In this article you will learn about the difference between Germ Theory & Terrain Theory, their history and what implications they have for how we perceive health, sickness and disease.
When you go to the store and get some milk that’s been pasteurized, this refers to a process like heat or irradiation that’s been applied to kill any pathogens that may have been in the milk. The word “pasteurized” comes from Louis Pasteur, a 19th century French biologist and chemist. Pasteur is famous for many contributions to science and medicine, but one that is less known by the general public is the Germ Theory.
In a nutshell, Germ Theory argues that it is microbes and pathogens which cause disease by invading the body and wreaking havoc. This leads to several important conclusions if it’s true and we will examine them in just a bit. What’s less known about Pasteur is that he had a bitter rivalry with some other French scientists and researchers named Antoine Bechamp and Claude Bernard.
Contrary to Pasteur’s theory, Bechamp and Bernard argued something called Terrain Theory. Through it they postulated that it wasn’t the germs coming in and creating disease, but rather that diseased environments attracted and housed germs in the first place, allowing them to proliferate out of control and cause disease.
This is fundamentally important because it means that germs themselves don’t make you sick, but having a misaligned body that is damaged and functioning poorly does.
As you can imagine, back in the day before much technology or research was available, these two competing ideas would have held very provocative debates. Is it germs and pathogens that cause disease by invading your body? Or is it your body that is misaligned which allows germs to take root in the first place and create problems? How do you prove either?
It’s similar to the debate of nature versus nurture in Psychology, and the proliferation of these theories into different branches of medicine is what has led to the modern difference between alternative and conventional perspectives.
It’s All About Balance
Interestingly, Pasteur is noted to have recanted his Germ Theory on his deathbed. “The germ is nothing, the Terrain is everything,” were his famous last words. Despite this, Germ Theory held on and still holds strong today in its influence over our perspectives of disease and medicine in the Western world.
Because Germ Theory considers the individual parts in a system (the germs) and
separates them from the environment, it draws a series of important conclusions on how to address the problem of disease. Likewise, Terrain Theory considers the environment as more important so it draws a series of completely different conclusions on how to go about curing and preventing disease.
My goal with this article is that you become familiar with these perspectives, understand their points of view and employ them into your toolbelt as an informed person.
Remember, it’s about approaching every problem with a respect for both aspects if we want to be comprehensive. In the end, the issue is not Germ Theory or Terrain Theory, but an imbalanced approach using only one perspective as absolute Truth. Dancing is the result of two things at play, it is the result of duality. This is The Dance of Life, and it is as true for how your DNA is built into a beautiful helix as it is true for two opposing views trying to explain the same observable phenomenon.
Too much of anything is never a good idea. The Universe just doesn’t work that way. It works in cycles, patterns, Yin and Yang. If you employ only one thing without an understanding of its opposite, you will have Momentum. A simple way to understand this would be to do a tree pose or similar balance exercise. If you put too much focus on one of your limbs or directions (up, down, left or right) you will fall off balance. It is only when you find dualities and relationships within your body that you can properly secure balance.
The problem with modern Western medicine is that it has, over the last century and more, taken Germ Theory as the absolute Truth and carried forward with this momentum despite its consequences. There are several historical milestones and reasons why this happened, but more importantly, let’s first take a look at the natural conclusions of accepting one theory over another for your healthcare approach and why Germ Theory became so influential in today’s modern healthcare landscape.
The Rise of Patent Medicine
If you believe in Germ Theory as the absolute Truth, then that means all disease and
dysfunction is caused by some sort of pathogen that you need to defend against. It’s you versus the germs, so what do you do? Well, you’ve got to arm yourself somehow. You’ve got to find ways to kill those little suckers before they kill you. Because you are absolutely sure they are the problem, you have to take control of the defense strategy which, of course, puts the Terrain (your body, immune system, etc.) on the back burner in this holy crusade against the germs.
This also means creating specific solutions for each pathogen because they’re all very different. Because you are taking the reins away from the Terrain (your body, immune system, etc.), you’ve got to introduce outside help to fight this war. This outside help is in the form of chemicals and compounds that you’ve made for different problems. As a result, Germ Theory influenced the development of antibiotics, vaccines, sanitation and pharmaceuticals as weapons against the enemy.
