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 Nutritional Medicine: Gerson Therapy 
Richard Walters ©

Most cancer patients have a deficiency of digestive enzymes. To aid digestion, patients on the Gerson therapy take tablets of pancreatic enzyme (pancreatin), which helps restore stomach acid to normal levels. They also take tablets of niacin, which, according to Gerson, helps to check cancerous growth, restores cell energies, and raises depleted liver stores of glycogen and potassium.

Through carrot juice, liver supplements, and other foods, the Gerson diet supplies an enormous amount of beta-carotene, vitamin A's precursor, which the body converts to vitamin A. Recent research suggests that vitamin A inhibits the cancer-causing action of tumor promoters and tumor initiators. Furthermore, in laboratory experiments, vitamin A has been shown to transform cancer cells to cells that resemble normal cells. This effect has been noted with tumors such as lung cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer, and neuroblastoma (a tumor of embryonic nerve cells).6 In a 1960 German study in Nutritional Abstracts and Reviews, 218 cancer patients received large amounts of vitamin A along with vitamin C for approximately three to seven months. Tumor growth generally stopped or regressed with no side effects.

Since 1983, the Gerson clinic has offered ozone therapy as an adjunct to its basic protocol. Available in many countries for cancer treatment but officially barred in the United States, ozone therapy has been shown to shrink tumors. (For a further discussion, see page 229.)

Max Gerson's nutritional treatment for cancer might never have come into being if not for his migraines. A brilliant medical graduate of the University of Freiburg (Germany) in 1909, Dr. Gerson was disabled by recurrent migraines for which his own doctors had no cure. By the early 1920s, Gerson had cured himself by devising a diet very high in fresh fruits and vegetables and very low in fats. He then prescribed his diet for migraine sufferers who came to him as patients. Their headaches disappeared. Next, using a slightly modified version of his diet, he cured patients with lupus vulgaris, a form of skin tuberculosis then considered incurable.

Gerson's success brought an invitation in 1924 from eminent German surgeon Ferdinand Sauerbruch, M.D., to test Gerson's diet in a lupus clinic at the University of Munich. Over a three-year period, the two doctors treated 450 lupus patients with the diet; 446 of them recovered, according to Sauerbruch in his autobiography Master Surgeon. Gerson extended his therapeutic system to other forms of tuberculosis. In 1928, he reluctantly accepted his first cancer patient, at the insistence of the patient-a woman who had undergone unsuccessful surgery for cancer of the bile duct that had spread to the liver. Within six months, the woman seemed fully recovered. Gerson's next two patients, both with inoperable stomach cancer, had the same good results.

After the rise of Hitler forced him to leave Germany, Gerson lived in Vienna and Paris, moving to the United States in 1936. He got his New York medical license in 1938 and was soon attracting more and more cancer patients, obtaining remissions even in far-advanced cases.

In 1946, Gerson testified before a Senate subcommittee along with five of his patients, all of whom had recovered from advanced cancer. One of the five was fourteen-year-old Alice Hirsch, whose orthodox doctors had predicted would be paralyzed by the end of 1945 due to an inoperable spinal cord tumor that would quickly kill her. Also testifying was George Miley, M.D., professor of medicine and medical director of Gotham Hospital, where Gerson was treating patients. Dr. Miley called the Gerson therapy "a highly encouraging approach." He presented the committee with signed statements from five other doctors who said that they had observed advanced cancer reversed by the Gerson regime.

After Gerson's congressional appearance, his anticancer diet surged in credibility and prestige. But it was just at this time that chemotherapy was seeking public acceptance, soon to become a gigantic money-making operation for the medical-pharmaceutical industry. Within five months of Gerson's Senate hearing, the American Medical Association launched a vehement campaign intended to discredit his therapy. Gerson was attacked in the pages of JAMA, the association's prestigious journal, for treating cancer patients with diet and for warning against cigarettes. In the same issues, JAMA ran ad copy in praise of cigarettes: "Many leading nose and throat specialists suggest, 'Change to Philip Morris,'" read a typical ad. Cigarette maker Philip Morris was the main source of advertising dollars for JAMA during the years of its assault on Max Gerson. The marriage of medicine and the tobacco industry, which helped addict hundreds of thousands to cancer-causing cigarettes, was "one of the most outrageous alliances in the history of medicine," says Gar Hildenbrand of the Gerson Institute.

Dr. Gerson's medical privileges at Gotham Hospital were revoked, and he was unable to secure an affiliation with any other hospital. In 1953, he was denied malpractice insurance because his therapy was not "accepted practice." Refusing to give up, he opened a sanatorium of his own. However, laboratories used by Dr. Gerson were threatened with economic ruin if they continued to provide services to him. In 1958, the New York Medical Society suspended him for "advertising." He died a year later.

A modified version of the Gerson therapy was tested, beginning in 1984, by Dr. Peter Lechner at the Krankenhaus in Graz, Austria. Lechner's program excluded niacin and liver juice and used thyroid supplements only in hypothyroid patients. In addition, it limited coffee enemas to two per day because the four enemas per day originally recommended by Gerson led to colitis (inflammation of the large intestine) in three patients at the very beginning of the project.

