Germ vs Terrain Theory, A Biblical View By Liz James
As I was preparing to teach a class on the immune system, a portion of which involves understanding the differences between the germ versus terrain theory, it suddenly occurred to me how very appropriately Biblical the “terrain theory” is. “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” ~ Matthew 7:14 Once upon a time, there were two scientists: Louis Pasteur and Antoine Be’champ. Both were scientists and members of the French Academy of Science. Pasteur and Be’champ differed considerably in their views of biology and disease pathology. You are likely familiar with Pasteur’s name and would correctly assume that the world adopted his theory over Be’champ’s…. driving Bechamp’s name and corresponding theory into relative obscurity. Antoine Be’champ’s work focused primarily on the biological role of fermentation/ enzymatic activity in the body. He believed that the body is a mini-ecosystem, and must remain in balance to be healthy. When this ecosystem fails (due to poor nutrition, toxicity, enzymatic failure) it changes the functions of the microbes that live within the body to the detriment of the individual. In other words, Be’champ believed that microbes only become pathogenic when the terrain has deteriorated. Pasteur believed that there was one microbe for every illness, without taking into account the socio-economic burdens (poor living and working conditions paired with nutritional lack) that often result in dis-ease and dysfunction. Much of his work was built upon plagiarization and lacked strong scientific roots. (The “germ theory” had actually originated about 100 years prior in 1762 by Viennese physician Dr. M A Plenciz. ) Pasteur was very politically connected (His circle of friends included Napoleon). He used these connections when he failed to succeed in taking credit for Be’champ’s work by destroying the reputation and career of Be’champ. Thus, the terrain theory did not “win” the favor of either science or politics in that era. Much like today, world views are very shaped by those with connections and money! Though it took decades to learn the truth, we now recognize that the quality of terrain is indeed more important than the germ in the formation of disease. Key factors in maintaining a healthy terrain include keeping the body’s pH slightly alkaline, staying hydrated, eating quality nutritious food, having balanced emotions and a healthy mental state, and having a minimal toxin load. Likewise, a compromised terrain will likely have been affected by an excessive toxin load of physical, chemical, biological and emotional stressors:
Lifestyle choices (inactivity, a diet deplete of nutrition but high in processed foods, refined
grains, and excess sugar intake), chronic sleep deprivation
A Big Pharma “friendly” mindset (Prescription drugs are the 3rd leading cause of death in the
USA after heart disease and cancer)
Underlying conditions related to mold exposure (a very underreported / undiagnosed environmental
Household, occupational, and environmental toxin exposure; including endocrine-disrupting chemicals
found in everything from synthetic air fresheners to cleaning supplies to personal body care products, microplastics (ex: beads found in some toothpaste), heavy metals (ex: mainstream makeup and vaccines), pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides.
Chronic stress, social isolation, acute stressful life events, and even childhood adversity and
trauma also may affect terrain adversely.
Perhaps you may be thinking, “Wow, that would be a lot of work to clean up a contaminated terrain.”, and you’d be right. Perhaps this is another reason the terrain theory wasn’t easily adopted. Agreeing with terrain theory quietly acknowledges the absolute personal responsibility for keeping one’s own environment healthy. Terrain theory is not glamorous, and frankly, it’s quite a bit of work. The rewards, however, are incalculable! Conversely, germ theory removes personal responsibility for illness and recovery. The germ did it, and medication will fix it (or at least the symptoms of “it”). How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither: And in whatever he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, But they are like chaff which the wind drives away. Psalm 1: 1-4 The Bible is a literal prescription for establishing a “healthy terrain” spiritually. We are advised to surround ourselves with mentors (ex: 2 Timothy 2:2 / Titus 2:3-4 / Philippians 4:9), keep good company (ex: 1 Cor 15:33 / 2 Timothy 2:22 ), stay grounded in the word of God ( ex: 2 Timothy 3:16-17 / Psalm 119:105), temper our tongues (ex: 1 Peter 3:10 / Colossians 4:6), and walk the narrow road of salvation ( Luke 13:23-25). Spiritual maturity (evidence of a healthy terrain) has many hallmark features. In fact, a spiritually mature person attracts people because their very presence lights up a room:
Kindness and generosity without expecting anything in return
Having the strength and courage to stand with conviction to support God’s word, even if that may
mean standing alone.
Available as peacemaker and warrior on behalf of Christ.
Living a life of integrity (doing the right thing, no matter the potential consequences.
Loving others patiently, humbly, and joyfully.
Faithfully trusting in God not man
The most beautiful part of building a healthy terrain (biologically or spiritually) is that the stronger the terrain gets, the more insignificant the germs (ie: the enemy’s call to sin) become. They (germs/sin) are no longer something to fear because the tools are in place to withstand attempted invasion. And, when you live according to the Word of God, you become a vector of faith. Now that’s contagion worthy of spreading!
Liz James, RPh, NSHC Health Coach