Before we continue, please know that I am not against any of these interventions in principle. Every tool has its uses. You can kill someone with a knife or you can cook a beautiful dinner with it. In the end it is about the awareness behind the tool, and if you use a knife to dig a hole then you are not being very intelligent.
Much in the same way, I believe that our over-reliance, obsession and dogmatism with the above tools as a panacea has led to a very imbalanced approach in healthcare
that is causing many to wake up and want different answers. There are several milestones that over the last 100 or more years have increasingly entrenched
Germ Theory into the mainstream thinking about health and disease. The one worth mentioning in our brief review of history here is the Flexner report.
In the early part of the 20th century, a man named Abraham Flexner, a teacher and educator, was commissioned by Andrew Carnegie to perform a systematic review of the medical schools throughout the country. The purported goal was to standardize medicine and curricula for quality, which is a great idea. Unfortunately, like most great ideas, humans generally screw them up the first couple of times before they really turn out.
For many alternative schools of thought, like naturopathic, homeopathic and herbalist schools, this report led to their removal and discrediting in the healthcare industry. This wasn’t the worst part, though. Carnegie, alongside another mega-wealthy figure that you may recognize, JD Rockefeller, used this event to transform and take hold of the healthcare landscape so that it could become a ripe market for what would later become the pharmaceutical industry and patent medicine business we have today.
You may recognize Rockefeller as the 20th century oil baron that was one of the wealthiest men of all time. So, what does he have to do with healthcare? Did he get tired of making money and have a massive philanthropic change of heart to help the masses be as healthy as possible? If only it was so. Around the beginning part of the 20th century, petrochemicals were discovered. By creating pharmaceutical drugs and medicines, a whole new avenue of business was born — of which, Rockefeller stood to gain billions.
Like many corrupt examples throughout history, the Flexner report was an event that married large sources of capital with academic misinformation to create policy changes for personal gain. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Today, many years later, the conclusions of Terrain Theory have been avoided or outright suppressed in the education of both the people and doctors because, frankly, they aren’t highly profitable. If you believe Terrain Theory, then your focus is not the endless war against germs and outside forces but rather the strengthening of the body.
Chemicals do not strengthen anything, Nature does it for us. Supporting the immune system, supporting proper functioning of the various processes and systems with a complete nutrition program and creating a Terrain that is as inhospitable for disease as possible are the goals of any discipline based in Terrain Theory.
This intuitively makes sense, right? It does for many, except those who have tied their profits to the idea that chemicals and drugs are the keys to health. You can’t patent a vitamin, herb or natural compound. But if you can mimic it or make something that has a measurable result with man-made chemicals that’s a different story. This is the inherent, gross conflict of interest that began in the early 20th century and that has influenced the development and education of the healthcare industry for the last century.
The Price We’ve Paid
For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, and whenever you act without respect for duality there will always be a reckoning. Move with imbalance and the system will find a way to correct you; this is unavoidable. With respect to our current healthcare, the one-sided approach of Germ Theory and its resultant patent-business medicine model has created a host of serious problems that are now coming more and more into question.
By shunning, censoring and removing alternative viewpoints from education and healthcare we have completely ignored the Terrain. As a result, the average US citizen is sicker than their counterpart in any other major industrialized nation. In the 1960’s about 1-2% of children had chronic diseases and today, a few decades later, that number has risen to about 40-50%.(1)
In terms of infant mortality, the US is 33rd out of 36 industrialized nations.(2) And while we were ranked 6th in healthcare and education in 1990, that rank slid down to 27th by 2016.(3) In a study published by the non-partisan Commonwealth Fund in 2017, they found the US to rank last on health outcomes, equity, access and administrative efficiency. Despite outspending many nations on their healthcare, the study concluded that the US system is being outperformed on many levels and has the highest rate of mortality amenable to healthcare.(4)
Our war with germs and disease, in the way that we have been carrying it out, is failing more and more every day because we cannot outpace Nature’s ability to adapt, and we have ignored the importance of the Terrain. The wins claimed by patent medicine are there, but they also stand under a much larger shadow of their costs: billions upon billions in lawsuits to the pharmaceutical companies, chronic diseases at unprecedented rates in adults and children and a mental health and drug abuse epidemic,(5) that together, paint a dark picture of the future if something doesn’t change soon.
