Originally published in Issue 3 2006 icon
Imitated, ridiculed, praised, supported solely by the evidence of cured patients, the Gerson Therapy® has the longest and best track record of all nutrition-based alternative cancer treatments. Beata Bishop explains its theory and practice.
Living Proof has been running in every issue of icon since we started back in Summer 2002. We like people to tell their own story, in their own unembellished way. These stories are of everyday people who, ideally, have survived more than five years since diagnosis and feel themselves well on the way to beating the disease. In Living Proof we acknowledge that every person is a unique individual with their own relationship to their cancer. Many of our Living Proofs have had orthodox treatment, just a few having chosen an alternative route, but the vast majority have chosen their own personal mixture of orthodox, complementary and alternative therapies.
We see our role as providers of information. We try not to pass judgement or portray any one therapy as better than any other. We simply want our readers to be able to make more informed choices on how they can beat cancer.
One question we are often asked is 'What about the Gerson Therapy?' Our answer is always:
The World Health Organisation suggests that about a third of all cancers are caused by 'poor diet'. It seems highly logical to us that at least some of these cancers might be cured by 'good diet'.
The biochemistry and science of correct levels of potassium and magnesium rather than sodium excesses in a cell with the resultant depletion of oxygen levels and p53 gene's power are sound. (We'll tell you more of this later).
But there are only limited research studies and clinical trials and this fails to silence the critics. Mostly it is just anecdotal evidence. But then, what is wrong with an anecdote if it's true?
One such anecdotal Living Proof was our second ever subject, the Oxford Don Michael Gearin-Tosh, who had survived Multiple Myeloma for eight years using the Gerson Therapy.
So, and we make no apologies, here is a slightly different 'Living Proof' - it is an article by Beata Bishop, who beat melanoma herself over twenty years ago and is now the staunchest possible ambassador for the Gerson Therapy you could meet. The article explains the Gerson Therapy and its practical application. But then, anecdote or not, it did save her life and so she is, this issue's, Living Proof.
Beating Cancer With Food
Let me declare an interest. I am a former cancer patient, having recovered twenty-three years ago on the Gerson therapy from metastasised malignant melanoma. I chose it as a last resort in January 1981, when despite extensive surgery the melanoma had spread into my lymphatic system and orthodox oncology could only offer me more surgery, without which - the dire prognosis went - my life expectancy was somewhere between six weeks and six months. Having thoroughly researched the disease, I knew that further operations were not the answer.
So I rejected both the offer and the prognosis and embarked on the Gerson programme, for the simple reason that it seemed supremely logical. I thought I'd rather try to re-build my body's defences, so that it could eliminate the malignant process, than weaken it further with radio or chemotherapy simply in order to shrink the tumour. After two tough years - this therapy is no picnic - I was cured, and have remained so for the past twenty-three years. Since in the official view five years of symptomfree survival equal a cure, I am now well into my fifth cure.
To start with, let me sum up the essence of this therapy, evolved by Dr Max Gerson, M.D. (1881-1959) over 30 years of clinical practice. It rests on two principles:
Cancer is a disease of the whole body. It's not a thing, namely a tumour, but a process. The tumour is merely the symptom of a highly toxic organism with a malfunctioning digestive system and diminished immune competence. Hence it's insufficient to eliminate the tumour by surgery, radiation or chemotherapy. If the organism isn't restored to optimum functioning, the malignant process is likely to continue, producing a recurrence.
To avoid this, the body must be detoxified, the digestive system restored to peak condition and the immune system rebuilt, so that the organism itself can eliminate the malignant process.
This is achieved by a strict, precision-built nutritional programme followed over two years, combined with regular detoxification by coffee enemas and castor oil treatment, and natural supplements to promote good digestion. Only organic produce can be used for the three square meals and 13 glasses of freshly made vegetable and fruit juices that make up the patient's daily intake. All toxic substances, ranging from household chemicals to cosmetics, must be avoided, together with a multitude of foodstuffs.
Cancer is a disease of the whole body
Forbidden foods include meat, fish, poultry, eggs, cheese, fat, cakes, chocolate, coffee, tea, ice cream, alcohol, dairy produce, salt, all bottled, tinned, frozen, smoked, sulphured or otherwise preserved foods; also tap water. "What's there to eat?" is the startled novice's first reaction to the list - yet there is plenty: a wide range of vegetables and fruits to flood the debilitated organism with all the vitamins, minerals, trace elements and enzymes it needs to heal itself.
