The Terrain Within: A Naturalistic Way to Think About & Practice Good Health

Michael Garko, Ph.D. – Host – Let’s Talk Nutrition

The microbe is nothing. The terrain is everything.” Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) is purported to have made this statement on his deathbed. The origin of the quote is attributed to Claude Bernard (1813-1878), a physiologist and contemporary of Pasteur. By quoting Bernard, Pasteur was recanting his germ theory, a theory that assigned the cause of disease to microbes invading and reeking havoc on the body, with specific germs causing specific diseases.

In contrast to Pasteur, Claude Bernard and Antoine Bechamp (1816-1908), another contemporary of Pasteur, believed disease was a condition of imbalance in the internal terrain of body. Bernard and Bechamp emphasized the context or environment in which germs lived and not the germs. On the one hand, if the terrain was balanced (homeostatic), then germs could not flourish. On the other hand, if the terrain were out of balance, then germs would thrive. In short, germs do not cause disease. Instead, they are a sign of the diseased conditions of the terrain and not the cause of those conditions (see Stockton, 2000).

The August, 2012, issue of Health and Wellness Monthly, explores the principle that the “terrain is everything” with the intention of emphasizing the importance and usefulness of adopting a naturalistic approach to health and wellness.

Natural Healing Perspective

Viewing the cause of disease as a function of the condition of the terrain represents a move away from the medical model to a natural healing perspective. The medical model, which dominates Western medicine, relies in large measure upon the tenets of germ theory, thereby, rendering humans as the reactive targets who are the mercy of microbes. In contrast, the natural healing perspective shifts the focus from the power of germs and puts the emphasis on the environment, the terrain, in which microbes seek to live. It also recognizes people as proactive agents of health who can make choices to create a terrain that remains in balance and impervious or at least less vulnerable to the potentially deleterious effects of germs.