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- Gerson Therapy
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The Gerson Therapy cancer treatment is a well-known therapy purported to cure most cancers as well as other diseases by way of an extremely rigorous dietary and metabolic regimen established by its namesake in the middle of the 20th century.
- The Gerson Therapy is predicated on the idea of detoxification yet there is no credible scientific evidence to support detoxification as a means of curing cancer
- The Gerson Therapy is very expensive, and often requires the patient to purchase supplies from companies with questionable ties to the Gerson Institute
- Various aspects of the Gerson Therapy pose a threat to the patient's health and should not be carried out without medical supervision
Originally, the Gerson therapy was outlined by Max Gerson in a paper published in the 1945 issue of Review of Gastroenterology. Gerson argued that several diseases, including cancer and tuberculosis, could either be prevented or cured with a diet that restricted sodium, amped up on potassium, and involved injections of raw liver extract and body detoxification through special enemas. Specifically, his diet called for: zero fat or sodium, very little animal protein, lots of potassium and carbohydrates, fluids, dehydrated and defatted liver capsules, liver injections, and some linseed oil.
Gerson hypothesized that cancer was a result of the alteration of cell metabolism due to toxic environmental substances as well as processed food (the processing …process changed salt and potassium content of the food). Thus Gerson advocated upping one's potassium and cutting out salt, which would correct the electrolyte imbalance, do repair work on the damaged tissue, and of course detoxify the liver.
Gerson then and his elderly daughter Charlotte today claim a success rate in treating all cancers of anywhere between 70% to 90%. These success rates are easy to achieve if you scoot the patient out the door of your clinic alive and never follow up on their care. To date, the Gerson Institute has never published a follow-up of its patients in Mexico, despite assurances to do so.
How it works
The Gerson Therapy has four components (note: stating any of the following hypotheses does not constitute acceptance of these claims on the part of this website):
Juicers are a key aspect of the therapy, but not any juicer will do. Rather, for cancer patients the Institute recommends a "two- stage juicer with a separate grinder and hydraulic press" to "ensure reliable results." The Institute directs visitors to a company that sells such a juicer for $2,295 and claims that some patients "have failed to experience results simply by using the wrong juicer."
The exorbitant cost of the juicer is only the tip of the iceberg: Gerson's website contains links to companies who sell the 'Gerson Supplies', a range of foods, spices, goods, and even enema kits and enema buckets, which the patient is told are necessary for his recovery.
The following represents a typical diet for Gerson patients, reprinted here verbatim:
- 1. Thirteen glasses of fresh, raw carrot/apple and green-leaf juices prepared hourly from fresh, organic fruits and vegetables.
- 2. Three full vegetarian meals, freshly prepared from organically grown fruits, vegetables and whole grains. A typical meal will include salad, cooked vegetables, baked potatoes, vegetable soup and juice.
- 3. Fresh fruit and fresh fruit dessert available at all hours for snacking, in addition to the regular diet.
Now you know what the juicer is for. Frankly, we have no truck with the basics behind the dietary aspect of the Gerson therapy. In fact one could argue that the only thing that can be said with any degree of certainty is that a diet high in fruits, vegetables and fiber, along with some lifestyle adjustments offers some limited preventive protection against cancer and other serious diseases.
Still, the dietary regimen is simply too much to expect any cancer patient to be able to achieve on his own.
A list of the 'medications' said to be involved in the Gerson treatment are as follows:
- Potassium compound
- Lugol's solution
- Vitamin B-12
- Thyroid hormone
- Injectable Crude Liver Extract
- Pancreatic Enzymes
At this point we come to the most infamous aspect of the Gerson therapy: detoxification, achieved primarily through coffee enemas. There's nothing subversive or vague about that term, it refers to exactly what it is. And what good does it do? Coffee enemas are alleged to stimulate metabolism by detoxifying the liver; the hypothesis goes that bile ducts in the liver dilate, leading to excretion of the toxic products broken down by the liver and sent through the wall of the colon.
Like so many nutritional claims made since the late 1800s, this one sounds great, it seems to line up with, well with itself first, and then with our common sense, but in reality this is hogwash and entirely without any scientific basis.
What it's effective for
Virtually every major aspect of the Gerson therapy has been debunked as quackery and pseudoscience by most practitioners of conventional Western medicine. There is no evidence to support the need or benefits from juicing in an anti-cancer setting, nor is there an iota of evidence supporting the efficacy of enemas as being capable of removing 'toxins' from the liver or the intestines, or that the components of the diet have any curative value against cancer.
The Gerson Therapy commits a fallacy known as begging the question: Gerson's solution for curing cancer comes from his own premises. It posits a problem—that cancer is caused by unnamed poisons and toxins, a hypothesis it never bothers to prove; then it sets out a plan to eliminate those artificially crafted toxins and poisons from the body by means that have no merit. All it has done is solved a problem of its own imagination.
Side effects: Overview
Side effects from the Gerson Treatment include flu-like feelings, appetite loss, perspiration with a strong odor, dizziness, cold sores, fever blisters and general weakness. It's also not uncommon for severe abdominal pain to set in, along with fever, nausea and vomiting. Little surprise that according to Gerson, these latter side effects are a sign of healing.
The Gerson Therapy has consistently been debunked as opportunistic nonsense, yet it endures because it preys upon desperate cancer patients by offering them the bogus chance to detoxify themselves by way of a ludicrous and patently fallacious regimen.
Therapies such as this one, that stress removing damaging yet curiously mysterious toxins from the body as a means of curing disease, are not founded on evidence. Rather, they bear extreme psychological weight because they appeal to the principles of baptism, rebirth, atonement, and forgiveness.
Every patient has the right to pursue whichever treatment he or she believes will bring them the best results, but it is only fair that they be armed with the facts.
To quote from the American Cancer Society, "Relying on this type of treatment alone and avoiding or delaying conventional medical care for cancer may also have serious health consequences."
- Questionable methods of cancer management: 'nutritional' therapies. CA Cancer J Clin 1993;43;309-319
- Quackwatch.org, Gerson Method
- Lowell, James E. Background History of the Gerson Clinic, CancerTreatmentWatch.org.
- Cassileth B. Gerson regimen. Oncology (Williston Park). 2010 Feb;24(2):201.
- Case histories of ten cancer patients: clinical observations, theoretical considerations and summary. National Archives, Center for Legislative Archives, Rec. Grp. 46, Rec. US Senate, Papers Relating to Specific Bills and Resolutions, S.1875, 79th Cong., 2nd Session. Box 110, 8E2 24/14/4, Jul. 1946.
- Gerson Max. The cure of advanced cancer by diet therapy: a summary of 30 years of clinical experimentation Physiol. Chem. Phys. 10 (5):449-464, 1978.
- Prevention Magazine, The Gerson Treatment for Cancer, November 1955.
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