Even after the first 8 weeks, for the rest of the therapy, i.e. 2 years, NO fats are allowed except 1 tablespoon of flax seed oil a day. Meat and pesticides are permanently banned.
The demanding intensive phase of the therapy is strictly vegan. The 13 juices are drunk every hour on the hour, interspersed with five coffee enemas a day. Depending on the patient's progress, after six weeks some organic de-fatted yoghurt and/or cottage cheese may be added to the menu. Even when the routine is slightly reduced, one can't follow it without help in the kitchen. The therapy is monotonous, labour-intensive and expensive (cheaper than chemotherapy, but while the latter can be had free on the NHS, no financial support is available for unconventional treatments) - far from easy, but it can produce astounding results even in so-called hopeless cases. Yet it's not a panacea. Today's world is infinitely more toxic than it was in Dr Gerson's day, and curing disease is accordingly more difficult. Chances of success are much reduced for patients pretreated with chemotherapy, which increases the body's toxic load while destroying its remaining immune competence.
One of the bonuses of the therapy is that it heals the entire organism, not just the presenting problem. In other words it heals the patient, not the disease. This was a shocking discovery for Dr Gerson: his orthodox medical training at three top German universities had taught him that any treatment addressed a particular condition and nothing else. He was forced to abandon that principle as a young doctor when he found that his "migraine diet" also cured skin tuberculosis. It was the recognition that, given the right conditions, the body can heal itself of several ills, which eventually led him to develop his cancer treatment. (A less intensive form of the therapy cures a wide range of chronic diseases.)
My own experience confirms the validity of Dr Gerson's approach
My own experience confirms the validity of Dr Gerson's approach. When I embarked on the therapy, beside the spreading melanoma I also suffered from early stage diabetes mellitus, incipient osteoarthritis and painful recurrent dental abscesses. Within three weeks at the Gerson clinic in Mexico all three conditions simply vanished, never to return. Moreover, my surgically mutilated right leg began to grow back some flesh, a process which I watched with jaw-dropping amazement. (Getting rid of the melanoma took much longer, though: the body prefers to deal with the easy bits first.) Besides being long, expensive and monotonous, the Gerson therapy is a lonely journey.
The orthodoxy rejects and often attacks it, without knowing what it is attacking. Gerson-trained doctors are few and far between. Most Gerson therapists come from the complementary, viz. alternative field. Lack of funds prevents the setting up of controlled prospective trials, hence peer reviewed reports are thin on the ground. At present the world's only Gerson clinic is in Mexico, but hopefully one or two more will open elsewhere before long. Even without visiting the clinic, very many people all over the world have successfully completed the therapy, relying on Dr Gerson's classic book, A Cancer Therapy - Results of Fifty Cases, which contains precise instructions for healing at home.
Critics often point out that nearly fifty years have passed since Dr Gerson's death, new research techniques have produced results he couldn't have been aware of, surely the therapy has become obsolete, and besides, what scientific proof is there to justify its methods? These strictures are easy to answer. What hasn't changed since Dr Gerson's death is the essence of cancer, which is the breakdown of law and order on the cellular level, and the general collapse of body systems which he had identified; hence his approach remains valid. Also, the therapy has not remained unchanged: several new elements have been added to it over the years, enhancing its effectiveness. Dr Gerson's youngest daughter, Charlotte, who singlehandedly kept her father's legacy alive during many years in the wilderness, experiments and tests on herself all new substances that promise to harmonize with the therapy.
As for scientific proof, the latest international research into the link between nutrition and cancer has produced findings that confirm Dr Gerson's choice of fruits and vegetables as potent sources of anti-cancer substances. Among these 'newly discovered' items are apples, grapes, citrus fruits, carrots, cruciferous vegetables, onions and garlic, Omega-3 rich flax seed oil and others that have long been mainstays of the Gerson regime. Moreover, the therapy's daily protocol prescribes them in pharmacologically active doses, administered in the shape of freshly made juices and raw and cooked food. This precision is astonishing, since instead of state-of-theart technology Dr Gerson only had at his disposal his finely tuned intuition, supported by empirical observation and ceaseless study, yet he was able to forge into a complete system of nutritional healing the elements which are now emerging piecemeal from research institutes, to be written up in academic journals - and largely ignored by clinicians, whose training did not include even the rudiments of nutritional medicine.
