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Chris Woolmams / Catherine Woollams
The Gerson Therapy

There are three words guaranteed to get British Oncologists and Skeptics hot under the collar - The Gerson Therapy.

Although Max Gerson started out over 70 years ago and produced a book featuring 50 cancer case studies, in all the time since, although many anecdotal stories of ´cancer cure´ have been told (see Living Proof: Beata Bishop; and Michael Gearin-Tosh), there has never been a randomised, placebo-controlled phase III clinical trial and not even any quantitative numbers (although the Gerson Institute team are trying to address this). 

At CANCERactive we have a simple view about ´alternative´ cancer therapies. It does cancer patients no good if we ignore them; it does cancer patients no good if we laud them. People touched by cancer deserve honest objectivity; a description of what the treatment is, what it is supposed to do, and then the details on any research, or lack of research. We want you to make better informed decisions.

Upfront, we should tell you that the Gerson therapy may be used as an alternative or complementary cancer therapy. We understand the logic of what it is trying to do biochemically and the new Science of Epigenetics shows clearly that bioactive natural compounds can reverse cancer. There is a slight concern that new research on diet and natural compounds is passing it by. 

Could it play a part in your total treatment plan. Yes, it could. It it an alternative treatment in its own right? Maybe for some people.

Overall, we prefer the Rainbow diet.

The Gerson Therapy is not simply a cancer therapy. It is a therapy designed to restore your cells to all their healthy glory, whatever the problem or illness. Does it deliver? You´ll have to make your own mind up after reading the information below.


Here we look at the Gerson Therapy as either a complementary cancer therapy or an alternative cancer treatment.

The Gerson Therapy was developed by Dr Max Gerson (1881-1959) and first used in the 1920´s as a treatment for an incurable form of TB, where he achieved phenomenal results. It must be understood from the outset that the Gerson Therapy is an extreme diet therapy used primarily by people who already have a chronic illness. It is however occasionally used in a preventative context.

Open quotesThe Gerson Therapy is an extreme diet therapy used primarily by people who already have a chronic illnessClose quotes

Gerson - returning your cells to health

The basic intention of the Therapy is to stimulate the body´s own immune defences to do what they normally do in a healthy body, whilst readjusting the balance of the molecules and atoms within the cells, returning them to levels normally found in healthy cells.

Once both parts of this Therapy are fully established, the theory is that a diseased body will be restored to full health. There is no doubt that this therapy has had some notable successes, especially given that patients have often tried and failed with all available orthodox treatments first. However, having talked to UK and US survivors and Charlotte Gerson herself, it is important to point out that the successes are all anecdotal. There is no Clinical Trial and no quantitative data, to date. However, I do accept that many people with cancer are extremely happy to read a similar case history about someone who started out with a problem similar to their own. Let´s look at the theory in more detail.

The liver and the Gerson Therapy

In the case of cancer, diseased cells have been known to liquefy, which in itself creates a further problem. The process of breaking down tumours can be so effective that large amounts of toxins are released by the diseased cells into the blood stream. However, the largest detoxification organ, namely the liver, is often seriously impaired when cancer is in the body and so it needs to be cleansed and stimulated to deal with the extreme levels of toxins.


One method of achieve this is to stimulate the liver with up to five coffee enemas per day for a limited period, whilst using castor oil every other day. This causes the bile ducts to dilate and the liver to expel its waste via increased levels of bile juices into the intestine.

Isn´t the Gerson Therapy all hard work?

The therapy is arduous. A sixteen hour day spent juicing and making and using the coffee enemas is not unusual; and a period of two years to fully cleanse the body is not uncommon. Again, the theory that it takes a long time for the body to go through the multistep cancer process, and so it takes an equally long time to restore full working healthy order.

Open quotesEven healthy people should consider a period on the Therapy from time to time merely as a precautionary detoxClose quotes

Patients frequently experience "healing reactions" when large amounts of toxins are released into the blood system.

