The Gerson Cancer Therapy – Between Hope and Scepticism

Cancer is not a pleasant word to hear, because it immediately makes you think of time. Most of the people diagnosed with cancer would do anything to get their life and their time back, in terms of both quantity and quality. For some, anything means chemotherapy, even if it leads to excruciating pain. For others, anything means an alternative therapy, even if it is not supported by scientific evidence. Whatever the case, every person that has to face cancer will hope that they made the right choice, but what choice do they really have?

time concept, selective focus point, special toned photo f/x

What is cancer?

Well, that is a tough question. We can speak of cancer when a group of cells forgets to die, enters a proliferative race and invades the physiological space of the neighbouring groups of cells. But the causes that make the cells act this way are diverse and, while easy to recognize, they are rarely predictable. There are genetic factors, environmental factors (radiation and different types of chemicals) and lifestyle factors (diet, physical activity etc.), and it is rather difficult to find a cure based on the various combinations of oncogenic factors. An easier way would be to find a common trait of all forms of cancer and to try to intercept the malignant process by altering or reversing that trait.

That is exactly what was postulated in 1924 by Otto Heinrich Warburg, a 47 times nominee and 1931 winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology. He said that tumor and malignant cell growth are caused by the fact that cells come to generate energy mainly through the non-oxidative breakdown of glucose rather that the oxidative breakdown of pyruvate. In 1966, in a lecture at the meeting of the Nobel-Laureates, he said it more clearly: “the prime cause of cancer is the replacement of the respiration of oxygen in normal body cells by a fermentation of sugar.” Dr. Warburg’s hypothesis seems to be confirmed by the modern day discovery of salicinium, a complex molecule that has the capacity to block the anaerobic metabolism of malignant cells. This blocking does not kill the cells by itself, but it exposes them to the immune system, which is otherwise tricked by the enzyme nagalase, a byproduct of the fermentative metabolism of malignant cells that somehow camouflages these cells against the natural activity of the macrophages.

What is Gerson Therapy?

Gerson Therapy is a promise of cure through a strict organic vegetarian diet, the hourly administration of up to 13 glasses of fresh juice and the administration of up to 5 coffee enemas. Before going any further, let us be fair though and mention that The Gerson Insitute not only does not promise to cure every disease, but it does not even promise to cure every form of cancer. On the Institute’s website there are lists of diseases for which the Gerson Therapy is contraindicated, not recommended or known to be relatively or totally inefficient.

The diet and the fresh juices are supposed to promote an increased oxygenation of the body, because “oxygen deficiency in the blood contributes to many degenerative diseases.” The explications are not many, and the list of foods, for example, somehow lacks a certain level of professionalism (on the list of desirable foods we can find apples, apricots etc., but also “raw fruits”!), but, after all, you are not supposed to follow the diet by yourself. We can only hope that the Gerson doctors know a little more about what they are doing than it is possible to include in a presentation note.


The U.S. National Cancer Institute says that “the data that are available are not sufficient to warrant claims that the Gerson therapy is effective as an adjuvant to other cancer therapies or as a cure.” This, indeed, is true, and if the Gerson Therapy is as efficient as many claim it to be, it’s a shame that The Gerson Institute does not publish the results of more than 40 years of activity and continues to rely on Max Gerson’s book from 1958, in which he described 50 cases of cancer successfuly treated with his own method. But while there’s not much evidence that the Gerson Therapy works, there’s not much evidence that it doesn’t either.

On the other hand, let’s not be too quick to judge the “alternative” conventional approach to be the absolute right one. In an article published in Clinical Oncology in 2004 we can read that “the overall contribution of curative and adjuvant cytotoxic chemotherapy to 5-year survival in adults was estimated to be 2.3% in Australia and 2.1% in the USA.” That doesn’t look like much and it sure isn’t, especially if we take into account that, for example, in 2012, the above mentioned National Cancer Institute had a 5.8 billion dollars research budget.


The Gerson alternative still seems to have a reasonable scientific basis. There are very few scientific studies that confirm its efficiency (and none of these followed the actual academic standards), but the general theory on which the Gerson Therapy is based seems to match with, for example, the Warburg postulate. If one of the central traits of a malignant cell is, indeed, the fermentative metabolism, and if salicinium, for example, was proven to be extremely effective at curing cancer through reversing the cell’s metabolism from a non-oxidative fermentation to an oxidative decarboxylation, then perhaps the Gerson diet might just do the same (though not with the same efficacy).

In conclusion, if faced with such a terrible diagnosis, it is best to consider all options. Keep yourself informed and don’t let anyone treat you unless they can prove that they know what they’re doing. Whether the therapeutic approach is conventional or alternative, whether it is backed by solid scientific research or not, the most important thing (besides your determination to get well) is the doctor’s professionalism. When it comes to cancer, there is no perfectly certain or safe method of treatment, but keep in mind that even the most accurate or simple therapeutic approach can go wrong if there is even the slightest misconception or ignorance. Never lose hope, but always be sceptic.

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