Caution: Some complementary agents or therapies may be useful for cancer patients; however, some may be harmful in certain situations. MD Anderson Cancer Center cautions patients to consult with their oncologists before attempting to use any agents or therapies referenced on these pages. Inclusion of an agent, therapy or resource on this CIMER Web site does not imply endorsement by MD Anderson Cancer Center.
- Review is based upon articles published as of 1/31/06
- Information on the scientific basis of Gerson therapy is provided in the Detailed Scientific Review
Max B. Gerson, a German physician, developed the Gerson Dietary program during the 1940s. Principal elements include a high potassium to sodium ratio, high doses of micronutrients by frequent consumption of fruits and vegetables in juices as well as cooked forms plus whole grains and whole raw fruits. Supplements include vitamins, minerals, pancreatic enzymes, thyroid hormones and liver extracts. Dietary fats are strictly limited and proteins restricted with a vegetarian diet. Detoxification is promoted through frequent coffee enemas; however, controversy exists about their safety and effectiveness.
Retrospective studies have reported higher five-year survival rates for patients with colorectal, ovarian and advanced melanoma cancers compared to the survival rates of similar patients reported in the literature. However, exclusion of patients on the Gerson diet who were lost to follow-up may have biased these survival results in favor of the Gerson subjects.
The daily Gerson dietary program may last from a few months to 10 years.
How it is taken
Many of the fresh organic vegetable and fruit juices are consumed in the form of juices, but cooked vegetables, whole grains and fresh fruit are also recommended. Minerals, vitamins, thyroid hormones, pancreatic enzymes and liver are supplemented in the form of extracts. Multiple daily coffee enemas are frequently prescribed.
Patients may suffer from high fever, flu-like feelings, loss of appetite, intestinal cramping, diarrhea, vomiting, perspiration, strong odor, weakness, dizziness, cold sores and fever blisters.
Although coffee enemas were used and endorsed as a detoxification regimen by the medical community until the early 1970s, long term and frequent use may cause serious fluid and electrolyte problems in addition to severe inflammation of the colon (colitis). Serious infections and deaths from electrolyte imbalances have been reported. Also, thyroid supplementation has been associated with bleeding in patients with liver metastases.
To avoid potential interactions, be sure to let your health care provider know if you use this or any other type of complementary therapy.
Authors and Editors
Nancy C. Russell, Dr.P.H., senior health education specialist, Integrative Medicine Program Education Component
Reviewers and editors:
Mary Ann Richardson, Dr.P.H., director of the former University of Texas Center for Alternative Medicine
Tina Sanders, M.S., research assistant, former University of Texas Center for Alternative Medicine
Stephen P. Tomasovic, Ph.D., vice president for academic affairs