Dr Max Gerson

Dr Max Gerson was described by Dr Albert Schweitzer as "one of the most eminent geniuses in medical history". He originally published "A Cancer Therapy - Results of Fifty Cases" over fifty years ago. His work is now pioneered by his 80 something year old daughter Charlotte, who stresses that it is applicable to a host of diseases, not merely cancer, and that even healthy people should consider a period on the Therapy from time to time merely as a precautionary detox.

The Therapy aims to provide optimum nutrition consisting of a deliberate over abundance of minerals, enzymes and vitamins, whilst avoiding the toxic pesticides and herbicides of normal food by using only organic versions.

Basic Principles of the Gerson Therapy

* The use of only organic food to avoid pesticide and herbicide toxins.

* No animal fat or protein in the first eight weeks. Both milk and soya are banned to avoid the body receiving fats and protein, both of which have been found to "feed" cancer cells.

* No pulses (lentils, beans and again soya) to be consumed as they can prevent mineral uptake because of their phytic acid content.

* All water used for cooking or rinsing must be provided from distilled or reverse osmosis sources.

* Water must not be drunk as it dilutes the power of the juices. A little peppermint tea is allowed.

* Neither plastic nor tin foil may be used as it may contaminate food.

* The diet is limited to freshly made juices of vegetables, fruits and leaves, consumed within 20 minutes of preparation to avoid losses in enzyme effectiveness. Large quantities of raw fruit and vegetables are also consumed, along with some lightly steamed vegetables, stewed fruit, potatoes and oatmeal.

* The aim is to exclude sodium, whilst maintaining potassium intake. Fresh juices provide more easily absorbed and digested nutrients, whilst not taxing the bodily systems. The use of hourly juices over the length of the day also avoids calorie and thus insulin surges, and actually limits the total number of calories consumed per day.

* Organic, in season fresh vegetables and fruit are the ideal.

Absolutely Essential to the Gerson Diet Therapy Are:


* Apples - raw

* Carrots - raw and lightly cooked

* Potatoes - baked, mashed or in potato salad

* Sweet potatoes - but only once per week

* Fresh fruit - apart from apples, eat grapes, cherries, mangoes, peaches, oranges, apricots, grapefruit, banana, tangerines, pears, plums, melons, papayas (pears and plums may be stewed)

* Dried fruit - apricots, dates, figs, peaches, raisins, prunes

Absolutely Forbidden Are:

* All things bottled, canned, frozen, preserved, refined, salted, smoked and sulphured

* Bicarbonate of soda in food, toothpaste and mouthwashes

Champagen bottle opening

* Alcohol

* Salt

* Avocado - too much fatty acids

* Basic, oregano (aromatic oils can cause difficult reactions)

* Berries (except red, black and whole currants)

* Biscuits, cake, chocolate, cocoa

* Coffee (any sort), tea

* Cucumbers

* Fats and oils (except flaxseed)

* Mushrooms

* Nuts (too much fatty acids/fats)

* Peas (sulpured), lentils, beans, seeds (phytic acid/enzyme inhibitors)

* Pickles

Soya beans on the plant

* Pineapples

* Refined flour

* Soft drinks, fizzy and fruit juices (preserved)

* Soya (fat content and phytic acid)

* Spices

* Sugar (including sweets)

* Tap water

Forbidden for first eight weeks: all dairy, eggs, meat and fish.

The type of juicer is also crucial. Centrifugal juicers simply do not get the full volumes of minerals, vitamins and enzymes out. Gerson recommended a heavy press juicer that involves two stages and a double press.

Is the Gerson Therapy keeping up with the research?

The purpose of this article was to describe to readers what the Gerson Therapy entails. You can see other information on our website like an interview with Charlotte Gerson, and a review of the new book, ´Healing the Gerson Way´, which we have reviewed. 

