The Germ vs. the Terrain Theory and Our Innate Immunity
The germ theory postulated by Louis Pasteur in 1850, has become the dominant scientific narrative and it suggests that germs are what we need to worry about and that we need to keep finding ways to kill them off, whereas the terrain theory argues that if the body is well nourished and balanced, then germs that are a natural part of life and the environment will be dealt with by the body without causing sickness.
The recent devastating pandemic and the increasing level of chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease, and autoimmune diseases, begs the question- is the germ theory approach really helping us stay healthy? And the answer is clearly a no.
The cells of the human body are by far out-numbered by the bacteria, viruses, and other germs that live within us, by several folds. So why is it that we have not been killed by these germs? When exposed to the same pathogens, why do some get sick and other do not? Is it possible that the people who get sick have more weakened defenses? Were these defenses weakened by deficiencies and toxicity?
On the contrary, the terrain theory originally postulated by Antione Bechamp offers a plausible yet sensible explanation as why this happens. The theory focuses on the terrain or the environment within the body and the changes that take place within it that causes harmless germs to suddenly turn on us and cause disease. He adds that germs seek their natural habitat- diseased unhealthy tissue- rather than being the cause of the disease tissue.
Ask yourself, why does H pylori, a harmless bacterium that live in our gut, suddenly become pathogenic and rain serious sickness on their victims. Why do normal cells suddenly become cancerous? What changed? Traditional medicine, using the germ theory, is constantly doing battle with “invading germs” using antibacterial agents and other pharmaceuticals that creates super-bugs and unnecessary side effects. The casualties of the war are the eradication of beneficial bacteria and the alteration of the body’s metabolic pathways in detrimental ways. The scorched earth approach of throwing pharmaceutical bombs at the body’s environment ecosystem to kill cells and germs is not working well.
Terrain Theory and Pleomorphism
The terrain theory puts emphasis on maintaining a state of wellness and internal balance to stave of disease. The internal balance includes the microbiomes in the gut, which accounts for 80% of how well our immune system works to keep us healthy. The increasing use of anti-infectives, in our food supply, in our farming practices, the use of pesticides, herbicides, preservatives, environmental toxins, heavy metals and chronic stress from anxiety and depression have all been shown to negatively impact the microbiome in our body. More importantly the previously harmonious organisms that live symbiotically with us changes or pleomorphs to become infectious in response to the loads and loads of toxicants and poisons that we keep introducing into our body. The consequences of that are the various diseases that we are all afflicted with these days.
After decade of treating cancer with the scorch earth approach of chemotherapy and radiation, newer cancer treatments now employ the use of immunotherapy. An approach that uses the body’s own immune system to find and destroy cancer cells.
Our species has co-existed with external and internal pathogens and foreign intruders for thousands of years, and the body has an innate intelligence that is constantly working to keep us alive. We have a responsibility to ourselves to help our body’s stay healthy, by keeping the innate intelligence working at peak performance – and that is a lifelong endeavor.
Most people already know what to do to keep this innate intelligence working well, drinking lots of purified water, eating the right nutritious foods, getting the right of amount of quality sleep, staying connected to friends and family, taking mental breaks and living a life that incorporates regular detoxification.
The following are things we can all do to help strengthen the body, our inner terrain:
- Eat real food. At first, it can take a change in mindset and then an adjustment in one’s taste buds to eat food that actually came out of the ground or from the range instead of originating in a factory or a cage and coming to you in a box or through a window. Like all other living human cells, immune cells are powered by mitochondria, which require oxygen, vitamins, minerals, and fat, not chemicals. In particular, refined sugar is an immune poison which paralyzes white blood cells. It only takes a few days without sugar for a person to discover how good real food tastes when artfully prepared.
- Make sure you have enough micronutrients. Even organic food is deficient in micronutrients unless these are added to the soil prior to planting. Most laboratories measure levels of micronutrients in the bloodstream. What is important is not what is floating around in your bloodstream, but what is actually in your cells. Functional testing tells us whether you have enough of each micronutrient for your cells’ needs. The vitamins that are of particular importance to immune function are Vitamin C, zinc, and magnesium.
