Dr. Max Gerson's
Nutritional Therapy for Cancer and Other Diseases
by Katherine Smith
story of Doctor
Max Gerson and the nutritional therapy he
developed for cancer and other diseases is another sad chronicle of
the suppression of a therapeutic program which has the power to
help - if not cure - many people who would otherwise suffer continuing
illness and death.
Born in 1881 and raised in Germany, Dr. Gerson began the development
of his nutritional therapy in an effort to find relief from the
crippling migraine headaches from which he suffered as a young man.
Working on a hunch that a chemical imbalance in his body might be
responsible for the painful headaches which plagued him, Gerson
decided to alter his diet and see if his condition improved.
After trying a milk-based diet, using the rationale
that milk was the primary food of mammals, he tried treating himself
with a diet comprised mainly of raw foods, and found that his
migraine headaches disappeared. Dr. Gerson then tried out the
therapy on those of his patients who suffered from migraines, and
found that they too found relief, and this painful condition
One of the people Dr. Gerson treated for migraine headaches also
suffered from lupus vulgaris - a so-called "incurable" disease.
To Gerson's surprise, not only did this patient's migraine attacks
disappear after beginning the nutritional therapy, but his lupus was
Dr. Gerson successfully treated other people suffering from lupus
with his diet therapy. Then, since lupus vulgaris is also
known as tuberculosis of the skin, Gerson had the inspiration to
begin treating people suffering from other forms of tuberculosis. In
1933, he published his book, Dietary Therapy of Lung Tuberculosis.
Unfortunately, the rise of Hitler to power in Germany meant that he
was unable to publicly demonstrate his discoveries to the Berlin
Medical Association. Paced with a deteriorating political situation
in his homeland Dr. Gerson went to work in Vienna and
France, as well as giving lectures throughout Europe. Finally, as
the clouds of war gathered ever more ominously over Europe, Gerson
left Europe in 1936 to begin a new life in America.
Unfortunately for Dr. Gerson - not to mention the thousands upon
thousands of people who could have been helped by his therapy - the
U.S., while a haven from Hitler, was far from being the land of the
free. Gerson found that publishing his work - which was a relatively
easy proposition in Europe - was an almost impossible task in the
Perhaps part of the reason why Gerson's work was not
enthusiastically supported by his medical peers in the United States
may have been that he was German, and therefore to be treated with
suspicion, as a member of an enemy nation, even though he had
qualified to practice medicine in the United States in 1938.
However, a more important reason was that his treatments for cancer
challenged the orthodox methods. In the 1930s and 1940s, according
to the orthodox mind-set, cancer was to be treated in two basic
ways: surgically to remove the offending tumor (when it was
operable) and then with radiation to kill the cancerous cells.
Dr. Gerson's conception of cancer went far beyond merely viewing the
cancer as a spontaneous eruption within a healthy body. Rather he
saw cancer as the end result of generalized degradation of the
bodily systems, especially the liver. Such concepts were quite
foreign to the vast majority of the medical profession at that time,
when doctors could not adequately account for the cause of cancer,
nor inform people how to avoid this life threatening disease.
According to Gerson, the way to prevent cancer was by,
"...preventing damage to the liver. The basic
measure of prevention is not to eat the damaged, dead, poisoned
food which we bring into our bodies. Every day, day by day, we
poison our bodies."
Gerson's nutritional therapy worked on the principle
that in order to cure a serious disorder such as cancer, treatment
of the symptoms of the disease was not sufficient to restore the
patient to health.
He wrote in his book
A Cancer Therapy - Results of
Fifty Cases in 1958 that the "whole body" or "whole metabolism" had
to be treated to "correct all the vital processes" in order to
effect a cure.
The basis of Dr. Gerson's nutritional program to strengthen the body
to allow healing to take place is a diet comprised mostly of raw
foods, especially freshly-made fruit and vegetable juices, green
salad, and a soup cooked at a very low heat. Some cooked fruit and
vegetables are also permitted in the first six weeks of his dietary
plan. However, no canned, salted, pickled, bleached, sulphured,
frozen or smoked foods in short no denatured foods of any kind - are
permitted at any time during the Gerson regime.
The therapy Dr. Gerson devised was also designed to be high in
potassium and low in sodium.
The soup mentioned above is especially
high in potassium, which helped to correct a too-high ratio of
sodium to potassium suffered by many people with cancer, especially
those with moderate or advanced cancer. Dr. Gerson discovered that
restoring a favorable potassium/sodium balance could reverse some of
the cell damage caused by an excess of sodium.