The effectiveness of even a watered-down version of the Gerson protocol was demonstrated recently in a six-year clinical trial, conducted by oncologistsurgeon Dr Peter Lechner at the District Hospital in Graz, Austria. His patients did remarkably better than members of the control group both in length of survival and quality of life. In his report1 he also quotes up-to-date research proving the detoxifying function of the coffee enema.
In her Case History2of Oxford don Michael Gearin-Tosh's ten-year survival of multiple myeloma on the Gerson protocol (he died last year of a blood infection), Carmen Wheatley, D.Phil.Oxon, shows in detail how the latest research into the anti-cancer properties of plant compounds confirms Gerson's therapeutic choice of fruits and vegetables, and his way to deliver them to the patient intact and in the correct doses in the form of freshly made juices. Her study was peer-reviewed by four eminent oncologists.
Gerson's insistence on a strictly vegetarian, temporarily vegan regime has been amply justified by many studies showing the health advantages of cutting out or cutting down on animal protein. A recent, somewhat controversial claim came in "The China Study"3 by T.Colin Campbell, Ph.D., Professor of Nutrition at Cornell, who after years of intensive world-wide research has concluded that "animal proteins are the No.1. carcinogen in the world".
Those whom he cured will attest to the truth of his ideas
From Japan comes the testimony of Professor Yoshihiko Hoshino, professor of medicine at Fukushima University, Northern Japan, whose book, "How a Professor of Medicine Cured Himself of Liver-metastasised Colon Cancer with the Gerson Therapy"4 is at present only available in Japanese. Starting by curing himself and 12 cancer patients on the same protocol, since 1998 he has treated over 500 more with a colleague, achieving good results and expanding the work all the time. Despite the accumulating evidence of its great potential, the Gerson therapy is far from sufficiently known and utilised.
The Gerson Institute in California acts as an information centre and educational facility. In this country the Gerson Support Group UK, a registered charity, provides information and supports patients who choose to embark on the therapy. Altogether it's a small arena for the legacy of the physician whom Nobel Laureate Dr Albert Schweitzer called one of the most eminent geniuses in the history of medicine, adding, "Many of his basic ideas have been adopted without having his name connected with them. Those whom he cured will attest to the truth of his ideas."
I am only one of many hundreds of people all over the world who is happy to do that.
1) Lechner P. & Kronberger L. Experiences with the use of dietary therapy in surgical oncology. Aktuelle Ernaehrungsmedizin, 2:15, 1990
2) Wheatley C. The Case of the .005% Survivor, in M.Gearin-Tosh, Living Proof - a medical mutiny, Scribner, 2002. ISBN 0-7432-0677-0
3) Campbell T.C. The China Study, Benbella Books, Dallas ISBN 1-932100- 38-5
4) Hoshino Y. (Title in Japanese) 1998. ISBN 4-8376-1096-X.
Beata Bishop is a writer, lecturer and psychotherapist, with a special interest in the body-mind link in sickness and health. Since her recovery from metastasised malignant melanoma 23 years ago by using the Gerson Therapy, she has been counselling cancer patients both in the UK and abroad. Her book, "A Time to Heal", (First Stone, ISBN 4-904439- 52-7) describing her journey from cancer to recovery, is in its fourth English edition and has been translated into seven languages. She can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Gerson Support Group UK (Reg.Charity No.106346) provides information on the theory and practice of the Gerson therapy and supports patients who choose this method to regain their health. Its list of publications and all other information can be obtained from PO Box 406, Esher, Surrey, KT10 9UL, or by ringing its helpline on 01372 464557, www.gersonsupportgroup.org.uk.
The Gerson Institute, 1572 Second Avenue , San Diego CA 92101, USA
Phone - 001 619 685 5353
The Science of Gerson
The first thing we all need to be clear about is that no one really knows the exact starting steps in the cancer process.
Accepted textbook wisdom is that 'mutagens' (toxins) change your healthy cell's DNA and a rogue cell is formed.
In November 2004, Dr Wang's team at Columbia University came up with a 'New, Breakthrough theory' that stomach cancer started when repair 'stem cells' failed to convert to normal cells and just continued growing like topsy. Wang said that, 'The text books would now have to be rewritten'.
