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.



I am a state registered dietitian and advisor to The IBS Network, the UK charity for people with irritable bowel syndrome. My specialty is dietary treatment of gut disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome, crohns disease, ulcerative colitis, coeliac disease, lactose & fructose malabsorption and complex food intolerances. I also have experience in dietetic treatment of people who have bariatric surgery and weight management.

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

  1. I was a nurse for 27years up until I had an unsuccessful operation which brought to light a debilitating conditional where I now have limited mobility.
    I spent 8years doing night duty in Nursing home settings (due to having small children at home).
    I decided it was about time I moved back into the hospital field .
    I saw an advert in a local paper offering a “Return to Practice” course. I applied, even though my license hadn’t been out of date but explained when interviewed that I needed to familiarise myself with the NHS paperwork and practice.
    I was accepted so appeared at Uni to meet the other students.
    Sorry, I left out the most important information.
    I have an ileostomy. I’m not going into all the details at present but I made the interview panel aware of my situation and that it didn’t affect my work.
    The class dwindled down to 8 students within the first 5 weeks. We had lectures to attend, placements on wards and also assignments to produce.
    One of the assignments was a teaching assignment which we would be using to educate a new induction of students, on a topic relevant to our placement, using diagrams, statistics and research, hand out,and where possible a demonstration.
    My placement was on a surgical unit where most of the patients had a bowel related iillness.
    I decided that my teaching assignment would be ,
    Educating patients, families and carers about Bowel cancer, treatments , outcomes and stoma care.
    Most of the other students had chosen. Smoking, Alcoholism and woundcare.
    All of my classmates had finished their teaching lectures and the thought of standing in front of everywhere had me wanting to run in the opposite direction.
    One of our tutors stood beside me telling me to go and teach them something they will remember.
    I stood at the front of the hall and started to talk about statistics, signs and symptoms followed by treatments.
    The biggest problem within society , regarding both bowel and kidney problems, is the fact that very few people want to talk about ‘pee and poo’ .
    People are embarrassed to even mention to their own GP, problems they have had or having at present. Most people tend to think along the lines that the problems will “go away” by themselves. That the Dr doesn’t need bothered about something like that. No one seems to realise that the tiniest symptom could lead to early detection and treatment of the problem before it becomes much worse..
    During my teaching assignment , I produced stoma bags. I handed them out for the students to see and described the sensation of different foods and effects certain foods can have on the stoma patient. I then asked the students to remove the protective film from the base of thebag and to stick it to either the back of their hand , their stomach or the top off the arm. To feel what its like to apply a bag and then to start to remove it gently.
    There was a mixture of emotions , clearly visible by their faces. I told them all , to look around them to see the different reactions on the removing a bag from sensitive skin areas.
    I had almost finished my teaching session when I asked if anyone felt confident enough to change a stoma bag on a patient with a stoma.
    My first response was from a lecturer.
    I proceeded to loosen my clothing to expose my bag. The response was amazement. I hadn’t told any of my classmates about my bag , so I then had many questions requiring answers.
    My closing statement was about the importance of talking about pee and poo , as the slightest change could be an early detection of bigger problems.
    Even though we are in the 21st century , many people still avoid the subjects of pee and poo.
    As my young children were growing up, they were “grilled ” about toileting habits. Now that they are grown women,they can talk openly about these problems.
    Just as a footnote , I now have 2 grandchildren , who are 3 and 8 years old who will quite happily talk about pee and poo. If you teach them at this early age maybe there is hope for the future.
    Not all nurses know about every illness, treatment and care, it depends what ward they are working on and the illnesses that ward specialises in.
    About 3 years ago , my mum rang me to ask my advice . it was late in the evening which was unusual but it was the sound of her voice which had me anxious. She said that my Dad was passing blood in his urine. He had pain in his back and was passing urine frequently.
    I told her he needed to see a Dr. As my mum can’t drive , I said I would take him.
    It was a Sunday evening so I to!d her to phone the On call Dr and to ring me to let me know what time the appointment was and where.
    My dad is a very quiet and personal man who was never I’ll and hated to bother anyone. He must have heard mum asking directory enquiries what the number was for the Dr on call phone number was and took the phone from her saying he would wait until the morning and see his own GP. In other words he was hoping it had resolved by then.
    Mum got him an appointment with his own GP who got a sample from him. The Dr phoned a specialist at a nearby hospital to have Dad seen as an emergency. The surgeon was busy but promised to make him an appointment.
    They got home just as the phone was ringing.
    Dad was to be admitted to the hospital for scans, xrays and scope on the Wednesday. By the Friday the results of the scans and scope had shown that he had cancer in the kidneys and would be for surgery on Monday.
    During the surgery they discovered tumors iin the ureter(like a tube from your kidney to the bladder) so they removed it also. The surgeon told my parents that they removed the koidney as it was “dead” and the ureter to try to stop the bladder from developing tumors.
    That is just another example of not talking about pee a d poo.?

    on February 6, 2017 at 4:24 am Shirley Robinson

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