Lechner's study involved sixty post-operative cancer patients using this modified Gerson regimen as an adjunct, often with chemotherapy or radiation, over a four-year period. In several forms of cancer, the Gerson-derived therapy made an impressive difference in comparison to a control group of sixty cancer patients who chose not to try it. For example, breast cancer patients with liver metastases who received the Gerson-based treatment tolerated chemotherapy better, and one of three was reported in a steady state for more than a year. (The remaining five patients died.) Patients with brain metastases on the modified Gerson treatment experienced decreased edema and lived four months longer than their counterparts in the control group.7

In a highly suggestive 1988 study of cancer patients who underwent so-called spontaneous regressions, Harold Foster, Ph.D., of the University of Victoria, British Columbia, presented data on 200 recovered patients who had used various alternative treatments, including the Gerson therapy, Hoxsey's herbs, Kelley dietary approach, macrobiotics, Moerman diet, and Jason Winters Herbal Tea.8 Over half of the group had used some form of detoxification, such as coffee enemas, castor-oil enemas, saunas, colonies, or fasting. In addition, 88 percent of the patients had made major dietary changes, usually switching to a strictly vegetarian diet. A total of 65 percent of the patients had taken mineral supplements, potassium and iodine being by far the most frequently used. Niacin, digestive enzymes, bioflavonoids, red clover, and vitamins A, Bl2, and C were also taken frequently.

Foster noted that the "spontaneous" cancer regressions "tended to occur most frequently in vegetarian non-smokers, who did not use table salt, white flour, or sugar and who avoided canned, smoked, or frozen foods. Typically such individuals eschewed alcoholic beverages, tea, coffee, and cocoa, but instead drank freshly pressed fruit and/or vegetable juices. Many took vitamin and mineral supplements together with various herbs. The time spent by patients eating such special diets varied from one month to 15 years, the median time period being 41 months."

Foster pointed out that "there is really no such process as spontaneous regression" since there must always be a cause for the regression. The data, in his judgment, support the view that many dramatic remissions occurred "in association with major dietary changes, which must inevitably have resulted in alterations in the availability of bulk and trace elements to both the immune system and to tumors."

The Gerson therapy is heavily represented in the summary of cancer patients "who exceeded their anticipated lengths of survival by at least a factor of ten." In this group were persons who followed the Gerson protocol and recovered from brain tumors, Iymphosarcoma, basal cell carcinoma, kidney sarcoma, spreading melanosarcoma, breast cancer, spinal cord tumor, metastasized testicular cancer, and cancer of the pituitary gland. Recovered Gerson patients were represented in nearly every category of cancer mentioned in the study. In summary, Foster concluded that "the potential role of diet in the treatment of cancer appears to merit far greater attention than it is currently receiving."


1. Michael Lerner, Varieties of Integral Cancer Therapy (Bolinas, CA: Commonweal, 10th ea., 1990.)
2. Steve Austin, correspondence with the author.
3. Raymond Keith Brown, AIDS, Cancer and the Medical Establishment (New York: Robert Speller Publishers, 1986), p. 168.
4. Jane Kinderlehrer, "Liver May Hold the Secret of Cancer Prevention," Prevention, November 1972; and Cancer Control Journal, vol. 3, no. 1-2, 1975, pp. 49-55.
5. See, for example, William Regelson, Journal of the American Medical Association, vol. 243, no. 4, 25 January 1980, pp. 337-339.
6. Kedar N. Prasad, Vitamins Against Cancer (Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 1989), pp. 27-28.
7. Peter Lechner, "Dietary Regime to Be Used in Oncological Postoperative Care," a paper presented at Graz, Austria, 21-23 June 1984.
8. Harold D. Foster, "Lifestyle Changes and the 'Spontaneous' Regression of Cancer: An Initial Computer Analysis," International Journal of Biosocial Research, vol. 10, no. 1, 1988, pp. 17-33, reprinted in Healing Newsletter, vol. 5, no. 3, 1989, available from the Gerson Institute.


Today, Gerson's legacy is kept alove by the Gerson Institute, founded in 1977 by Charlotte Gerson, Max Gerson's daugher. For more information on licensed Gerson clinics, contact:

Gerson Institute
Phone: (619) 685-5353

To view a free online documentary about the Gerson Therapy visit

Reading Material

A Cancer Therapy: Results of Fifty Cases, by Max Gerson, M.D., Gerson Institute (see above for address and phone number), fifth edition, 1990.

Cancer? Think Curable! The Gerson Therapy, by S. J. Haught, Gerson Institute (see above for address and phone number), 1983.

Cancer: A Healing Crisis, by Jack Tropp, Exposition Press (New York), 1980. Out of print; check your local library.

My Triumph Over Cancer, by Beata Bishop, Keats Publishing (27 Pine Street, New Canaan, CT 06840; 203-966-8721), 1986.

Gary Null's Complete Guide to Healing Your Body Naturally, by Gary Null (see Appendix A for description).

The Cancer Survivors and How They Did It, by Judith Glassman (see Appendix A for description).

Special Gerson therapy issue, Cancer Control Journal, vol. 3, no. 1-2, 1975.

Healing Newsletter, published by the Gerson Institute (see page 202 for address and phone number). Semi-monthly magazine.

From Options: The Alternative Cancer Therapy Book by Richard Walters, © 1992. Published by Avery Publishing, New York. For personal use only; neither the digital nor printed copy may be copied or sold. Reproduced by permission.

(Excerpted from Options: The Alternative Cancer Therapy Book ISBN: 0895295105)
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