The function of the freshly-made fruit and vegetable juices in the
program is to detoxify the body and provide oxidizing enzymes to
assist in the rehabilitation of the liver. Other techniques to
support the liver and detoxify the body are also used in the
program, including coffee enemas to stimulate the flow of bile and
safely dispose of toxins, the juice of raw calves' liver, and
injections of crude liver extract.
(Liver juices and extracts are no longer used by
people following a Gerson program in the 1990s, due to the
contamination of the liver with pesticides and bacteria. Spirulina
and carrot juice may be taken instead to provide nutritional iron
and pro-vitamin A. Desiccated liver tablets may be used instead,
since these are thought to contain fewer toxins.)
Gerson also supplemented the diet of people in his care with
addition-al potassium salts, as well as organic and inorganic
iodine. Fluoride-contaminated water or other products are forbidden
because of fluoride's toxicity to valuable enzymes.
Animal fats are
excluded. Dr. Gerson's program was originally completely free of
fats and oils (excluding the small amount of fat present in the
calves' liver), but after experimentation, Gerson modified his
program to include a small amount of flax seed oil to supply
essential fatty acids.
After six weeks of detoxification using the diet and supplements
out-lined above, patients in Gerson's care graduated to a diet which
included small amounts of the protein foods such as yogurt, cottage
cheese, and natural buttermilk. (Foods containing protein had been
previously restricted to allow the body adequate time to detoxify
and begin to break down tumor tissue.)
These, then, were the basic theories and therapy which Dr. Gerson
had developed by the time that he came to the United States in 1936.
In January 1948 - almost twenty years after he had first successfully
treated cancer in Germany in 1928 - he went to work at New York's
Gotham Hospital. However, Gerson's efforts to publish his
discoveries consistently met with a negative response from the
publishers of medical journals.
His article "Cancer, A Deficiency Disease" was rejected by the New
York State Journal of Medicine in 1943.
The next year another paper,
"Dietic Treatment of Malignant Tumors," was also rejected by every
medical journal to which it had been sent. In 1945, he finally
succeeded in publishing "Dietary Considerations in Malignant
Neoplastic Disease," which appeared in the November-December edition
of Review of Gastroenterology.
His work might have been destined to
obscurity forever, but for an investigative reporter who discovered
the good doctor working quietly to cure cancer with his most
unorthodox therapies, and determined to bring Dr. Gerson's
life-saving discoveries to public attention.
Raymond Swing, an ABC radio journalist, proposed that Dr. Gerson be
called to testify before the Senate which was debating a bill to
allocate funds for cancer research. Raymond Swing's efforts on Dr.
Gerson's behalf were successful and the doctor, together with five
of his patients, went before a sub-committee of the Senate in 1946
and told their stories.
All of the five patients had had a positive
response to Dr. Gerson's therapy, and had been told by their former
doctors that there was no longer any hope for them.
a woman with breast cancer who had undergone
mastectomy and radiation treatments to no avail. Her cancer had
disappeared after nine months of the Gerson therapy; a fifteen
year old girl had been paralyzed by a tumor in her spinal cord.
Her tumor had vanished after 8 months of Gerson therapy;
a soldier with an inoperable tumor which had
grown from his neck into his skull, making radiation treatment
impossible because of the risk of brain damage - a year after
commencing the Gerson therapy he was completely free of cancer;
a woman who had suffered from a malignant
sarcoma. Prior to beginning the Gerson therapy, she had large
tumors in her groin, neck and abdomen. After a year on the
Gerson therapy she was completely free of cancer.
Unfortunately, Dr. Gerson's successful treatment of
these and other patients who otherwise had been doomed to die did
not earn him the respect and recognition from the medical community
that he deserved.
Quite to the contrary.
The public display of Dr. Gerson's successful but unorthodox treatment of cancer victims
further alienated him from main-stream medicine. An abusive
editorial in the Journal of the American Medical Association in
November 1946 followed Dr. Gerson's appearance in front of the
The editorial celebrated the unfortunate fact that,
despite the amazing and incredibly newsworthy results of Dr.
Gerson's therapy, his presentation before the Senate sub-committee
"little, if any newspaper publicity"
- as if the
lack of mainstream publicity itself was an indictment of the
treatment! The editor further denigrated his work by splitting
hairs as to what precisely constituted a "cure."
Dr. Gerson, he wrote,
"admits lack of any actual cure, claiming only
that patients seemed improved in health and that some tumors
were delayed in growth or became smaller."
