The Terrain Within: A Useful Way to Think

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 (or at least the concept) is attributable to Claude Bernard (1813-1878), a physiologist and contemporary of Pasteur. By referencing, Bernard, Pasteur was recanting his germ theory, a theory that assigned the cause of disease to monomorphic (single form, unchanging) microbes invading and reeking havoc on the body. In a real sense, Pasteur’s theory was an external explanation of how humans become ill from disease.

In contrast to Pasteur, Bernard and Antoine Bechamp (1816-1908), another contemporary of Pasteur, believed that microbes were pleomorphic in that they could change their form or otherwise mutate according to the terrain conditions within the body. Furthermore, Bernard and Bechamp, as proponents of the pleomorphic theory, believed disease was not caused by germs but rather by an imbalance of the terrain within or a disturbance of homeostasis (balance). In other words, disease causes germs and not the other way around.    

Beyond its scientific relevance, explaining disease as an imbalance or homeostatic disturbance in the terrain within the body provides scientists, health practitioners, patients and anyone interested in preventing disease and living with vitality a way to think about and practice good health.

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