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Germ Versus Terrain Theory

Per Dr. Jockers

What Is the Germ Theory of Health

The germ theory of health believes that germs or pathogens can lead to disease. These pathogens are microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungi, and non-living pathogens, such as viruses. These microorganisms are not visible to your eyes without using magnifications. They can invade animals and humans and cause disease by growing and reproducing in their bodies. Diseases caused by germs or pathogens are referred to as infectious diseases.


The germ theory believes that disease arises due to exposure to germs outside the body. It believes that the function, shape, and color of microorganisms are constant and every disease is associated with specific microorganisms. It believes that we should protect ourselves against germs and tend to support vaccinations as a way of protection.

It pays little attention to the health of our cells and the strength of our immune system, instead, the theory focuses on the idea that disease from germs can strike at anybody. The main emphasis of the germ theory of health is the killing of germs (1, 2, 3, 4).

Origins of the Germ Theory of Health

The origins of the germ theory of health date back to ancient times. Greek historian, Thucydides (460 – 400 BC) has written about the idea that diseases can spread person to person through tiny seeds. Sushruta in the 6th century BC has also theorized that disease may spread person to person through food, touching, sexual contact, and other activities.

Basic concepts of the germ theory of health emerged in the Middle Ages. Physicians Ibn Sina n 1025, Ibn Khatima, and Ibn al-Khatib in the 14th century have discussed its basic ideas. The idea that diseases could spread by seed-like entities was first introduced by Girolamo Fracastoro in the 1500s and expanded upon by Marcus von Plenciz in 1762. In the early 1800s, Agostine Bassi has observed diseases in silkworms caused by parasites and theorized that similar things are happening in humans and animals. 

His work greatly influenced Louis Pasteur, the father of the germ theory of health. Through scientific experiments, Pasteur demonstrated that disease microorganisms in the environment are the ones causing disease instead of the air itself as it was believed at the time.

For example, the idea of “catching a cold,” started before we knew much about microbial life and the thought was that cold air itself could cause you to become ill. Pasteur’s germ theory of health was later further developed by Robert Koch and other scientists laying on the main foundations of our modern-day healthcare (5, 6, 7, 8).

What Is the Terrain Theory of Health

While the germ theory of health believes that disease is caused by germs and can affect anyone, another theory believes that germs cannot cause infection and disease unless the conditions within the body allow it. An unhealthy body may be the feeding ground for the growth and reproduction of these microbes, whereas a healthy body is a poor host where microbes cannot take up residence and cause illness. This is the terrain theory of health.

The terrain theory, also called the ‘cellular theory’ of health looks at the body as a terrain. Your terrain is your internal environment within your body. A diseased and unhealthy body may attract pathogenic germs and cannot fend for itself, whereas a healthy body may repel them or keep them in balance.

The terrain theory believes that disease will happen due to germs inside the body instead of outside of them. It believes that microorganisms change function, shape, and color depending on their environment. It explains that we need microorganisms and they can actually help to develop important metabolic functions and help our bodies if we provide a healthy environment for them.  As science has evolved we have learned about the great importance of the terrain of our microbiome in our health. 

The terrain theory explains that an unhealthy body environment attracts disease, and in order to prevent and fight disease, we need to create health. It places a major emphasis on the health of our cells and the strength of our immune system.

The terrain theory of health tends to be vaccine hesitant and puts less emphasis on killing germs through constant sanitation and use of antibiotics. Instead, the terrain theory looks at germs as an important asset to building healthy homeostasis in the body (4, 9, 10).  This parallels well with restoring balance and homeostasis to our microbiome.

Origins of the Terrain Theory of Health

The terrain theory of health was introduced by Claude Bernard and Antoine Bechamp. This terrain theory of health is the exact opposite of the germ theory of health by Pasteur. It looks at a more holistic look at disease examining the host instead of the invader.