This is what happens any time you opt for short-term gains without supporting the long-term ones, and it shows clearly in our track record over the last 50 years. The short-term gains of antibiotics, pharmaceuticals and other interventions have, as a result of their being prioritized over preventative, natural support of the body, cost us the long-term health of our global Terrain.
The average person is toxic, overweight, broken, and worst of all, ignorant of how to truly make a difference in their health. They have bought into the idea that they must wait until they’re sick to do anything, with the expected protocol to throw dangerous chemicals at the problem in hopes of making it go away.
This is the price we have paid with an imbalanced approach to health but, again, I think it is changing for the better.
I want to reiterate that the advances in Western patent or allopathic medicine are not
something to be demonized. Everything has a purpose. An antibiotic can save your life if it is appropriate. But used liberally or thrown in the food supply just to reduce production costs, it will have a long-term trade off that simply isn’t worth it for the short-term gain. The answer lies in realizing how these two perspectives, Germ and Terrain Theory, integrate together and how to implement them accordingly into your own life as a responsible consumer.
How much you lean in each direction is up to you. But understanding where each one shines will help you come up with a proper protocol that isn’t so lopsided.
Germ Theory has helped us create specific, targeted solutions to highly infectious pathogens or serious diseases. There are situations where supporting the Terrain alone will not solve the problem. In these situations, interventions like these are valuable and needed, but by and large the solutions generated from Germ Theory, and in a broader sense allopathic medicine, are short-term in nature or they are aimed at solving a very specific problem.
Terrain Theory, on the other hand, is about supporting your body and immune system to be as ready to combat diseases as possible. As a result, there are many therapies that work with Nature and your body to accomplish this rather than introducing something foreign into the mix like a synthetic chemical or antibiotic.
These solutions are focused on long-term, preventative care and are usually indirect and gentle compared to the harsher, immediate effect of allopathic drugs. Their goal is to support functioning of the body or its systems in general.
Throughout your life you will have both acute (sudden) and chronic (long term) things to worry about. Both of these problems can be approached with medication or through natural methods. This is where you will need to make informed decisions and be a good manager of your health.
My personal philosophy is to do as much as possible to prevent disease naturally by supporting good alignment, and to use medication, chemicals, antibiotics and so on when absolutely necessary and the risk is great otherwise. In these situations, it is warranted and valuable, but the Terrain is still the priority overall.
In the end there is risk with everything, the question is more what kind of risk is meaningful to you and that is why it’s so important to be informed.
When I saw my blood under the microscope for the first time, it was a real trip. Just like a tiny city, it had its nice neighborhoods and its slums filled with bad actors and opportunists. Your body is full of germs, pathogens, viruses, fungi and chaos all the time. If every germ made us sick, I would not have lived to write this article and you would not have lived to read it. Why are some people sicker than others, then? Is it because of the germs necessarily? No. It is the interplay between the germs and the Terrain.
You cannot control movement, the outside world or germs. You can however control alignment, and it requires much less energy than trying to control everything else outside of you. Instead, it requires patience, intelligence and wisdom. You have to
let go and let a higher force take control of the direct outcome while you retain the supportive role in the background.
This can make people feel uneasy in many domains, but it is one of the best things I can teach you in this book because it is true leadership. For your health, you must see that
your body already has an innate intelligence in it that is far greater than anything we could come up with. You simply have to play a supportive role, as well as acknowledge the impact of your decisions on this intelligent system like smoking, drinking excessively, not managing your stress, eating garbage and so on.
Respect the Terrain and the Terrain will respect you in return by doing its job of keeping germs at bay. It has been designed intelligently after all, so remember that Nature always knows best.