I prefer when possible to immerse myself in my topics. I would rather visit the reflexologist than just explain the methods and flaws behind the idea. And while I have posted a few times about ghosts, I’m hoping to eventually partake in a trek to a poltergeist hangout that takes place in my town each Halloween. However, I won’t be going Gonzo during this post on Gerson Therapy. For that would require me to pipe coffee up my ass. Truth is, I don’t even like that beverage on my tongue.
Gerson Therapy is the name given to a regimen that claims to be able to cure cancer through enemas and a highly restrictive, obsessive diet. This is backed by precisely zero peer-reviewed articles, double blind studies, or research, although there are a few persons who have claimed success by using the method. My veteran readers know this is where I point out that the plural of anecdote is not data. Additionally, those who succumbed to the disease while using Gerson Therapy aren’t hear to tell their stories.
There are, sort of, a couple of posthumous exceptions. Sacramento TV news personality Patti Davis made her Gerson Therapy public, and she died after refusing traditional treatment. Also, Jessica Ainscough gained thousands of social media followers when she used Gerson Therapy to battle epithelioid sarcoma, a rare soft tissue cancer. She likewise perished after ignoring pleas from doctors to use conventional methods.
Ainscough lived for seven years after being diagnosed, about the normal survival time for someone with her condition. During these years, she followed the Gerson protocol of coffee enemas, sodium elimination, potassium supplements, and massive amounts of organic fruits and vegetables, much of it liquefied. The protocol even dictates what the food be prepared in, with aluminum containers off limits.
This approach is named for Max Gerson, a German immigrant to the United States. It is illegal for U.S. clinics to offer the treatment as a cancer cure, although Gerson’s daughter Charlotte has set up a clinic in Mexico, where she dispenses the usual alternative medicine hodgepodge of post hoc reasoning, anecdotes over data, and sentimentality over science.
The elder Gerson said he started this regimen to combat migraines, and the headaches went away. The protocol might have worked or Gerson may have been engaging in post hoc reasoning. Whatever the case, it’s unclear why he deduced that this technique would likewise halt rouge cell growth.
This lack of explanation is of no concern for the believers. The therapy appeals to those who just know that a natural cure exists and is being covered up. It is also attractive to those wary of surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy. On my Facebook feed this week, I saw a teen with deep, red scars across her neck and torso. These came from radiation treatment, so was the result of what is supposed to be the CURE. The treatment itself results in a condition that needs to be treated, and there are regular bouts of violent vomiting. It is a horrible ordeal and I could understand someone wanting to believe something different is available. I’m less charitable to those who fill that gap with a regimen that has no medical backing and which is a death sentence if followed.
When Gerson came up with his alternative treatment idea, this was not by itself terrible. His observation that diet could play a key role in eradicating the disease could have been the first step in the Scientific Method. But this should be followed by developing a hypothesis, testing it, attempting to falsify it, sharing data sets and methods with other researchers, and submitting results for peer review. Instead, he embrace a wild, unproven idea and called it treatment.
To avoid any strawmen, I will quote from gerson.org to describe what the therapy consists of: “The Gerson Therapy is the combination of an organic, plant-based diet, raw juices, coffee enemas, and natural supplements. With its whole body approach to healing, the Gerson Therapy naturally reactivates your body’s magnificent ability to heal itself, with no damaging side effects.”
On a linguistic note, the body is not healing itself if it needs you to help it. Less pedantically, making a blanket statement that no patient will ever have any kind of side effect is a sign it’s not medicine. As to just how many carrots and strawberries are we talking about: “The Gerson Therapy floods the body with nutrients from about 15 to 20 pounds or organic fruits and vegetables daily. Most is used to make fresh raw juice, up to one glass every hour, up to 13 times per day. A typical meal will include salad, cooked vegetables, baked potatoes, Hippocrates soup, and juice. Raw and cooked solid foods are generously consumed.”
As to the lattes up the wazoo: “Degenerative diseases render the body increasingly unable to excrete waste materials adequately, commonly resulting in liver and kidney failure. The Gerson Therapy uses intensive detoxification to eliminate wastes, regenerate the liver, reactivate the immune system and restore the body’s essential defenses. Patients on the Gerson Therapy may take up to 5 coffee enemas per day.”
Tellingly, no one associated with Gerson Therapy has ever identified a specific toxin that these enemas are flushing out. And even if they did, cancer is rouge cell growth, which won’t be impacted by sending botulinum out your backside.
Here’s more: “In the past 50 years, the population has been exposed to more toxins, prescription drugs, and poor quality food, water and air than ever before.” In actuality, food safety and water purification have never been better. The idea that those in the Dark Ages or even frontier America had better food and water sanitation than what we have is demonstrably false. While the claim about prescription drug access is accurate, this is beneficial, not detrimental. And while we may have more exposure to toxins now, there’s no reason to think that’s the case, nor any evidence that Gerson Therapy will make a difference.
In fact, the only documented results from the therapy have been negative. The therapy has caused bowel inflammation, electrolyte imbalances, dehydration, infections, bleeding, and constipation. And it caused me to have an even lower opinion of coffee.