Understanding Gut Sensations: Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Diagnostic Fluidity in Danish Clinical Practice

Med Anthropol. 2023 Sep 8:1-14. doi: 10.1080/01459740.2023.2248354. Online ahead of print.


Camilla Brændstrup Laursen 1Rikke Sand Andersen 2 3Marie Louise Tørring 3


Author information

1Department of Research and Development, The Prehospital Emergency Medical Services, Central Denmark Region Aarhus, Denmark.

2Department of Public Health, Family Medicine, University of Southern Denmark Odense, Denmark.

3Department of Anthropology, Aarhus University Aarhus, Denmark.


Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a prevalent health challenge in a Danish welfare context. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork at two Danish gastroenterology clinics, and inspired by Charles E. Rosenberg's idea of styles of explaining widespread diseases, we outline three styles of understanding and treating gut trouble in daily clinical work: "The microbial gut," "the mindful gut," and "the lifestyled gut." Moreover, we suggest the concept of fluidity to characterize IBS as a diagnostic category that allows clinicians and patients to operate through complex understandings of permeable boundaries between body, mind, and environment to negotiate personalized solutions for embodied gut sensations.

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