Expert-reviewed information summary about Gerson therapy as a treatment for people with cancer. Note: The information in this summary is no longer being updated and is provided for reference purposes only. This PDQ cancer information summary for health professionals provides comprehensive, peer-reviewed, evidence-based information about the use of Gerson therapy in the treatment of people with cancer. It is intended as a resource to inform and assist clinicians who care for cancer patients.

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Expert-reviewed information summary about Gerson therapy as a treatment for people with cancer. Note: The information in this summary is no longer being updated and is provided for reference purposes only. This PDQ cancer information summary for health professionals provides comprehensive, peer-reviewed, evidence-based information about the use of Gerson therapy in the treatment of people with cancer. It is intended as a resource to inform and assist clinicians who care for cancer patients.

It does not provide formal guidelines or recommendations for making health care decisions. NOTE: The information in this summary is no longer being updated and is provided for reference purposes only. This cancer information summary provides an overview of the Gerson therapy as a treatment for people with cancer.

The summary includes a brief history of the development of the Gerson therapy; a review of laboratory , animal , and human studies; and possible side effects associated with the use of this treatment. Many of the medical and scientific terms used in this summary are hypertext linked at first use in each section to the NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms , which is oriented toward nonexperts.

When a linked term is clicked, a definition will appear in a separate window. Reference citations in some PDQ cancer information summaries may include links to external websites that are operated by individuals or organizations for the purpose of marketing or advocating the use of specific treatments or products.

These reference citations are included for informational purposes only. Their inclusion should not be viewed as an endorsement of the content of websites, or of any treatment or product, by the PDQ Integrative, Alternative, and Complementary Therapies Editorial Board or the National Cancer Institute.

The Gerson therapy is a complex regimen advocated by its supporters to treat cancer and other degenerative diseases. Coffee enemas are an essential part of the regimen. The therapy is named for its developer, Max Gerson, a German physician who emigrated to the United States and started a medical practice in New York City in The Gerson therapy is rooted in the belief that cancer is a disease of the whole organism , the tumor being only a symptom of a diseased body.

Gerson considered cancer to be an accumulation of several damaging factors that combine to cause the deterioration of the entire metabolic system. The goal of the Gerson therapy is to bring the body back to its normal metabolic state, or as near to this state as possible, and to keep the metabolism in natural equilibrium. Gerson observed that cancer patients exhibited markedly degenerated organs , especially the liver , presumably caused by the clearing of toxic materials of an unknown type that the disease produced.

He also noted that the situation became worse after chemotherapy , probably because of more toxic products entering the bloodstream. According to Gerson, during the detoxification process that results from the Gerson diet, the liver becomes progressively overburdened as the body rids itself of toxic substances formed by the breakdown of cancer cells.

Coffee enemas, pancreatic enzymes , and crude liver extract are used to help the liver deal with the burden of removing toxic substances. Total control of everything that enters and leaves the body is the governing principle of the Gerson regimen. Its three main components are strict diet, nutritional supplements , and regular enemas. The diet is strictly vegetarian for at least 6 weeks and consists of specific fruits and vegetables, eaten either raw or stewed in their own juices.

No animal protein is allowed. Some whole grains such as oatmeal are included. No other fat such as cooking oil and no salt or spices of any kind are allowed. A glass of freshly prepared juice from vegetables and fruits must be consumed every hour for 13 hours throughout the day.

The vegetables and fruits used on the diet are very high in potassium and very low in sodium. Food preparation is also controlled. Food may be prepared only in cast-iron pots and pans; no aluminum cookware is allowed. Juices must be prepared using a specific type of juicer that crushes the fruit or vegetable rather than grinding it into pulp. Gerson advocated organically produced food, with all fruits, vegetables, and grains grown and raised in soil free of pesticides and contaminants and enriched only with natural fertilizers.

The protein and dairy restriction may be lifted to include buttermilk; however, this restriction may continue through the entire course of the therapy, depending on the individual patient. Some changes in the original diet have occurred over time, but the initiation phase of the diet has always been a vegetarian diet. Taking specific vitamin and mineral supplements plus pancreatic enzymes is the second component of the regimen.

Although there have been additions and substitutions to the basic list of supplements, there have been few changes since the s. The typical range of supplements includes the following:. The potassium solution potassium dissolved in water is to help increase the ratio of potassium to sodium in the cells.

Originally, Gerson thought that using crude liver extract and juice made by processing fresh calf and veal livers would help maintain liver function. The extract and juice were given to patients via injection with the vitamin B In , the use of injectable crude liver extract was banned by the U. Food and Drug Administration because it was found to be contaminated with Campylobacter.

Desiccated liver capsules replaced the crude extract, but this has now been replaced by coenzyme Q As mentioned above, flaxseed oil is used to help the body utilize vitamin A. Pancreatic enzymes are given to assist in the digestion and the elimination of the breakdown products in the colon. Coffee or chamomile enemas are the third component of the Gerson therapy.

Coffee enemas supposedly dilate the bile duct in the liver, thereby allowing the liver to release the breakdown products more easily and speed their removal to the intestine. At the beginning of therapy, a patient may take four or more coffee enemas per day.

