In order to understand common conditions such as coeliac disease and Crohn's disease, one must view the gut in its evolutionary context. This is the novel approach to the gut and its diseases that is adopted in this book. The first part tells the story of the evolution of the gut itself – why it came about and how it has influenced the evolution of animals ever since. The second part focuses on the evolution of immunity and how the layers of immune mechanisms are retained in the gut, resembling the strata revealed in an archaeological dig. The final part, The Gastro-Archeologist, ties the first two together and highlights how understanding the gut and immune systems in their evolutionary context can help us understand diseases affecting them.
Ambitious in its scope but telling a unique story from a refreshingly novel perspective, the book offers an informative and enjoyable read. As the story of the gut, immunity and disease unfolds, the author aims to endow readers with the same sense of awe and excitement that the subject evokes in him. Difficult concepts are illustrated using simple and colourful analogies, and the main content is supplemented with anecdotes and unusual and amusing facts throughout the book.
The book is intended for anyone with an interest in the gut, its immunity and diseases, ranging from school and college biology and biomedical students to professionals working in the field, and to patients suffering from intestinal diseases who want to understand more about their conditions.
Dr Jeremy Woodward is a consultant gastroenterologist working at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge. He specialises in diseases of the small intestine and clinical nutrition, which extends from tube-feeding techniques to intestinal transplantation. He lectures on gastroenterology and nutrition in the Medical School at Cambridge University where he is also a communications skills facilitator, and he teaches gastrointestinal physiology to undergraduates at Christ's College (where his own career started). An enthusiastic wildlife observer and photographer he particularly enjoys studying moths in his back garden and hunting reptiles when on holiday in warmer climes.
Charlie E. Manning comes from a long line of creative folk. Educated in Saffron Walden, Essex and in Cambridge, she has worked within the art industry in roles such as college technician, art and antiquities custodian and art materials advisor and retail for over 20 years. She chose to refresh some of her skills and studied illustration and visual communications with the Open College of the Arts. Whilst pursuing various creative avenues, she enjoys trying to incorporate recycling wherever possible, being a history nerd, folklore enthusiast, appreciator of traditional crafts and an avid plant collector. Working predominantly in pen and ink, gouache, coloured pencil, mixed media collage and Lino printing, she takes inspiration from the natural world and can be found recharging her batteries outdoors, preferably in the dappled shade of woodland amongst the flora and fauna, taking lots of photographs and possibly hugging a tree. Currently dwelling near the Fenlands of East Anglia. She is a devoted auntie to her nieces and nephews and works part-time in floristry.
"The Gastro-Archeologist occupies an informative and engaging middle ground. [...] Woodward tackles difficult concepts with relative ease, and The Gastro-Archeologist promises readers a fresh perspective on how eating, digestion, and the diseases they engender came about – and the ways in which we can begin to tackle them. Woodward's unique take encourages us to question and reinterpret the ways we view the gastrointestinal system, challenging us to look beyond the superficial, step back, and take in the bigger picture."
– Jennifer Thorley, The Lancet, Vol. 6, August, 2021