- Maximize oxygen delivery to your cells. Immune cells convert oxygen into ozone, hydrogen peroxide, and free radicals to destroy harmful microorganisms. Anything that reduces the oxygen that reaches those cells makes them less-effective scouts and warriors on your behalf. Tobacco smoke is particularly effective at diminishing cellular oxygen.
- Get adequate unmedicated sleep. Modern research has demonstrated that sleep is not only essential for proper brain function, but also for healthy immune function. Unfortunately, a variety of factors impair healthy sleep in our society. This leads many, in desperation, to rely on chemicals for a good night’s sleep. Regrettably, studies demonstrate that this artificial sleep does not have the same brain supporting, healing, regenerating properties as natural sleep. To the contrary, the agents used to produce artificial sleep actually increase infections, cancer, depression, suicide, motor vehicle accidents, falls, etc. Lifestyle changes, in combination with identification and treatment of underlying causes of insomnia, can often free people of the need for chemicals to knock them out at night.
- Exercise in moderation. Studies demonstrate that appropriate amounts of exercise enhance your ability to fight off infection in several ways. Physical exertion increases oxygenation of all cells, mobilizes white blood cells, increases autonomic balance (see #8), reduces stress, increases healthy cytokines (immune messengers), and more. But more is not always better. Recent cases of Coronavirus in high-profile athletes remind us of the well-documented fact that excessive physical activity actually impairs immunity, thereby increasing infection risk. Short of that, getting out to exercise in nature, especially with friends or family, can be very beneficial to your immune system.
- Optimize your vitamin D status. If you are looking merely to prevent rickets and osteomalacia, the Institute of Medicine’s recommendation of a minimum vitamin D level of 30 is adequate. If, by contrast, you are concerned about preventing infectious disease, autoimmune disease, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Parkinson’s, pregnancy complications, and other diseases, you would want to find the dose of vitamin D that keeps your blood level much higher, while at the same time avoiding going too high. Numerous studies have documented multiple roles of this hormone in improved immune function and resistance to infections, specifically respiratory infections.
- Take a good, chelated magnesium. I cannot over-emphasize the importance of this mineral. Magnesium helps to regulate over 300 critically important enzyme processes in the body. Unfortunately, research shows that most people do not get enough of it from their diet. Part of this is, is because of the poor soil quality that is used to grow our food. For instance, due to industrial fertilization, magnesium in wheat has declined by 19.6% in the last 60-70 years. Most people need between 500-1500mg per day. Magnesium oxide is what is mostly recommended by traditional health care providers, but this form of magnesium is not properly absorbed and does not get into the cells of the body. The type of magnesium you buy matters a lot. Forms like magnesium glycinate or threonate are chelated forms of magnesium and are more bioavailable and have an easier effect on the stomach.
- Balance your autonomic nervous system. This system takes care of the business you don’t want to have to think about, like breathing, pumping your heart, digesting food and absorbing nutrients, controlling your blood pressure, and repairing damaged tissues. When you are asleep, the parasympathetic system is dominant. When you are in peril, excited, or need a lot of energy fast, the sympathetic system dominates. Other than that, they should be in a state of balance.
- Engage in regular detoxification– People with chronic health challenges like autoimmune diseases, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, asthma, weight gain etc. already has excessive toxic loads and/or deficiencies and engaging the help of a seasoned health professional well vexed in functional medicine and in how to do a proper guided detoxification program can literally be life- saving.
There is no pharmaceutical product or other intervention you can undertake that will guarantee an infection-free life, but the steps above represent your best defense against all microscopic threats to your health and life. The bonus is that they also help you create health and resilience, which is far more beneficial than the absence of disease alone. They enable you to enjoy doing the things you love for years to come.
Julius, our board-certified functional medicine practitioner is trained in various holistic approaches to helping patients who have had little to no help using traditional treatment methods. Call our pharmacy and ask to speak to him about your health concerns.