A Review of “Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal” by Mary Roach

WARNING: If you have a weak stomach don’t read this book! 

I decided to read this book because I’m always looking for ways to improve my health in general. In “Gulp” Mary Roach talks about the different organs that make up the digestive tract, such as the nose, stomach, and colon among others. She also talks about how chewing more thoroughly can help digestion and weight loss in general, and help people eat less. She also talks about some less attractive topics such as spit, flatulence, and constipation.   She also talks about how our pets’ digestive systems are different from ours. Elvis fans may enjoy reading the chapter on his megacolon. Chapters in this book include:

  • Nose Job: Tasting has little to do With Taste
  • I’ll Have the Putrescine: Your Pet is Not Like You
  • Liver and Opinions: Why We Eat What We Eat And Despise the Rest
  • The Longest Meal: Can Thorough Chewing Lower the National Debt?
  • Hard to Stomach: The Acid Relationship of William Beaumont and Alexis St. Martin
  • Spit Gets a Polish: Someone Ought to Bottle the Stuff
  • A Bolus of Cherries: Life at the Oral Processing Lab
  • Big Gulp: How to Survive Being Swallowed Alive
  • Dinner’s Revenge: Can the Eaten Eat Back?
  • Stuffed: The Science of Eating Yourself to Death
  • Up Theirs: The Alimentary Canal as a Criminal Accomplice
  • Inflammable You: Fun with Hydrogen and Methane
  • Dead Man’s Bloat: And Other Diverting Tales From The History of Flatulence Research
  • Smelling a Rat: Does Noxious Flatulence Do More than Clear a Room?
  • Eating Backward: Is the Digestive Tract a Two-Way Street?
  • I’m All Stopped  Up: Elvis Presley’s Megacolon, and Other Ruminations on Death by Constipation
  • The Ick Factor: We Can Cure You, But There’s Just One Thing

What I Liked About “Gulp”

Mary Roach provided A LOT of information about the alimentary canal, and some of it, like the chapter on eating yourself to death, and the alimentary canal as a criminal accomplice, went beyond just talking about the digestive tract in general, so it didn’t seem like I was reading a college textbook on the digestive system. I also liked that Mary Roach talked a lot about her experiences talking to different experts on the alimentary canal and digestion.

What I Disliked about “Gulp”

This book is NOT for people who don’t have at least a basic understanding of the digestive system and how it works. I wish Mary Roach had spent a little more time, in the beginning, explaining the digestive system and the different parts of it – although I know a bit about it, from having gone with my husband to a few of his doctor’s appointments with gastroenterologists, there were still a lot of topics that Mary Roach covered that I didn’t understand.


If you made it to the end of this review and feel this book might be worth checking out, I definitely recommend it, if you think you can make it through some of the more “icky” topics that maybe didn’t spark your interest. If you’ve ever had stomach or digestive problems, it may put things into a different perspective for you. You purchase this book on Amazon by clicking the “Buy” link above, you can listen to an audiobook version of it on Scribd.