The Gerson regimen is a diet-based therapy targeting cancer cell metabolism; it includes a specific diet, supplements, and coffee enemas.
Gerson Regimen at a glance
The Gerson regimen, developed by Max Gerson, MD, is based on the theory that cancer is caused by alteration of cell metabolism by toxic environmental substances and processed food. It emphasizes increasing potassium intake and minimizing sodium consumption in an effort to correct electrolyte imbalances, repair tissue, and detoxify the liver. The Gerson regimen involves consuming juices from fresh, raw fruit and vegetables; eliminating salt from the diet; taking supplements such as potassium, vitamin B12, thyroid hormone, and pancreatic enzymes; and detoxifying the liver with coffee enemas to stimulate metabolism.1Cassileth B. Gerson regimen. Oncology (Williston Park). 2010 Feb;24(2):201.
Only a few published studies show any evidence of benefit for survival among people with breast cancer, melanoma or metastatic cancer. Most expert reviews have concluded that the Gerson regimen lacks any substantive evidence of improved survival. Providing the Gerson regimen is illegal in the United States, but it is available at clinics in Mexico and Hungary.2Licensed Gerson Clinics. Gerson Institute. Viewed August 23, 2022.
CancerChoices ratings for the Gerson regimen
We rate the Gerson regimen on seven attributes, with 0 the lowest rating and 5 the highest. We rate the strength of the evidence supporting the use of the Gerson regimen for a medical benefit, such as improving treatment outcomes or managing side effects.
See how we evaluate and rate complementary therapies ›
Improving treatment outcomesSee More
- Preliminary evidencesignificant effects in small or poorly designed clinical studies OR conflicting results in adequate studies but a preponderance of evidence of an effect (this is the CancerChoices definition; other researchers and studies may define this differently) of better survival among people with superficial spreading and nodular melanoma treated with Gerson’s diet therapy
- Weak evidenceone or more case studies, supported by animal evidence OR small treatment effects of limited clinical significance OR studies with no controls OR weak trends of effects (this is the CancerChoices definition; other researchers and studies may define this differently) of better survival among people with metastatic cancer or breast cancer treated with either the entire or a modified Gerson’s diet therapy
Optimizing your body terrainSee More
We did not find any research investigating the Gerson regimen for body terrain factors.
Managing side effects and promoting wellnessSee More
- Weak evidenceone or more case studies, supported by animal evidence OR small treatment effects of limited clinical significance OR studies with no controls OR weak trends of effects (this is the CancerChoices definition; other researchers and studies may define this differently) of fewer or delayed side effects from chemoradiotherapy and surgical complications among people with metastatic cancer with poor prognosis treated with Gerson therapy
Reducing cancer riskSee More
- Weak evidence of lower rates of local recurrence among people with breast cancer treated with a modified Gerson’s diet therapy
Use by integrative oncology expertsSee More
- Recommendations against use based on insufficient evidence of benefit
- Not used by any of the programs we cite
- Extreme caution, as this therapy may cause significant, even life-threatening side effects
- Supervision by a medical professional is essential
Keep reading about the Gerson regimen
Ms. Hepp is a researcher and communicator who has been writing and editing educational content on varied health topics for more than 20 years. She serves as lead researcher, program manager, and writer for CancerChoices. Her graduate work in research and cognitive psychology, her master’s degree in instructional design, and her certificate in web design have all guided her in writing and presenting information for a wide variety of audiences and uses. Nancy’s service as faculty development coordinator in the Department of Family Medicine at Wright State University also provided experience in medical research, plus insights into medical education and medical care from the professional’s perspective.
Laura Pole is senior clinical consultant for CancerChoices. Laura is an oncology clinical nurse specialist who has been providing integrative oncology clinical care, navigation, consultation, and education services for over 40 years. She is the co-creator and co-coordinator of the Integrative Oncology Navigation Training at Smith Center for Healing and the Arts in Washington, DC. Laura also manages the “Media Watch Cancer News That You Can Use” listserv for Smith Center/Commonweal. In her role as a palliative care educator and consultant, Laura has served as statewide Respecting Choices Faculty for the Virginia POST (Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment) Collaborative as well as provided statewide professional education on palliative and end-of-life care for the Virginia Association for Hospices and Palliative Care.
For CancerChoices, Laura curates content and research, networks with clinical and organizational partners, brings awareness and education of integrative oncology at professional and patient conferences and programs, and translates research into information relevant to the patient experience as well as clinical practice.
Laura sees her work with CancerChoices as a perfect alignment of all her passions, knowledge and skills in integrative oncology care. She is honored to serve you.