We say we, humans, are at the top of the food chain.
We are in the food chain.
We eat food to provide energy for all our activities, but there are billions of organisms that eat us. We worry about big organisms like sharks, but our real dangers come from some that are minute, micro-organisms, organisms that are so small you need a microscope to see them.
Some micro-organisms are useful, the ‘friendly’ bacteria, commensal, meaning they share the table. They use our waste products in our large colon. The large colon or bowel contains the food that we cannot digest and absorb into our bodies, such as fibre or roughage, usually cellulose. We don’t have the enzymes to digest these food types. If we cannot digest it this undigested food moves into our large colon. This undigested food, waste, provides food for micro-organisms in our guts. In return, their waste that they excrete into our guts is stuff we need such as Vitamin K. As they say ‘one man’s meat is another man’s poison’.
Unfortunately, a few of these microbes are not friendly. These other microbes are ‘pathogenic’, causing us disease either by their growth or by their waste.
I have just succumbed to a tiny virus. I feel like I have gone a few rounds with a heavy weight boxer, Mohammed Ali or somebody of that calibre in their day. But no. Merely a virus a few microns across (a micron, or micrometre, is a millionth of a metre). I am providing lunch for said virus, They are providing waste products that are making me feel wiped out.
This process of infection is causing temperature changes that may only be a rise of a degree or so, but can make you feel so bad. Going from say 36.8 Celsius to 37.8 is pretty bad. Half a degree above that, 38.4 is the start of that awful feeling, fever. You become very visceral, aware or all your muscles and bones.
That the human body can fight back (the process is called homeostasis) and return you to normal is amazing.
I don’t want to become one of those people that obsess about their health, but perhaps we can become a little too blasé. The body we have is the only body we have.
I hope none of you succumb to the micro-organisms that seek you out for their lunch, able to bring down people and nations.
But it is worth remembering that so far, more of us have died from pathogenic micro-organisms than all the wars put together.
We are definitely not at the top of the food chain.