6.18.2021

Terrain Theory vs Germ Theory: What’s the Difference?

By Sam Presicci, MCN, RD, LD, CPT

Today, we're diving into the terrain and germ theory. If you're wondering what we're even talking about, then this article is for you! We'll talk through these two central medical theories that relate to immune (and overall!) health, and share how bone broth plays a role, too. There's even a scandalous deathbed confession - drama since the 19th century!

What is terrain theory?

Though the traditional definition of terrain relates to a piece of land, today we're considering YOU the land. Think of your internal terrain as everything that encompasses your well-being. This theory was advanced by the work of Antoine Beauchamp (a contemporary of Louis Pasteur). Sadly, he was widely regarded as crazy during his time.

Yet today, there are millions of dollars being funneled into research investigating the role of the microbiome and resultant susceptibility to disease. It's why the topic of gut health is talked about more and more frequently. It's also why we’re drinking kombucha and raw dairy, eating sauerkraut, and trying to understand the impact of the "good guys" (good gut bacteria!) as they relate to our health.

Terrain theory posits that disease is largely a reflection of your body's internal environment, including its ability to stay resilient in the face of outside threats and invaders. In other words - our wellness dictates your overall risk of illness, not the germs or bugs themselves.

Why is this hugely important right now?

With terrain theory, the thinking goes that the severity of the infection will correlate with the patient’s health status. In other words, the unhealthier the lifestyle and the more out of balance the body is, the more susceptible it will be to disease. And that same disease will be more severe in that unhealthy body compared to a body that is physiologically stable and healthy.

Terrain theory takes into account not just whether or not you are exercising and how you’re eating, but also how you are sleeping and what your stress level is like. It takes into account a whole host of factors. Most importantly, Terrain Theory sees your body as having the potential to be not a victim of illness, but the owner of a body that is made up of terrain not conducive to disease; One that fights pathogens efficiently and beautifully. 

What is the germ theory? 

Germ theory is currently a widely-accepted scientific theory for many diseases. Its premise is that microorganisms called pathogens (AKA - germs!) lead to disease. Microscopically small pathogens invade humans and other living hosts. Louis Pasteur was famous for advancing this theory, and in fact he is called the “Father of Microbiology.” An oversimplification of this theory would be as follows: the body is sterile and vulnerable to attack by external pathogens. Once said pathogens take up residence in the body, you’ll get sick. There’s not much you can do about it. Along the same lines, in order to be truly well, we need to kill all the germs and pathogens and do whatever we can to avoid these organisms in the first place.

With this theory, we are victims and our hope for survival hinges on annihilation of the bugs. 

Though this may sound intense, there are three modern shadows associated with this idea:

  1. The over-prescription of antibiotics.
  2. Fear of fever and overprescription of NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like Ibuprofen and Aspirin.
  3. Overuse of hand sanitizer and antibacterial soaps.

These modern inventions are certainly not bad in all cases. There’s a time and a place for antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizers, NSAIDs, and antibiotics. But since these responses are often fear-based and the cause of illness not fully understood, we see them frequently overused in our modern environment, 

And as for that deathbed confession? Here’s an excerpt from Joel Salatin’s book, The Ecstasy of Being A Lunatic Farmer: 

“Interestingly on his deathbed, Pasteur rose on an elbow during a brief time of lucidity and moaned - ‘Beauchamp was right. It is all about the terrain.’ Then he fell back onto the bed and expired. It’s one of the most famous recantations in all history.”

So, what does this have to do with bone broth?

Here’s the big takeaway. The way we take care of ourselves matters, and the good work we’re doing is not in vain. Our bodies are strong and beautifully complex, and we are still understanding them. We do need to be prepared, but we do NOT need to be afraid.

How bone broth helps your terrain:

  1. Bone broth helps with leaky gut. It helps heal your gut so that you can best digest and absorb the good food that you’re eating. Glycine also aids digestion by enhancing hydrochloric acid production in the stomach. It acts to improve vitamin and mineral absorption and sooth the digestive tract. Since the majority of your immune system is in your gut, a healthy gut means a fully-functioning immune system. Leaky gut, on the other hand, leads to an overactive and eventually weak immune system. 
  2. The amino acids found in bone broth help reduce stress and anxiety by giving the brain the amino acids it needs to be happy. Chronic stress is one of the most significant NEGATIVE impacts on our health and is one of the six leading causes of death.
  3. Bone broth improves respiratory health. The amino acids and antioxidants in bone broth may reduce inflammation in the respiratory system and improve symptoms associated with allergies, infections, and asthma.
  4. Bone broth helps you get better sleep. The amino acids in bone broth may also promote better sleep in some people. An amino acid called glycine has been found to be highly effective in improving sleep. Drinking a cup of broth with dinner or before bedtime is a natural way to promote better sleep.

At the end of the day, rather than thinking of yourself as fragile and broken, try a more hopeful approach instead. Our bodies are strong, and they always want to move from a state of disease to wellness. Taking care of your gut is vital to wellness and illness recovery. When you give your body the tools it needs to do so, your life will change! 

GRAB YOUR JARS OF WELLNESS

 

Additional sources: https://www.amazon.com/dp/0963810960/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_0bWJFbXD32ZTX

https://prairieskyhealth.ca/germ-theory-vs-terrain-pasteur-and-bechamp-duke-it-out/

https://dreddymd.com/2020/01/30/germ-vs-terrain-theory-which-do-we-adopt-to-be-healthy/

http://www.futurehopepediatrics.com/real-immunity