Germ Theory or Terrain Theory of Disease?

Germ Theory or Terrain Theory of Disease?

Germ Theory or Terrain Theory of Disease?Germ Theory or Terrain Theory of Disease?

When I was in Medical School I was taught one of the main theories of which “modern medicine” is based called “germ theory”. This is a theory that says microorganisms (especially bacteria and viruses) invade and infect the body, thereby causing disease.


According to the germ theory, a pathogen is the principal cause of the disease while other factors such as environmental and hereditary factors also influence the severity of the disease. This theory was introduced and proven by many scientists. It was aided by the invention of the microscope by Anton van Leeuwenhoek. This theory was then  supported by scientific experiments and proof given by two scientists Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch. This theory underpins a significant proportion of Modern Medicine.

It this theory that, in many ways, is responsible for the birth of vaccinations and  antibiotics. We cannot deny that there have been some important discoveries in modern medicine due to the Germ Theory.

Germ Theory or Terrain Theory of Disease?


There is another theory called Terrain Theory

Terrain theory states that diseases are results of our internal environment and its ability to maintain homeostasis against outside threats. Terrain theory believes if an individual maintains a healthy terrain, it can handle outside invaders or threats which cause diseases. When terrain is weak, it favors the microorganisms. Hence, the health depends on the quality of an individuals’ terrain.

The word ‘terrain’ is used to refer to the internal environment of our body. Terrain theory was initiated by Claude Bernard and was later developed by Antoine Béchamp (1816–1908).

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The key difference between germ theory and terrain theory is this:

  • Germ theory states that germs are the primary causative agents of most diseases.
  • Terrain theory states that our internal environment the primary agent responsible for the diseases and microbes are only given the “advantage” to grow and proliferate within a certain environment.


One of the most interesting twists in this story, is that Pasteur recanted on his deathbed over his entire life work, stating that “the microbe is nothing; the milieu is everything.” Another way of stating these words is that it is not the germ that causes disease, but the terrain in which the germ is found.

Wow!  Many other systems of medicine are based on the terrain theory.  I like to call this an expanded view of creating health. This is a public health need!

Awareness of the intestinal microbiome’s critical importance in overall health has increased in recent years. and Hippocrates was the one who said “all disease begins in the gut”. So why are we not talking more about the Terrain Theory? Why are we not spending more $$$ to support lifestyle factors to build a strong terrain?

When it comes to working within my scope of practice as a Holistic Health Coach, dedicated to diet and lifestyle modification to “create health”  I focus on the terrain of your body. I focus on building a strong internal ecosystem —with good nutrition, stress management, exercise, mind/body practices, a strong microbiome and low toxic load and many other factors.

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1.”Germ theory.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, inc., 27 Feb. 2017. Web. 27 June 2017.
2.”Germ vs Terrain Theory – Which Do We Adopt To Be Healthy?” NaturalNews Blogs. N.p., 12 Nov. 2015. Web.  27 June 2017.

3, APA: Difference Between Germ Theory and Terrain Theory. (2017, June 30. Retrieved (date),
from difference-between-germ-theory-and-vs-terrain-theory/

4. Cowan, Vaccines, Autoimmunity, and the Changing Nature of Childhood Illness. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing;
2018, p. 137.

NOTE – This information is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical condition


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