In one final coup against Dr. Gerson, who for years
had been submitting work to the journal for publication without
success, he wrote that,
"the journal has on several occasions requested
Dr. Gerson supply details of the method of treatment but has
thus far received no satisfactory reply."
This editorial was just the beginning of a
concentrated campaign of harassment against Dr. Gerson and the
people who were working with him in his Research Foundation. Between
1946 and 1954, Dr. Gerson was investigated five times by the Medical
Society of the County of New York. After each investigation, the
Research Foundation requested that the investigators give a
statement, and in each case the request was denied.
However, in 1948, Dr. Gerson and his Research Foundation were left
in no doubt as to what the medical establishment thought of them
when a review of their work was published in the Journal of the AMA.
The review was entitled "Frauds and Fables," in which the journal
suggested that Gerson was a fraud. The Research Foundation
threatened to sue the AMA and were able to stop reprints of the
damaging article. However, as a con-sequence of the damaging
publicity, Gotham Hospital refused to allow Dr. Gerson to work on
its premises after 1950.
Moreover, Dr. Gerson was not able to restore his good name within
the medical profession in America. It became impossible for him to
publish a single piece of research in any medical journal from the
end of 1949 until the end of his life, despite (or perhaps because
of) his thousands of success stories.
In addition, Gerson was
prevented from presenting patients at a hearing of the House of
Commerce Committee in 1953, which was investigating therapies for
cancer and other diseases. Despite requests from his patients that
he be allowed to present his findings, as well as a letter from Dr.
Gerson himself, the chairman of the committee failed to offer Dr.
Gerson the chance to demonstrate his findings.
With his work increasingly under fire in the United States, Dr.
Gerson went to Europe in order to publish his discoveries. A German
journal, Medizinische Klinik, published two of the reports which
U.S. journals had refused to print: "Cancer: A Problem of
Metabolism" and "No Cancer in Normal Metabolism." He was also
invited to the University of Zurich in 1952, after attending the
International Cancer Congress in Berchtesgaden.
When Dr. Gerson returned to the United States from Europe, however,
he faced still more hurdles. In 1957, he was investigated by the
Licensing Board of New York State. Even more damaging to his work,
his malpractice insurance was terminated.
In 1958 Gerson was
suspended from the Medical Society of the State of New York, and the
laboratories which Dr. Gerson's Research Foundation used for X-rays,
blood, and urine analyses were warned that should they continue to
do work for Dr. Gerson and his patients, they would be put out of
business. Dr. Gerson died in 1959.
The harassment of Dr. Gerson by the medical establishment, while
both unethical and immoral, is understandable within a commercial
context. If Gerson's methods of curing cancer had replaced the
"conventional" cancer treatments, the profession's investment in
expensive equipment such as surgical facilities and radiation
treatment apparatus would have been lost, to say nothing of
However, it was not just Dr. Gerson and his colleagues who had to
Patients who sought out the Gerson treatment in
preference to orthodox medicine were also harassed by members of the
orthodox medical community. In many cases, doctors harangued
patients so persistently that they abandoned Gerson's therapy - even
when it appeared to be helping them - and accepted conventional
medical treatment for their cancer.
These tactics compelled Gerson to write to a close
friend in 1957 that:
The most difficult and inhuman part of the
measures taken against me is that the physicians approach the
best and almost completely cured patients and try to have them
returned to their hospitals. Here they man-age with orthodox
treatments to kill them. I lose in this manner some-where
between 25 and 30 percent of my best cases.
This sort of harassment of people using the Gerson
therapy occurred even after Dr. Gerson's death, with doctors going
as far as phoning patients in residence at the La Gloria Hospital
in Mexico, which was set up in 1977 to provide Dr. Gerson's therapy
on an in-patient basis.
In 1998, the climate of mainstream medical hostility towards Dr.
Gerson's unorthodox therapy program has not changed. "Anti-quackery"
laws forbid the practice of the Gerson therapy in California and
other states of the U.S. by medical doctors. People with cancer who
reject the options of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy offered to
them by the major cancer hospitals must either struggle to pursue a Gerson-type program in their own homes without adequate medical
support, or find the money necessary to travel to Mexico and pay for
treatment at La Gloria Hospital, near Tijuana.
The parents of a growing number of children with cancer are even
less able to choose what they believe is the most suitable treatment
option for their son and daughter, since by law all children in the
United States who have cancer must be given chemotherapy, or their
parents may be imprisoned. Even a demonstrable improvement in the
child's condition using non-toxic methods of cancer treatment will
not forestall the application of this barbarous law.