The idea that an unhealthy bodily environment is more likely to attract and be a good host for disease explains why, for example, the exact same flu virus in the same flu season may affect certain people more than others. The terrain theory of health believes in the importance of creating a healthy body through detoxification, nutrition, and lifestyle (4, 9, 10).


Modern Healthcare Is Based on Germ Theory

Western medicine and modern healthcare have been focusing on the germ theory of health for over 150 years. They believe that pathogens, including bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites, and other pathogens are the main cause of infectious diseases. For this reason, they have been playing a major emphasis on sterilization and killing pathogens and tumors. While this has some benefits, there are also many downsides.

If you need surgery, for example, you certainly want an operating room to be clean to avoid infections. Washing your hands and cleaning your hands has its place and benefits. However, this overemphasis on sterilization and killing germs takes away from creating a healthy environment in our body. Over sterilization may actually make you more vulnerable to infections and illnesses.

Our modern healthcare, which is based on the germ theory, puts little to no emphasis on supporting and strengthening the body, instead, it tries to control our external environment and treat symptoms of the disease. On the other hand, holistic, natural, and functional health practitioners, like myself, understand the importance of creating homeostasis within our body, improving our health through nutrition and lifestyle, and optimizing our microbiome and internal environment to prevent disease and improve recovery.

How To Optimize Your Terrain

Most people can relate with both the germ theory and the terrain theory of health and the truth is probably somewhere in the middle.  Very large exposures to pathogenic microbes can be very dangerous, however, small exposures can actually prime our immune system and make our body more resilient to disease. 


The “hormesis” theory of health explains how exposures to dirt, dander and germs early in life and consistently throughout life make our immune system function better.  For example, kids who grow up on farms have much lower rates of asthma, allergies and autoimmune disease as opposed to children who grow up in urban environments.  This is thought to be due to the increased microbial exposure on the farm that challenges the immune system to adapt early in life.

With this said, we know that everyone can benefit from optimizing their terrain or creating a better environment within their body. If you want to experience increased energy, improved health, and more happiness in life, follow my tips on how to optimize your terrain.

(To view the entire article go here:


A More Simplified Explanation

Per Healthy Families for God,

One of the most important things we can understand in order to have the best health possible is that the germ isn't the problem.

It's the terrain that decides whether we get sick or not when exposed to a virus.

It's the terrain that decides whether a bug bite will get infected or not.

It's the terrain that decides if a wound will become infected.

It's the terrain that makes one susceptible to disease.

Our body has 10X more microbes than cells! So you can see that if we have more pathogenic (bad) than beneficial bacteria, it matters more than the health of our cells.

In fact, without any healthy microbes, we’d die. This is why antibiotic resistance is killing an increasing number of people around the world.

Healthy microbes are needed to combat the things that we are exposed to every day.

A healthy terrain will be around 80% beneficial bacteria and 20% other bacteria (physiological unpleasant flora like candida, e. coli, etc.). When this ratio gets flipped, this is when the terrain is prone to welcoming the things we don't want.

Beneficial bacteria on our skin and in our gut fortifies our body's defenses to everything from bug bites to MRSA.

Things that upset the ideal balance of microbes and leave our terrain vulnerable include:

  • Antibiotics

  • Refined sugars

  • Vaccines

  • OTC and prescription pain and fever medications

  • Oral contraceptives

  • Alcohol

  • GMO's

  • Antibacterial hand soaps and hand sanitizers

  • Antibacterial cleaning products

  • Chlorine (swimming pools, tap water, bleach, etc.)

  • Aspartame (artificial sweetener found in diet products)

Things that we must do to support a healthy terrain and beneficial microbe balance include:

  • Most important: Take/consume probiotics/fermented foods daily

  • Use natural antibiotics that don’t negatively affect good microbes (I’m not allowed to detail this on a public post but there are very good ones.)

  • Use natural cleaners

  • Use natural sweeteners like honey, stevia, and maple syrup in place of refined sugars like cane sugar

  • Use a filter for house/drinking water if you have city water



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