Germ vs terrain theory: Which one causes infectious disease?

In the battle of germ vs terrain theory of infectious disease, who wins? This is the topic of today’s video blog.

Germ vs terrain theory

Recent events have re-hashed a previously settled debate in the scientific community. But nothing has changed in the science community, nor should it.

This debate is more a product of how social media has allowed ideas, good and bad, to spread like wildfire. In a way this is bad because some individuals misinterpret the science and use it for personal gain. However, it gets people interested in science and may help them make better decisions for their health.

This debate was essentially settled back in the late 1800s when germ theory took over. But it’s important to point out the theory that would ultimately win the debate in science began to take shape in the mid-1500s.

Back then, it was basically poo-pooed because it went against the scientific consensus at the time: Miasma theory. Louis Pasteur happened to be the right guy at the right time, but that was 3 centuries later. He was credited with popularizing germ theory in the late 1800s.

So, clearly, allowing competing ideas to develop and scientific debate to occur is good for science on the whole.

Germ vs terrain theory: Tale of the tape

Germ theory posits that infectious disease arises from germs. Basically, bacteria and other microorganisms spread via multiple routes across a population causing a specific type of disease. So, for example, the influenza virus causes the flu or Candida albicans causes thrush.

The modern iteration of terrain theory states that disease arises in unhealthy people. In the modern interpretation, people in poor health become sick, and healthy people don’t.

There are a few problems with this idea. First, “healthy” is such an abstract concept and affected by many things outside of your control. Genetics and age are a couple of good examples.

Second, you can’t prove that a person who has become sick was in perfect health before they got sick. Especially when there is no definition of perfect health. Wouldn’t healthy children, who get sick all the time, be healthy? It makes a lot more sense that they simply haven’t developed immune memory to enough pathogens, which supports germ theory.

Finally, this is not at all what Antoine Bechamp originally put forth as terrain theory. His terrain theory was that disease arose from death and decay. To begin, we all have “seeds” of life called microzymas.

Under optimal conditions, these microzymas developed into a healthy organism. Under poor conditions, aka an unhealthy lifestyle, these microzymas morphed into pathogenic bacteria that would kill the host. So, when people state that Bechamp was right, they are essentially saying that we make the microorganisms that make us sick.

Seems a bit kooky, no?

Is it the germs or the terrain?

In this week’s video we discuss these 2 competing theories and what we should take from them. One important takeaway from this is that the germ theory doesn’t even address the terrain. It simply states that if you have oral herpes, you’ve been infected with herpes simplex virus 1, not the influenza virus.

On the other hand, people pushing modern terrain theory state that as long as you’re healthy, you won’t get sick. Aside from being an oversimplification, there’s a lot wrong with this idea. Especially if your goal is to avoid infectious disease.

It’s not either or, it’s both. But, in today’s world of social media communication, it’s much easier to take the most extreme side of a debate. Unfortunately, this leaves the reader feeling like the child of a chaotic marriage where the parents just shout over one another.

This is unfortunate because there are a lot of good ideas that come out of this camp. Your lifestyle plays a crucial role in lowering your risk for infection, and in preventing severe disease if you are infected. Clearly that concept is a hot topic on this blog centered around lifestyle.

So we’ll chat about that too, and discuss the important lifestyle factors and conditions that increase your risk for infectious disease and severe outcomes.


(00:00) Introduction

(1:45) What is germ theory?

(7:21) What is terrain theory?

(10:13) What are the facts?

(12:54) What affects the terrain?

(20:08) How we used this info to help our 5 yo son

(25:51) Summary

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