This interview is with Charlotte Gerson, for CANCERactive and was originally published icon
Chris Woollams meets the legendary Charlotte Gerson to talk about cancer treatment.
Its a cool, clear sunny Californian winters day in 2004 and Ive driven down to San Diego to meet with the famous octogenarian and ´cancer expert´ Charlotte Gerson, daughter and missionary of Dr Max Gerson. She of juices and coffee enemas; of health and vitality; she with no liver spots on her hands (or so Ive been told).
San Diego is sunny, heavily influenced by the sea, and the wide streets are clean and relatively traffic-free. I pull up outside a wooden, double-fronted building on the corner of 2nd and Cedar. This is the new home of The Gerson Institute.
I enter to meet the lovely Kristina Wylie who has a smile sunnier than the whole of California. I told her of my mission, gave her my book and six back copies of icon and started to ask my questions. Kristina immediately passed me onto Andrew Printer, the executive director, whilst she went off to have a chat with her roommate. Very sorority. But its not nice to be "dumped" however cute the smile.
Andrew welcomed me in their new building, their "shop front" as he called it, which had made them "far more visible in the local community". They moved in eight months before. Down the road, but importantly over the border in Mexico, is The Gerson Clinic, opened under a license agreement on May 1st 2002. In California no one is allowed to treat cancer patients with anything other than the unholy trinity of surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Hence in San Diego they advise; in Mexico they treat. "Its a major step change", he adds.
Andrew started by explaining that Dr Max Gerson had developed his diet therapy and summarised it in his book, A Cancer Therapy - results of fifty cases. Dr Max lived from 1881-1959 and developed his theory that better health came from better nutrition.
Unfortunately the title of his book had over-focused peoples views on cancer as the Gerson forte, when in reality their therapy was applicable to all diseases. Maxs daughter Charlotte founded the Gerson Institute. Twenty years ago she was the rebel, fighting the orthodox medical establishment, but now The Gerson Therapy was widely accepted as THE alternative therapy, with the Institute being recognised as a leader in Alternative Medicine.
I asked about their views on other aspects of healing apart from diet, like exercise, or meditation or other complementary therapies. Andrew replied that they were looking at this right now and in the process of drawing up a wider programme.
"If you believe that proper nourishment is critical but that crops are depleted of nutrients, what are your views on supplements?" I asked. They are formulating views on that subject too.
"What does the future hold?" Andrew told me they would like to move on from their current surroundings and even open a residential "detox and spa centre", which could double as a training centre. Maybe there could be several in different locations catering to local communities.
Andrew firmly believes that after "20 years of Charlotte flying in the face of orthodox medicine", they are now established. They even advertise in a national magazine, Alternative Medicine.
"In the past we have primarily treated people who have been given up on by orthodox medicine, people who may have just months to live. In the future we want to move to a prevention protocol, to educate the 38 year old woman with two children that she can detox for a couple of days and do herself some good".
Whilst they cannot treat people in California they can
direct people to books and clinics
Andrew continues to explain that now they are more "visible", they can have more "local seminars", offer cooking classes, training and even go into local offices to offer preventative advice. Whilst they cannot treat people in California they can "direct people to our books and clinics".
Why do I get the feeling Ive heard all this before? Oh yes, I remember. I spent 22 years of my life in advertising agencies! I can spot a marketing pitch at 100 paces!
Gerson have "facilities"; one in Mexico and one in Liverpool, England. "To be a facility requires a four-part, three-year training; plus we have support groups that have to come up to our standards in a three-day training programme, plus a network list of people who used our therapy with success" says Andrew.
They have lots of books and booklets for sale, plus a bi-monthly newsletter. They have membership specials, merchandise sales and class registrations at their open houses. The marketing programme unfolds and I suddenly realise even those who claim charitable status can be big businesses.
Indeed, I asked questions about The Gerson Therapy and their specific reasons, for example, for not using soya, and I was told I should subscribe to the magazine. When I asked for more details on the Therapy I was told I should buy the book. Now call me old fashioned but firstly Id given them mine for free, and secondly Id gone out of my way to go to San Diego to write about Gerson and give them free publicity!
I decided it was time to leave, but I would return two days later to meet Charlotte at the "Open House", a little marketing festivity taking place on Sunday afternoon. And this I did.
Charlotte has more energy than most twenty somethings
Charlotte is 80 years old and has more energy than most twenty somethings. She networked the room which contained a mixture of adoring fans and cynics and, yes, she has no liver spots on her hands! I decided an open house required an open mind. And I must admit to being a fan of Dr Maxs theories, anyway.
