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Cancer Health Center

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


Food preparation is also controlled. Food may be prepared only in cast-iron pots and pans; no aluminum cookware is allowed. Juices must be prepared using a specific type of juicer that crushes the fruit or vegetable rather than grinding it into pulp. Gerson advocated organically produced food, with all fruits, vegetables, and grains grown and raised in soil free of pesticides and contaminants and enriched only with natural fertilizers.[2]

The protein and dairy restriction may be lifted to include buttermilk; however, this restriction may continue through the entire course of the therapy, depending on the individual patient. Some changes in the original diet have occurred over time, but the initiation phase of the diet has always been a vegetarian diet.[2]

Taking specific vitamin and mineral supplements plus pancreatic enzymes is the second component of the regimen. Although there have been additions and substitutions to the basic list of supplements, there have been few changes since the 1940s. The typical range of supplements includes the following:

  1. Potassium solution
  2. Lugol's solution (potassium iodide, iodine, water)
  3. Injectable crude liver extract (no longer used) with vitamin B12 (substitution: coenzyme Q10 and vitamin B12)
  4. Vitamins A, C, and B3 (niacin)
  5. Flaxseed oil
  6. Pancreatic enzymes
  7. Pepsin

The potassium solution (potassium dissolved in water) is to help increase the ratio of potassium to sodium in the cells. Lugol's solution, which consists of 5 g of iodine and 10 g of potassium iodide dissolved in water, is given to increase the body's metabolic rate. The potassium solution and Lugol's solution are both added to the hourly juice intake.[1,2,3,4,5]

Originally, Gerson thought that using crude liver extract and juice (made by processing fresh calf and veal livers) would help maintain liver function. The extract and juice were given to patients via injection with the vitamin B12. In 1989, the use of injectable crude liver extract was banned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration because it was found to be contaminated with Campylobacter.[1,2] Desiccated liver capsules replaced the crude extract, but this has now been replaced by coenzyme Q10.[2] As mentioned above, flaxseed oil is used to help the body utilize vitamin A. Pancreatic enzymes are given to assist in the digestion and the elimination of the breakdown products in the colon.

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