Gerson Regimen
Gerson Regimen
This information describes the common uses of Gerson Regimen, how it works, and its possible side effects.

Common Name

Gerson diet; Gerson therapy, Gerson method; Gerson program, Gerson treatment; Gerson Institute

How It Works

The Gerson regimen does not treat or prevent cancer.

The Gerson regimen was developed by Max Gerson in the 1940s. It involves a strict metabolic diet that emphasizes fresh fruit and vegetable juice, high carbohydrate and potassium, no sodium or fat, and low animal protein. The diet is often supplemented with digestive enzymes, coffee enemas, and various supplements, including laetrile. This diet is based on the theory that it addresses the cause of cancer by detoxifying the body and stimulating metabolism so that the body can heal itself. These toxins, Gerson claimed, build up from environmental pollution and processed foods and eventually alter cell metabolism. However, this proposed toxin build-up has never been proven, nor has the diet’s ability to remove such toxins from the body.

Coffee enemas are used in several metabolic therapies. Theoretically, coffee enemas might aid excretion from the liver and colon, but no theory has been proven. In addition, coffee enemas can be dangerous when used repeatedly, causing electrolyte imbalances in the blood and impaired nutrient absorption. Because the high levels of fruits and vegetables are eaten raw, they may not be absorbed as easily, especially in patients with GI cancers or chemotherapy-induced GI disorders.

Purported Uses

There is no scientific evidence to support use of Gerson regimen for the following:

  • To manage allergies and asthma
  • To treat arthritis
  • To treat atherosclerosis
  • To treat cancer
  • To treat heart disease
  • To treat chronic fatigue syndrome
  • To detoxify the body
  • To treat diabetes
  • To lower high blood pressure
  • To treat infertility
  • To treat Lou Gehrig’s Disease
  • To treat migraine headaches
  • To treat multiple sclerosis
  • To treat peptic ulcers
  • To treat psoriasis
  • To treat tuberculosis

Patient Warnings

  • The American Cancer Society warns that Gerson therapy can be very harmful to the body.
  • Metabolic diets like the Gerson Regimen can result in nutrient deficiencies (calcium, vitamins D and B12, protein), anemia, and malabsorption in the intestine.

Side Effects

  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Loss of appetite
  • Perspiration with foul odor
  • Weakness, dizziness
  • Cold sores, fever blisters
  • High fever
  • Tumor pain
  • Intestinal cramping, diarrhea, and vomiting
  • Coffee enemas, a regular part of the Gerson regimen, can cause electrolyte imbalance, which has resulted in serious infections, dehydration, colitis, constipation, seizures, pleural and pericardial effusions (fluid collecting in the lining around the lungs and heart), and death.
  • Coma from low sodium levels in the blood has occurred in a handful of patients.