!

Why do beans give you flatulence? Yes, this is the very reason you are thinking – I have also written about this very problem here, they are a fodmap!

Why are some people allergic to nuts?

Does MSG cause Chinese restaurant syndrome?

Of course, other posts might be more interest to you. The book has references at the back for all you scientists out there to do some further reading – although I guarantee this will be a little less stimulating.

 

Coriander carrots

My love of the carrot is growing – it really is a very versatile vegetable and the colour it provides to dishes adds a bit of warmth during the winter. Carrots partner very well with coriander and I have decided to use my gnocchi recipe to see if it works with carrot in place of parsnips – it appears that it does, but one word of warning – ensure you cook the carrots well and puree them before you add the flour to ensure you can roll them and they have the correct texture.

Ingredients

400g Carrots

70g of gluten free flour

2g of coriander stalks chopped finely

Coriander seeds to garnish

salt + pepper

Method

Cook the carrots till very soft and puree

add the flour, coriander stalks, salt + pepper and mix well

Roll into a 1cm width sausage on a floured board and cut even 1 cm strips.

Roll into a ball and flatten with a fork.

Boil till they float in water.

Serve

I thought I would add a picture of this little chap with his orange (red) breast – he was very friendly!

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Gulp, Adventures on the Alimentary Canal – a review!

gulpGulp – Adventures on the Alimentary Canal, is the perfect book for my blog! This is a wonderful lighthearted trip down the digestive tract with lots of fun, facts and interesting comments. Mary writes genuinely funny chapters on diverse subjects such as designing pet food (your pet is not like you – really, you should read this), how to survive being swallowed alive to the exploits of surgeon William Beaumont who experimented on the hapless Alexis St Martin who was left with a fistula from his stomach to the surface of his skin after a shooting – facilitating many a gruesome experiment. Sounds a bit ghastly but Mary treats each subject in such a cheerful way you really wouldn’t know it.

Just the ticket if you have some spare Christmas cash left over – I read the book in less than a weekend, couldn’t put it down and couldn’t stop laughing. I will leave you with a taster 😉 from the back of her book

“How have physicists made crisps crispier? What do laundry detergent and saliva have in common? Was self-styled ‘nutritional economist’ Horace Fletcher right to persuade  millions of people that chewing a bite of shallot 700 times would yield double the vitamins? Did Elvis actually die of constipation?”

Now – tell me you are not even a little interested?

 

This book was provided as a birthday gift from a friend – couldn’t resist telling everyone about it.

Off to London again!

I am planning another trip to London tomorrow, this time to Imperial college London for a course on allergic gastrointestinal disease. I am looking forward to the lecture on eosinophilic oesophagitis and gastroesophageal reflux and other upper GI motility disorders.

IMG_1523modThis is the course, I was very lucky to have been sponsored by Allergy UK to attend the training.

http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/cpd/courses/subject/medical/allergy/gastro

I will blog about my trip and let you know how I get on.