Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Cancer Health Center

Font Size

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

Max Gerson immigrated to the United States from Germany. In 1938, after passing the New York state medical board examinations, he started a practice in New York City. While in Germany, Gerson had suffered from severe migraine headaches and developed a vegetarian diet as a way to cure his migraines. The diet was based on his study of the history of medicine and his respect for the writings of Paracelsus (1490–1541), who said that diet must be the basis of medical therapy; however, Gerson noted that diet is only one part of a treatment regimen. [1] The special diet cured his migraines, and after seeing its success in one of his patients suffering from lupus vulgaris, he prescribed the diet for others suffering from the same disease. He conducted a successful clinical trial in Germany using the vegetarian diet.[1] His most noted patient was the wife of Albert Schweitzer, M.D., whom he reported curing. The accolades he received from Dr. Schweitzer may have persuaded the medical community to seriously consider the Gerson therapy and perhaps led to Gerson's 1946 appearance with five of his patients before a congressional committee considering a bill to increase funding for cancer research.[2]

When Gerson began prescribing his regimen for patients, he did not consider his therapy a cure for cancer. At that time he wrote that there was no conclusive evidence from his work that cancer was influenced by diet; however, he did think that diet was a useful supportive measure.[3] In 1958, after treating patients with his regimen for more than 15 years, Gerson published his complete theory, including the results of 50 cases. He started referring to his regimen as an "effective treatment for cancer, even in advanced cases."[1,4]

Recommended Related to Cancer

To Learn More About Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia

For more information from the National Cancer Institute about chronic lymphocytic leukemia, see the following: Leukemia Home Page What You Need to Know About™ Leukemia Drugs Approved for Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia Targeted Cancer Therapies Understanding Cancer Series: Targeted Therapies Biological Therapies for Cancer: Questions and Answers For general cancer information and other resources from the National Cancer Institute, see the following: What You Need ...

Read the To Learn More About Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia article > >

The practice of changing diet or fasting to cure or ameliorate the effects of disease has a long history, as does the practice of giving enemas to flush the body, thus keeping the body clear of toxins. [5] There are no reported results of clinical trials examining the efficacy of either of these practices in the treatment of cancer or how these practices would affect a treatment. Evolving evidence supports the idea that a plant-based diet plays a role in cancer prevention.

Gerson theorized that the use of pancreatic enzymes would reduce demands on the liver and pancreas, already in a weakened state, to manufacture the enzymes necessary to convert food into usable nutrients; this would help stabilize the nutritional needs of the body while it undergoes the detoxification process.[1,6] Gerson's therapy was widely considered impossible because it was thought that pancreatic enzymes were reduced to their components in the intestinal tract. However, it has been reported that these enzymes are not broken down but are released into the bloodstream and used again in the digestive process.[7,8]

1|2

WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

Last Updated: February 25, 2014
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.
Next Article:

Today on WebMD

Building a Support System
Blog
cancer fighting foods
SLIDESHOW
 
precancerous lesions slideshow
SLIDESHOW
quit smoking tips
SLIDESHOW
 
Jennifer Goodman Linn self-portrait
Blog
what is your cancer risk
HEALTH CHECK
 
colorectal cancer treatment advances
Video
breast cancer overview slideshow
SLIDESHOW
 
prostate cancer overview
SLIDESHOW
lung cancer overview slideshow
SLIDESHOW
 
ovarian cancer overview slideshow
SLIDESHOW
Actor Michael Douglas
Article