Gerson's therapy remains on the "Unproven Methods List" of the
American Cancer Society, despite ample evidence in Dr. Gerson's book
A Cancer Therapy: The Results of Fifty Cases, as well as testimony
from former cancer patients whose cancerous conditions have been
healed by Gerson's techniques.
Dr. Gerson's therapy has now been practiced for over
60 years, and patients of La Gloria Hospital experience an average
improvement rate of 80 percent in early to moderate cancer and even
more amazingly a 40-50 percent rate of improvement in people with
so-called "terminal" cancer. Other benefits of the Gerson therapy
for cancer sufferers included a marked reduction in pain, and also
control of the acute infections which often led to the death of
(The clinic does however, have a general rule of not
accepting people who have previously undergone chemotherapy, since
due to the damage that chemotherapeutic drugs inflict upon the liver
and other organs of the body, sustained improvement in the condition
of these cancer patients is much less likely. The medical director
has also stated that people with tumors which have spread into the
brain and begun to damage the delicate regulatory mechanisms within
it are also less likely than most patients to respond to the Gerson
In 1995, the Gerson Research Association and the Cancer Prevention
and Control Program of the University of California published the
results of a fifteen-year retrospective study which evaluated the
success of Gerson therapy in treating malignant melanoma.
The results of this study showed that people with melanoma who used
Gerson therapy survived longer than people using conventional
One most encouraging finding was that 100 percent of 14 people with
stage I and II (localized melanoma) survived for five years,
compared to 79 percent of 15,798 people who did not follow the
For people with melanoma classified as IIIA and IIIB (regionally
metastasized), 70 percent of 33 Gerson patients lived for five
years, compared to 41 percent of 134 melanoma patients under the
care of the Fachklinik Hornheide.
Of those patients with melanoma which had metastasized to distant
lymph nodes, skin areas or subcutaneous tissue - 39 percent of 18 Gerson patients were alive after five years. By comparison, just 6
percent of 194 patients under the care of the Eastern Cooperative
Oncology Group survived five years.
Despite these impressive results of Dr. Gerson's therapies,
mainstream medicine is even less receptive to his ideas and
treatment plans now than when he began publishing the results of his
work in the United States in the 1940s.
In January 1945, the then manager-director of the American Cancer
Society Mr. C. C. Little wrote (to a doctor):
It seems to me that since Dr. Gerson has frankly
stated in detail what his diet is and in addition has given the
theory on which he personally believes its claimed efficacy is
based, that his material should receive publication and proper
attention and criticism by the medical profession. I sincerely
hope it will be possible to arrange this.
When both the American Cancer Society and the
National Cancer Institute were approached about the Gerson therapy
in the 1980s however, both organizations denied having even seen a
copy of A Cancer Therapy: The Results of Fifty Cases, despite the
fact that due to the heroic efforts of Dr. Gerson's daughter,
Charlotte Gerson Strauss, the land-mark book has remained in print
for 40 years.
In 1984, the American Cancer Society, along with the
House of Representatives Select Committee on Aging declared that the
"Gerson method of treating of cancer is of no value."
Although the "Unproven Methods List" is updated every six months,
Gerson's therapy is not likely to be deleted from the list in the
The Unproven Methods Committee, according to the
director of the Unproven Methods Office, G. Congdon Wood, supposedly
makes its decisions on the medical literature. More recent
information which supports his therapies, such as that published in
the 1978 Journal of Physiological Chemistry and Physics seems to
have been ignored - a spokesperson for the ACS explaining that they
"had not seen" the article.
Government agencies such as the FDA. are also consulted in the
review process. Unfortunately for people's health, the FDA. is
notorious for its prejudice against vitamins and other natural
When Charlotte Gerson Strauss was attempting to find a
publisher for her father's book, some of the publishing houses
considering the book received threats from the FDA, which had
recently (May 1992) made a raid on the Tahoma (natural health)
Clinic in Washington State, and seized vitamins and patient records,
among other things. It is obviously not the sort of agency you would
expect to endorse Gerson's therapy any time in the near future.
The National Cancer Institute is another agency that gives the
Committee information about therapies on the Unproven Method's List.
This agency long ago rejected Dr. Gerson and his work.
Would you reasonably expect a prestigious national
institute to sully its good name as the Castle of the Valiant
Knights in White Coats battling the twentieth century scourge of
cancer by associating with a "quack" who was expelled from his own
State Medical Society?
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