Most, if not all, of the common cancer treatments involve some kind of pharmaceutical designed to kill cancer cells and reduce (or eliminate) tumors. Whether radiation or chemotherapy, these treatments can have a host of side effects on the body.
Finding ways to manage the severe side effects of standard cancer treatments is an ongoing battle. Enter Gerson therapy, which is a nutrition and diet-based approach to tackling cancer side effects. Keep reading to learn more.
What is Gerson therapy?
Gerson therapy is a strict dietary regimen designed to restore electrolyte balance to the body. Gerson therapy was based on the work of Dr. Max Gerson, who developed the therapy as a way to treat migraine headaches and then, later, to treat tuberculosis. But its role in cancer came about rather serendipitously.
While following what is now known as Gerson therapy to treat his migraines, Dr. Gerson found that they went away while he followed the therapy. He would then prescribe this therapy to other patients until, one day, he noticed someone had been cured of tuberculosis while following the diet. A subsequent study of 460 patients found that virtually all patients were cured of tuberculosis while on Gerson therapy.
The use of Gerson therapy for cancer wasn’t fully noticed until Dr. Gerson began practicing medicine in Manhattan and treated a woman with stomach cancer who (you guessed it) was also cured. While much investigation has been done about Gerson therapy and cancer, many believe there is a connection between the therapy and how cancer works.
Gerson therapy involves the following 3 elements:
The word strict may be an understatement when it comes to Gerson therapy. These dietary and lifestyle guidelines must be closely followed for there to be any potential benefit. Some of these guidelines include the following:
Specifically, 13 glasses of juice (about once an hour) made from fresh and organic fruits and vegetables. The idea is regular juicing can help pump the body full of good nutrients.
Following a vegetarian diet.
Food intake should focus on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains that are low in sodium and high in potassium.
These include potassium, vitamins (A, C, and B3, to be exact), flaxseed oil, stomach enzymes, pancreatic enzymes, and much more.
Enemas are supplements taken through the anus. Specifically, Gerson therapy guidelines require taking coffee or chamomile enemas, sometimes as often as three to four times a day. These enemas may stimulate certain antioxidants in the body, resulting in a detoxifying effect.
While some research has suggested these enemas can be helpful in detoxification, there are some risks that make coffee enemas, especially, risky. A lot more research is needed to determine the safety and efficacy of these treatments.
Why might Gerson therapy work?
The theory behind Gerson therapy focuses on the principle that cancer is caused by changes in cell metabolism, usually changes caused by “toxins” building up in the body.
Specifically, Gerson therapy targets an electrolyte imbalance, such as an imbalance in sodium and potassium in the blood. Electrolytes are vital for several physical functions, such as muscle and nerve function. The dietary recommendations are designed to help you naturally rebalance your body.
Research suggests that an imbalance in electrolytes (sodium, potassium, etc.) is common in cancer patients, leading to conditions like high blood calcium levels, and can even make cancer worse. This is particularly true for people taking chemotherapy; electrolyte imbalances often result from a loss of fluids, such as through excessive vomiting or diarrhea, all side effects of chemotherapy.
Research also shows that improved electrolyte balance can improve cancer patient outcomes.
What’s the evidence of Gerson therapy for cancer?
Most evidence comes from retrospective studies and a handful of case studies of patients following these dietary guidelines. For example, a review of melanoma patients treated with Gerson therapy found that these patients lived longer than was usual for patients in stage 3 and 4 melanoma.
Resources for Gerson therapy
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have helpful resources that outline the requirements of Gerson therapy, as well as all known risks and potential benefits.
While some elements of Gerson therapy may have you hesitating, the focus on eating foods rich in vitamins and essential minerals should always be a priority. In fact, what we eat can affect our immune system and how it responds to cancer, so eating healthy could help boost your natural defenses against cancer outright.
If you are considering Gerson therapy for your cancer, talk to your doctor. Various aspects of Gerson therapy, including enemas, should be closely monitored by a healthcare professional.