Then there are new therapies that suggest that, for example, EMF's can cause double breaks in the DNA strand, etc., etc. What is most likely is that there are a number of very different ways a cancer can get started. The World Health Organisation talks about causes like smoking, poor diet, toxins and infection as if they are separate. They might be, but far more likely is that they are all contributing factors in a build up process that eventually tips you over the edge.
One feature of poor diet that we have consistently featured in icon is too much salt in the diet. In 'The Tree of Life - The Anti-Cancer Diet' we show that 1gm per day is an acceptable maximum. The US authorities argue for 1.25gms of sodium per day; our own Food Standards Agency says 6gms of salt.
Inside every cell of your body there are power stations, called mitochondria. Each takes in oxygen and carbohydrate and, in a number of steps using various enzymes and potassium, produces energy and waste products. Over the last few hundred thousand years the human body's energy production has evolved in this way using potassium which is plentiful in fruits and vegetables, unlike sodium which is rare. So rare that animals go for months without salt before finding a 'salt-lick'; so rare that in Roman times people were paid in salt - it gave rise to the word SALary.
The energy production system runs smoothly until there is mineral imbalance. If too much sodium enters the cell and power stations it will start to displace the potassium. The chemical reactions will all work with sodium instead of potassium, but just not quite as well. So less oxygen is drawn in, less energy produced. Furthermore the waste products (in this case including sodium salts) are more acidic than potassium salts, so the cell and mitochondria environments become even more 'unfriendly', less oxygen is drawn in, less energy produced, and even more acid salts made.
A Downward Spiral - Low Oxygen, Low Energy
As the cellular energy production is lowered the p53 repair gene starts to shut down (think of it as a battery getting lower and the light dimming).
As the oxygen intake lowers the energy production can switch to a process using glucose and no oxygen. This extreme is called a cancer cell. All the Gerson Therapy seeks to do is simply restore the proper balance of minerals and in particular potassium over sodium. Hence the choice of foods.
Interestingly oestradiol, the powerful variant ofoestrogen, can bind to cellular receptor sites and has been shown to lower oxygen and increase sodium levels in cells.
One further factor is that the sodium levels in the body are much higher than those in the mitochondria. Left to the laws of osmosis, the cell and the power station would take in an excess of sodium. However, cell membranes contain 'pumps' which pump in potassium and pump out sodium. These pumps are driven by magnesium. US research showed that 40 per cent of adults are deficient in magnesium. The choice of foods in the Gerson Therapy is also high in magnesium.
What About Vitamin C?
The Gerson Therapy makes no claims about vitamin C (although there are several research studies on high dose vitamin C killing cancer cells). The therapy is confined to restoring the correct mineral balance inside a cell. Obviously, the juices contain a multitude of vitamins, enzymes, minerals and trace elements.
What About Meat, Fish Or Soya?
Max Gerson wanted patients, at least for the first 8 weeks, and ideally for two years, to cut down on all fats and protein in particular avoiding those from animal sources. Avoiding meat and pesticides would also cut down on oestrogen and oestrogen mimics.
What About The Coffee Enemas?
One famous 'orthodox' Professor quoted in the UK press chose to criticise Gerson Therapy by saying, 'Who would think that coffee would cure cancer!?' Gerson Therapy says no such thing; this is just mischievous ignorance.
Coffee enemas dilate bile ducts and help the liver excrete more toxins. That's all! There are other ways of doing this - e.g. good old fashioned Epsom Salts - but they are not as effective. Besides opening up the bile ducts, what is more important is that the coffee enemas increase the production of bile which, in turn, expedites the discharge of toxins from the liver.
One big problem with Gerson is that - for people on standard salty, sugary Western diets - the change can be extreme. Cells can release huge quantities of toxins into the bloodstream, which proceed to the liver. Cancer patients tend to have very fatty livers, often with gall stones, dead cells, even by-products of chemotherapy. Therefore, the five daily coffee enemas and the castor oil treatment every other day ensure that the liver doesn't get overwhelmed by the release of toxins.
Dr. Gerson recognised, early on, the danger of hepatic coma, leading to death, without constant vigorous detoxification. Incidentally, this is the reason why patients who have been pre-treated with chemotherapy cannot embark on the intensive Gerson Therapy for several months, for fear that the release of chemotherapy residues might kill them before the cancer does. That, of course, diminishes the chances of the Gerson Therapy effecting a cure; it's really a race against time. The only purpose of the coffee enema is to help 'clean up' the liver so that the whole immune system might work better.
Find out more information and read an interview with Charlotte Gerson