There was a practical demonstration of juicing: you have to have a machine that juices, and then presses to give the maximum liquid volume and mineral content.* Fresh juices are essential because they are "living" and contain enzymes as well as nutrients. By contrast Charlotte was clearly unimpressed when asked about Noni juice "its bottled, so I dont feel it can be very good".
By the way the juicer costs about 1,500, and is slightly larger than your average kitchen sink! They didnt have a practical demonstration of coffee enemas. Id been rather looking forward to that.
I asked Charlotte about her anti-soya views. Id already read a few pieces she had written and the attacks were basically threefold. Firstly, that soya milk contains ten times the aluminum level of milk; secondly, it causes allergies and, thirdly, it contains phytic acid in large quantities, which blocks mineral absorption.
I put it to Charlotte that her figures on aluminium were actually wrong. Her reply was simple "Never mind that" and she seamlessly moved straight to allergies, citing several case histories of children. I dont doubt many things cause allergies, milk too, but individual case histories do not constitute "proof" in my book because you rarely get simultaneous case histories for the opposition. From my own research I fully accept that soya has only been around in the West for 40 years and almost all milk certainly does cause allergic reactions, but a little science would not have gone amiss. Which leaves phytic acid, which I opined was in many plants and all pulses, not merely soy. "But in the Far East only the Japanese eat soy and that is fermented in tofu" she cried. It wasnt even worth arguing. (The Chinese make breakfast from soya milk and rice as a staple, Ive been there and seen them do it. The Thais use soya - Ive lived there). When Charlotte speaks, it is hard to get anything through. She talks at you, not with you.
This is a strict, single-minded statement of a mission
not to be questioned or debated
This is a strict, single-minded statement of a mission not to be questioned or debated. And this is the 2003 version of the mission. Changes made in previous years may have been deliberate or accidental but you will never find out.
Please dont get me wrong. I was also very impressed by her. She stands upright, drinks fresh carrot juice and talks animatedly and knowledgably. But then I was also impressed when Robert Maxwell spoke to me, so maybe Im not one to judge!
The Gerson Therapy itself, I believe, if anything is undersold. Constant references to juicing and coffee enemas leave the science behind it ignored.
Nowadays we know that the cellular power stations, or mitochondria, normally thrive on chemical reactions involving potassium and this renders them slightly alkaline.
When the body has too much sodium it displaces the potassium, making the energy production inefficient, the mitochondria more acid and the cells toxic.
In this modern day and age there are many ways of making a cell toxic, from asbestos to oestrogen mimics, but sodium excess is how you do it with your diet. A gram of sodium would be more than enough for homo sapiens 3000 years ago. Nowadays, the average adult American eats 16 grams per day!
It was this basic principal that Dr Max Gerson attacked over 50 years ago. Indeed he was so ahead of his time that even he did not fully understand the importance of magnesium and its ability to help pump sodium out of the cell and potassium in. Luckily the foods (nuts, apples, carrots - oh and by the way lentils, broad beans, peas, other pulses and potatoes) that are high in potassium, also happen to be high in magnesium too.
The average American eats 16 gms of salt a day
I must admit I am a believer in the basic ´potassium not sodium´ principle of the Therapy. Charlotte said simply that, "a strong and healthy immune system is capable of keeping the whole body strong and healthy. But that if the body, (and particularly the liver and the immune system), is depleted of essential nutrients, it will become sick and will not have the building blocks to heal itself."
The Therapy is a total solution, so I was told. 10-12 pounds of raw organic fruit and vegetables per day plus juices every hour freshly pressed provide the vitamins, minerals and enzymes needed to correct deficiencies. No sugar, salt and no ingested toxins. Dairy is not allowed until much later and then as no-fat cottage cheese or yoghurt. Soya is never allowed, as Charlotte specifically sticks to the view that all pulses contain phytic acid and this blocks mineral absorption. But this is only the start. The patient has to detox, to clean the liver and to recharge it. After all, "preservatives, pesticides, and toxins have all inhibited its ability to function and it is the principle organ of health in the body". Clean water and juices detox, but they also cause the tumour to decompose, releasing more toxins into the blood, so coffee enemas are used to clear the liver as is the occasional dose of castor oil. (See liver detox, Icon November 2000).
Case histories talk of remarkable results from MS to breast cancer; from prostate cancer to Auto Immune Deficiency (which Charlotte is clear doesnt really exist).
After another chat with Andrew and a longer one with Charlotte, Charlotte spoke to the eighty people previously milling around the open house. She spoke without notes for about 50 minutes. In London recently she did much the same for well over an hour. Its more like a cosy chat than a speech. But it is a dictum.