Literature suggests that coffee enemas help relieve the pain associated with gastrointestinal cancers; however, there is only anecdotal evidence to suggest that the enemas actually dilate the bile ducts. Central to the therapy is an abundance of potassium and the lack of sodium. Gerson had observed that as soon as his cancer patients started on the diet regimen, they released large amounts of sodium in their urine.

After studying the research in cancer cell biology available to him at the time and noting the ratio of potassium to sodium in cancer cells versus healthy cells, he deduced that the reason for this sodium excretion was that the diet regimen was correcting generalized tissue damage caused by excess sodium.

Healthy cells had a high ratio of potassium to sodium; diseased cells had a low ratio of potassium to sodium or an abundance of sodium. The implications of this observation led Gerson to believe that part of the process of recovery from cancer was the replacement of excess sodium by potassium in damaged tissues. The Gerson therapy is the basis for other CAM therapies that include cleansing enemas or special diets as part of their regimens, most notably the Gonzalez regimen.

Max Gerson immigrated to the United States from Germany. In , after passing the New York state medical board examinations, he started a practice in New York City. While in Germany, Gerson had suffered from severe migraine headaches and developed a vegetarian diet as a way to cure his migraines. The diet was based on his study of the history of medicine and his respect for the writings of Paracelsus — , who said that diet must be the basis of medical therapy ; however, Gerson noted that diet is only one part of a treatment regimen.

The special diet cured his migraines, and after seeing its success in one of his patients suffering from lupus vulgaris, he prescribed the diet for others suffering from the same disease.

He conducted a successful clinical trial in Germany using the vegetarian diet. His most noted patient was the wife of Albert Schweitzer, M. The accolades he received from Dr. When Gerson began prescribing his regimen for patients, he did not consider his therapy a cure for cancer. At that time he wrote that there was no conclusive evidence from his work that cancer was influenced by diet; however, he did think that diet was a useful supportive measure.

In , after treating patients with his regimen for more than 15 years, Gerson published his complete theory, including the results of 50 cases. The practice of changing diet or fasting to cure or ameliorate the effects of disease has a long history, as does the practice of giving enemas to flush the body, thus keeping the body clear of toxins.

There are no reported results of clinical trials examining the efficacy of either of these practices in the treatment of cancer or how these practices would affect a treatment. Evolving evidence supports the idea that a plant-based diet plays a role in cancer prevention.

Gerson theorized that the use of pancreatic enzymes would reduce demands on the liver and pancreas , already in a weakened state, to manufacture the enzymes necessary to convert food into usable nutrients ; this would help stabilize the nutritional needs of the body while it undergoes the detoxification process. However, it has been reported that these enzymes are not broken down but are released into the bloodstream and used again in the digestive process.

In and , two articles in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that the treatment was of no value. NCI concluded that in most cases, basic criteria for evaluating clinical benefit were not met. NCI concluded that the data demonstrated no benefit. Gerson died in , leaving behind no systematic way to continue offering his treatment. His malpractice insurance had been canceled in , and in he was suspended for 2 years from the New York County Medical Society.

In , his daughter, Charlotte Gerson Straus, who had continued to lecture widely about the Gerson therapy, cofounded the Gerson Institute with Norman Fritz. There are no in vivo studies in animal models of the Gerson diet in the scientific literature. His book presents an extended discourse on the empirical and scientific foundation for his treatment regimen and an expansive description of the treatment and diet followed by 50 patients selected from 30 years of clinical practice.

The reports are extended case notes, with occasional x-rays of the patients over time. Although some attempt at follow-up is made, it is not systematic and consists chiefly of anecdotal reports and conversations with patients by mail or phone. A preliminary study conducted between and attempted to collect any available retrospective data on three nonallopathic treatments offered in clinics in Tijuana, Mexico: Gerson, Hoxsey, and Contreras.

The authors did not have access to medical records and relied on patient interviews for all information. The self-reporting was incomplete and inconsistent, lacking precise information in areas such as how far the disease had advanced. In the Gerson segment, only 18 of the 38 patients stayed in the study for 5 years or until they died; their mean survival was 9 months from the beginning of the study.

The other 20 patients were lost to follow-up. At 5 years, 17 of the 18 had died, and one patient with advanced non-Hodgkin lymphoma was alive but not disease free.

Overall, this study did not offer meaningful data to support the clinical efficacy of the approaches studied. A noncontrolled, self-selected, matched-pairs study conducted in Austria used a diet regimen based on the Gerson therapy to evaluate diet as an adjuvant to surgery.

This diet was ovolactovegetarian. The Gerson regimen is basically strictly vegetarian no eggs or milk and does not introduce food other than buttermilk until 6 or 8 weeks into the regimen, if at all, depending on the patient. Two groups of patients who had undergone surgery—18 patients with colorectal cancer with metastases to the liver and 38 with breast cancer —were treated.

Each of the two groups was divided into a diet group and a nondiet group. All patients continued with whatever prescribed conventional regimen was required after their surgery. Results in the matched pairs with colorectal cancer showed an increased survival time in three of the nine patients in the diet group In the breast cancer matched pairs, side effects of chemotherapy and pain and pleural effusion were lower in the diet group.


La Terapia Gerson by Charlotte Gerson (Trade Paper)

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