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

The Gerson therapy is a complex regimen advocated by its supporters to treat cancer and other degenerative diseases. It consists of a specialized diet to "detoxify" the body and rebuild the immune system, adding vitamin and mineral supplements to help in these processes. Coffee enemas are an essential part of the regimen. The therapy is named for its developer, Max Gerson, a German physician who emigrated to the United States and started a medical practice in New York City in 1938.[1,2]

The Gerson therapy is rooted in the belief that cancer is a disease of the whole organism, the tumor being only a symptom of a diseased body. Gerson considered cancer to be an accumulation of several damaging factors that combine to cause the deterioration of the entire metabolic system. The goal of the Gerson therapy is to bring the body back to its normal metabolic state, or as near to this state as possible, and to keep the metabolism in natural equilibrium.[1,2]

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Gerson observed that cancer patients exhibited markedly degenerated organs, especially the liver, presumably caused by the clearing of toxic materials of an unknown type that the disease produced. He also noted that the situation became worse after chemotherapy, probably because of more toxic products entering the bloodstream. Gerson's regimen focused on helping the liver rid the body of toxic substances while restoring and maintaining healthy liver function.[1,2]

According to Gerson, during the detoxification process that results from the Gerson diet, the liver becomes progressively overburdened as the body rids itself of toxic substances formed by the breakdown of cancer cells. Coffee enemas, pancreatic enzymes, and crude liver extract are used to help the liver deal with the burden of removing toxic substances.[1,2,3,4,5]

Total control of everything that enters and leaves the body is the governing principle of the Gerson regimen. Its three main components are strict diet, nutritional supplements, and regular enemas.

The diet is strictly vegetarian for at least 6 weeks and consists of specific fruits and vegetables, eaten either raw or stewed in their own juices. No animal protein is allowed. Some whole grains such as oatmeal are included. Flaxseed oil is allowed only because it aids in the body's use of vitamin A.[2] No other fat such as cooking oil and no salt or spices of any kind are allowed. A glass of freshly prepared juice from vegetables and fruits must be consumed every hour for 13 hours throughout the day. The vegetables and fruits used on the diet are very high in potassium and very low in sodium.

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