In San Diego she animatedly waved a piece of paper. She had just received a fax, she told us. A fax that informed her that the FDA, which had been under severe work pressure reviewing and approving all these (nasty) drugs had taken on more staff. Their 500 "policemen" normally employed were simply not enough to cope with all the drug applications. They had been to the US Government, but no money was forthcoming. To relieve them of their predicament, the pharmaceutical companies were to "lend" them 750 workers. The poachers turned gamekeepers. True or not, this story certainly had her excited.
I was actually reminded a little of Tony Blair
The cosy chat continued; healing anecdotes and claims. Its a chat she has clearly given a number of times. I was actually reminded a little of Tony Blair. I was hearing "sound bites" not information, and what I found saddest was that many of the sound bites were too glib, and any challenge met with a smile and little objective response. All too often the statements are almost correct, but not exactly. Try some yourself:
"Laetrile (B17) does not cure cancer by itself. It is only used by Gerson physicians for pain relief" or "Ozone Therapy is another form of oxygen". Then there was "Jesus the vegetarian" (and I thought he was into loaves and fishes); or "Healing the incurable". Or "Gerson has had 60 years of successful treatment".
Its "nearly land", a world that talks of "relationships in the local community", of "Prevention Protocol", that describes GearinToshs experiences in detail, but actually doesnt get the facts quite right, (Ive read the book, heard him speak and met him). And its such a shame, because I so wanted to believe.
The preconceived image was severely dented. Id come imagining men in white coats offering me the true science of natural healing. A customer-friendly education in the biochemical principals of this wonder therapy.
Instead I got marketing. And not very good marketing at that. A couple of days later I went to Chopras Centre for Well Being, now at La Costa Resort, California and I saw the true face of slick marketing: A seamless presentation of a brand, Deepak, his doctors, the receptionist, the centre, the literature - it all oozed one clear message "We will take you out of this world, and this world out of you; the new healthy you starts here".
Not so with Gerson. It was all so confused, even tired.
I was left with a feeling that they were at a crossroads, and Im not sure where it will all go next.
Charlotte provides a strong presence, but her message cannot be subject to scrutiny; at a recent speech in London she did not even take questions.
After her, for she is 80, although in exceptional health, who will carry the message forward? Who will update the science? When I interviewed Lawrence Plaskett down in Cornwall shortly afterwards, I found that although he was a huge fan of Gerson, he could produce numerous pieces of new knowledge that could make the original treatment better still. And so he had added in a lot of new knowledge to update and improve it for the Plaskett Therapy.
Dr Contreras told me that the Gerson Clinic had moved out of his Oasis of Hope hospital in Mexico. In his opinion the treatment was simply too arduous for many patients and they went home and gave up. So the Oasis had developed a more user friendly programme.
There is a clear gap between Charlotte and her worker bees. A gap, yes, of age but also of purpose. Andrew and his team spoke of spas and health centres. One visit to Chopra and you can see why. Chopra reputedly makes $15 million profit a year. I doubt the Gerson Institute takes $15 million in revenue.
All this talk of open houses, prevention protocol and of business meetings sticks out like a sore thumb. Its as if Dr Max invented a product, Charlotte continues to defend it (or at least her version of it) even though it is 50 years old, while the young turks seek to market it, to sell it as preventative community friendly treatment.
I actually dont think Charlotte recognises she is selling anything. She genuinely believes in her fathers work, in the power of the body to heal itself and she is to be praised for that. She wants people to simply come to her, a Californian dream of doing good, of humble service, of care and concern. The Mother Theresa of San Diego. Meanwhile the next generation are building websites, e-newsletters and talking in marketing jargon. Its an unnatural and unhappy alliance, and the join is showing.
If I were ill I would think seriously about The Gerson Therapy, or an updated version. The science was simple, excellent and fifty or more years ahead of its time. Im a fan, undeniably. If diet has poisoned your cells, (and the World Health Organisation is adamant it does in 70% of cancers), then diet can cure you. That is The Gerson "base camp".
That should be their continuing message, but updated with every new discovery and open-minded to add other complementary treatments (like exercise, or parasite removal) around the outside. That should be The Gerson Marketing Platform - the Gerson "brand" value. I came, I saw, I was very disappointed.
(Sorry. My readers expect me to tell it like it is. But then thats my brand value).
Charlotte started her London speech with the words,
"In 1953 my father accidentally got into healing advanced cancer".
I fear when the day comes and Charlotte is sadly no more, they might accidentally get out of it. And it would be a huge loss to everyone.
For a view on the Gerson Therapy itself CLICK HERE.
For more in formation on juicingy itself, Click this link: Juicy Gossip.