Since 1995ish, the Science of Epigenetics has told us that the vast majority of cancers are not driven by mutation (sequence change in the DNA) but by changes and excesses of histones are the DNA ball, which cause blockages in messages be read. Scientists in Epigenetics are adamant that these blockages are reversible and so too is cancer. Some 65 plus natural compounds are known to have bioactive properties that can reverse the blockages. 

Go To: The Science of Epigenetics and cancer reversal

Be clear. The Gerson Therapy has its critics.

Critics like Professor Plaskett in the UK has argued the therapy did not evolve with modern research discoveries - his therapy has a greater focus on carrots, apples and onions, and soya is allowed for hormonally driven cancers after week 8. Maybe the revisions to the Gerson therapy in 2008/9 have corrected some of those failings.

Other objective experts argue that some of the ´corrections´, which were enforced as supplies dried up, have weakened the therapy.

And then you get the sketi-twaddle critics who just go into covulsions when anyone tries to be objective about the therapy.

The issue facing someone who want to beat cancer is that a googlesearch brings either total praise from the converts who tried and were happy, or total animosity from the skeptics who hate all such ´alternative´ cancer therapy. Neither does someone with cancer any good at all.

So what do I think about the Gerson Therapy?

1. Having met Charlotte Gerson, I can add that she is a very impressive lady but the set-up in San Diego is a ´shop front´, and I felt a little too marketing-led. 

Go To: An Interview with Charlotte Gerson

2. I met Gearin-Tosh and know Beata Bishop and both beat their cancers exclusively using the Gerson Therapy (multiple myeloma and melanoma respectively). I have read numerous other case histories.

3 I am convinced that a healthy Diet, per se, is an important part of an anti-cancer programme. The American Cancer Institute in their 2012 report, talk of an ´explosion in research´ into complementary therapies and ´overwhelming´ evidence that diet, exercise and weight control can increase survival times and even prevent a cancer returning. I´m biased - I prefer the vegetables, no sugar or refined carbs, but lots of good fats of the Rainbow Diet

Go To: The Rainbow Diet.

Go To: Rainbow Recipes

4 The Biochemist in me knows that kicking out sodium whilst replenishing levels of potassium and magnesium is good for your health.

5. The therapy is arduous, it could benefit from the addition of beneficial bacteria, it is not that dis-similar from Gerald Green´s anti-yeast diet (see our article ´Can Candida cause cancer´) and it is one paced even though cancers are very different and very individual. 

So that leaves me understanding the logic of the Gerson Therapy, understanding that it tries to get to the root of the problem, but wondering if Charlotte´s assertion that if a patient has had chemo and radiotherapy treatment using the therapy to cure cancer all becomes much tougher. Maybe it´s because your cancer is as different and individual as you are and a ´diet therapy´ needs more flexibility. Or maybe the Gerson Therapy doesn´t cover off all the bases.

We have run articles on the need to correct an acid body, reduce blood glucose levels, and get your hormones rebalanced and certainly the Gerson Therapy would probably do that. But even if you could revert all the cells back to the state that mother nature intended, would that kick start the mitochondria again; now known to be a big issue in cancer cell death?

As a start point for a diet if you are seeking a complementary approach it´s possible but the Rainbow Diet offers more discipline and much, much more research. The evidence that newly diagnosed cancer patients are invariably both nutritionally deficient and nutritionally toxic is undeniable.

As an alternative therapy - instead of an orthodox approach - I reitterate, ´the evidence is only anecdotal, there are no clinical trials´. It´s a big decision.

If you are intending to use the Gerson Therapy as a last resort, even the most diehard skeptic would surely wish you well. Clearly, the therapy does work for some people - what percentage and how many, I have no idea. And 70 years on it would have been nice to have read just a little research with numbers in it. I don´t wish to be negative at all, but you have to go into this treatment with your eyes wide open if you are using it as an alternative and foresaking orthodox medicine.

For the latest research on foods, natural compounds and cancer Go To: Cancer Watch.

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