Coffee (or chamomile) enemas are the third component of the Gerson therapy. Coffee enemas supposedly dilate the bile duct in the liver, thereby allowing the liver to release the breakdown products more easily and speed their removal to the intestine. At the beginning of therapy, a patient may take four or more coffee enemas per day. Literature suggests that coffee enemas help relieve the pain associated with gastrointestinal cancers; however, there is only anecdotal evidence to suggest that the enemas actually dilate the bile ducts.[6,7]
Central to the therapy is an abundance of potassium and the lack of sodium. Gerson had observed that as soon as his cancer patients started on the diet regimen, they released large amounts of sodium in their urine. He noticed that cells in the patients' bodies that had been bloated with fluid started to shrink as the fluid was released. After studying the research in cancer cell biology available to him at the time and noting the ratio of potassium to sodium in cancer cells versus healthy cells, he deduced that the reason for this sodium excretion was that the diet regimen was correcting generalized tissue damage caused by excess sodium. Healthy cells had a high ratio of potassium to sodium; diseased cells had a low ratio of potassium to sodium or an abundance of sodium.
The implications of this observation led Gerson to believe that part of the process of recovery from cancer was the replacement of excess sodium by potassium in damaged tissues. This belief is the theoretical basis for Gerson's choice of high-potassium, low-sodium fruits and vegetables in his prescribed diet: a high intake of potassium was needed to restore a normal ratio of potassium to sodium in the cell.
The Gerson therapy is the basis for other CAM therapies that include cleansing enemas or special diets as part of their regimens, most notably the Gonzalez regimen. (Refer to the PDQ summary on the Gonzalez Regimen for more information.)
- Gerson M: A Cancer Therapy: Results of Fifty Cases and The Cure of Advanced Cancer by Diet Therapy. San Diego, Calif: The Gerson Institute, 2002.
- Gerson C, Walker M: The Gerson Therapy: The Amazing Nutritional Program for Cancer and Other Illnesses. New York, NY: Kensington Publishing Corp, 2001.
- Gerson M: Effects of a combined dietary regime on patients with malignant tumors. Exp Med Surg 7 (4): 299-317, illust, 1949.
- Gerson M: Dietary considerations in malignant neoplastic disease: preliminary report. Rev Gastroenterol 12: 419-25, 1945. Also available online. Last accessed August 10, 2012.
- Gerson M: The cure of advanced cancer by diet therapy: a summary of 30 years of clinical experimentation. Physiol Chem Phys 10 (5): 449-64, 1978.
- Green S: A critique of the rationale for cancer treatment with coffee enemas and diet. JAMA 268 (22): 3224-7, 1992.
- Brown BT: Treating cancer with coffee enemas and diet. JAMA 269 (13): 1635-6, 1993.
- Cope FW: A medical application of the Ling association-induction hypothesis: the high potassium, low sodium diet of the Gerson cancer therapy. Physiol Chem Phys 10 (5): 465-8, 1978.