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Cancer Health Center

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Gerson Therapy (PDQ®): Complementary and alternative medicine - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Adverse Effects

Case reports of adverse events associated with coffee enemas raise concern about their use. Three deaths that seem related to coffee enemas have been reported in the literature. Salmonella enteridis group D and Campylobacter fetus intestinalis were cultured from stool and blood of one patient who died shortly after treatment at the Gerson Institute clinic. This death could not be directly linked to the practice of coffee enemas because more tests could not be performed.[1]

Case reports of two more deaths following treatment at the Gerson Institute were both attributed to electrolyte imbalance after autopsies were performed showing no active inflammation of the colon. [2]

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A third case report of electrolyte imbalance that did not result in death describes a patient who developed hyperkalemia while undergoing Gerson therapy.[3] No other reports of adverse effects have been identified.


  1. Margolin KA, Green MR: Polymicrobial enteric septicemia from coffee enemas. West J Med 140 (3): 460, 1984.
  2. Eisele JW, Reay DT: Deaths related to coffee enemas. JAMA 244 (14): 1608-9, 1980.
  3. Nagasaki A, Takamine W, Takasu N: Severe hyperkalemia associated with "alternative" nutritional cancer therapy. Clin Nutr 24 (5): 864-5, 2005.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

    Last Updated: May 28, 2015
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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