How Germs Spread and How We Get Sick

Wed Nov 18, 2020

How Germs Spread and How We Get Sick

Germ theory

Germ theory is the concept that certain diseases are caused by the invasion of the body by microorganisms. The most common entry gates for these microorganisms to penetrate the body are through the nose, eyes, and mouth. These gateways don’t generally come in very close contact with a microorganism unless introduced via your (contaminated) hands or when someone coughs or sneezes [aerosolized] in your face. If we believe avoiding germs is the main driver for staying healthy, harsh anti-bacterial agents and the need to wash these microbes off our hands and body are justified.

Terrain theory

Terrain theory takes a more holistic look at how humans interact with the microorganisms that are a natural part of life. The critical aspect is whether or not the host (your body) is resilient enough to fight off the ‘bad’ microorganisms. Although we come in contact with potentially harmful microbes regularly, not everyone gets sick, which is why immune health matters.
Terrain theory holds that our bodies (and hands) are not meant to be completely sterile environments. The problem is that in killing the ‘bad’, the ‘good’ are wiped out too, and the good ones are your first line of defense against pathogens. Finding a balance between killing what is harmful and letting the good live to fight is important. We want and need to support our body. Living in balance requires that we let our immune system get stronger through a certain amount of exposure to the world and all of its microorganisms.
Having an understanding of terrain theory can help us better tackle the issue of germs and disease without harming the body in the long run. The FDA recently banned 28 active ingredients in over the counter hand sanitizers. Over 150 different kinds of hand sanitizing sprays have been taken off the market already, and more are being reviewed. Once we understand terrain theory, it becomes evident that harsh hand sanitizers can impact the immune system and whole-body health.
So. There are a variety of ways to make your own hand sanitizer, some more potent than others. Recipes that include rubbing alcohol are stronger but may be too harsh for children. For children, the formula could be made by simply withholding the alcohol. For an even more potent sanitizer (and yet, also harsher on the skin, and those good microbes), the ratios of rubbing alcohol to aloe vera can be swapped.

  • One tablespoon rubbing alcohol
  • ¼ cup aloe vera gel (a shelf-stable brand is preferable; fresh aloe is not suited for this recipe)
  • 25 drops of naturally anti-bacterial essential oil(s) like cinnamon, clove, pimento, thyme, oregano, rosemary, lemon, or tea tree. A mixture like Thieves also works well.
  • Thin to desired consistency using distilled water or colloidal silver (about 1 tablespoon max)
  • Empty spray bottle

1. Mix all ingredients in a bowl apart from the distilled water (or colloidal silver).
2. Thin so desired consistency using the distilled water or silver.
3. Place in an empty spray or squirt bottle.


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2. “Safety and Effectiveness of Consumer Antiseptic Rubs; Topical Antimicrobial Drug Products for Over-the-Counter Human Use.” Federal Register, 12 Apr. 2019,
3. “Don’t Touch Your Face.” APIC,
4. National Research Council (US) Committee to Update Science, Medicine, and Animals. Science, Medicine, and Animals. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2004. A Theory of Germs. Available from:
5. Ballantyne, Coco. “Strange but True: Antibacterial Products May Do More Harm Than Good.” Scientific American, Scientific American, 7 June 2007,
6. Ventola, C Lee. “The antibiotic resistance crisis: part 1: causes and threats.” P & T: a peer-reviewed journal for formulary management vol. 40,4 (2015): 277-83.
7. “When and How to Wash Your Hands.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 Sept. 2020,
8. Mathur, A.K., and S.K. Khanna. “Dermal Toxicity Due to Industrial Chemicals.” Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, Karger Publishers, 19 June 2002,
9. Leung, Marcus H Y, and Patrick K H Lee. “The roles of the outdoors and occupants in contributing to a potential pan-microbiome of the built environment: a review.” Microbiome vol. 4,1 21. 24 May. 2016, doi:10.1186/s40168-016-0165-2

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