The Gerson diet is a whole-body approach to healing that uses organic foods, detoxification methods and supplementation to enhance the body’s natural ability to heal itself. According to “The Gerson Therapy,” written by Charlotte Gerson and Dr. Morton Walker, the diet has been used to successfully treat cancer as well as other chronic health conditions such as epilepsy, drug addictions, diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome, heart disease and kidney disease. The authors also recommend using the diet to prevent disease and maintain health.
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The Gerson diet was developed in the 1920s by Max Gerson, a German-born physician, who created the diet to cure his own migraine headaches. Dr. Gerson later found that the diet also cured health problems such as diabetes, tuberculosis and chronic skin conditions. After emigrating to the United States, Dr. Gerson focused his research on the prevention and cure of cancer. After his death in 1959, his daughter Charlotte continued his work, eventually founding the Gerson Institute in 1977.
Regular consumption of fresh, organic juice is a key component in the Gerson diet. According to “The Gerson Therapy,” juicing allows nutrients to quickly enter the bloodstream, flooding the body with vitamins and minerals. The diet also consists of a plant-based diet in which salt, fat and protein intake are limited. For healthy individuals, Dr. Gerson originally recommended that three-quarters of the diet consist of healthy vegetarian foods, and that the other 25 percent of foods could be the individual’s choice. However, given the increased use of food additives, pesticides and other environmental toxins, Charlotte Gerson now recommends that 90 percent of the diet consist of Gerson-recommended foods.
The Gerson diet divides foods into three categories: desirable, occasionally allowed and prohibited. Desirable foods, which include most fruits and vegetables, may be eaten in vast quantities. Fresh fruit and vegetable juices, raw salads and vegetable soups all fall into this category. Foods such as whole rye or oat bread, organic popcorn, brown rice and sweet potatoes may be eaten once a week. Sweeteners such as maple syrup, honey and brown sugar should not exceed 2 tsp. daily.
Foods prohibited on the Gerson diet include all processed foods including anything frozen, preserved, canned, refined, salted or smoked. Dairy products, including milk, cheese, cream, ice cream and butter are not allowed. Refined white sugar and wheat flour, including whole wheat, are also forbidden. Certain fruits are prohibited such as pineapples, berries and avocados. The Gerson diet does not allow consumption of meat, soy, eggs, baked goods, coffee or alcohol.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved the Gerson diet for the treatment of cancer or any other disease. Studies reporting on the effectiveness of the Gerson diet are limited. Talk to a medical professional before making major changes to your diet or lifestyle, especially if you are taking any medications.