The Gerson Therapy Diet: Healthy or Harmful?

At first glance, Gerson Therapy seems like a great way to get more vitamins and minerals while removing harmful substances from the body. And if you have an illness that’s caused your quality of life to plummet, you may be tempted to try anything to restore your health.

But is Gerson Therapy an effective treatment for the health conditions it claims to help? I’ll discuss what we know about the diet, its advantages and disadvantages, and whether it’s recommended by health experts so that you can make the most informed decision about your health.

What is Gerson Therapy?

gerson therapy 1

Gerson Therapy is a diet developed by German physician Dr. Max Gerson in the 1920s and 1930s. Promoted as an alternative treatment for numerous health conditions, it claims to cure disease by eliminating toxins from the body and by reversing nutrient deficiencies.

What is Gerson Therapy used for?

Gerson Therapy is used to treat many different health conditions, such as:

  • Tuberculosis
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Migraines
  • Kidney failure
  • Heart disease
  • Cancer

What does Gerson Therapy include?

There are four major components to Gerson Therapy:


The Gerson diet is composed entirely of organic, largely plant-based foods. It encourages followers to eat three meals a day made from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. 

It is very low in sodium, fat, and protein, completely restricting animal protein, plant-based proteins like beans, tofu, quinoa, nuts, and seeds, and even certain fruits and vegetables like berries, pineapple, and cucumber.


fruit and vegetable juices

Juicing is a significant component of Gerson Therapy. Followers prepare freshly juiced fruits and vegetables every hour during the day, about 13 glasses of juice in total. Specifically, it includes carrot, carrot-apple, and green juice

The program recommends using a masticating juicer or two-step juicer to retain most of the natural enzymes and nutrients.

Drinking water during the therapy is discouraged, as you’re supposed to get all your fluids from juice and eating fresh produce. 

Related: 7 Best Masticating Juicers (2023)


According to the Gerson website, Gerson Therapy promotes using coffee enemas multiple times daily (plus castor oil) to “eliminate wastes, regenerate the liver, reactivate the immune system, and restore the body’s essential defenses.”

Since Dr. Gerson believed that all diseases result partially from a buildup of toxins in the body, detoxification is required for the program. 


Gerson Therapy encourages the use of the following dietary supplements to reverse nutrient deficiencies:

  • Lugol’s solution (potassium iodide + iodine in water)
  • Thyroid hormone
  • Pancreatic enzymes
  • Niacin
  • Flaxseed oil
  • Coenzyme Q10

The Gerson Institute recommends following the program for 2-5 years, depending on the severity of your diagnosis. Advanced cases of cancer, for example, would fall on the longer end of that range.

Pros of the diet

Gerson Therapy does have a few nutritional strengths, namely that it:

  • Includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
  • Provides additional nutrients and enzymes from freshly juiced fruits and vegetables
  • Limits red and processed meats, sweets, and fried foods
  • Includes flaxseed oil, a nutrient-dense fat source rich in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats

In terms of the overall healthfulness of the diet, however, there are significantly more risks than benefits, as we’ll see below.

Cons of the diet

Overall, the Gerson diet is a highly restrictive diet that removes entire food groups. Often, the rationale for restricting certain foods isn’t based on the most current scientific evidence. 

There are several significant cons to this diet:

  • Extremely low in protein – protein is required for critical bodily functions like facilitating biochemical reactions, immune system regulation, and maintenance of muscle tissue
  • Extremely low in fat – fat is required by the body for temperature regulation and hormone production
  • Too low in calories – potential for malnutrition and muscle wasting
  • Expensive due to the requirement for all organic foods
  • High risk for electrolyte imbalance – due to multiple coffee enemas a day
  • Risk for dehydration – drinking plain water is discouraged

Is the Gerson Therapy diet effective?

No peer-reviewed clinical trials on Gerson Therapy have been conducted, likely because it would be considered unethical to place sick research participants on such a restrictive diet. 

Therefore, the claims made by the program for curing cancer and other diseases aren’t backed up by high-quality evidence.

The papers published by Dr. Gerson used to justify the program’s effectiveness were incomplete case studies often missing important details. According to the National Cancer Institute, these papers do not prove that the Gerson Therapy diet is effective for treating cancer.

Gerson Therapy is considered especially risky for cancer patients due to its low calorie and protein content. Cancer often increases a person’s protein and calorie needs. At the same time, effective cancer treatments like chemotherapy often lower appetite, and the cancer itself can lead to muscle wasting and excessive weight loss.

It would realistically be impossible for most cancer patients to stay well nourished while following the Gerson diet, so health experts recommend discussing it with your oncologist or registered dietitian first. 

Gerson Therapy – main takeaway

The Gerson Therapy diet has many devoted followers, but there’s almost no high-quality scientific evidence backing up its claims of curing disease. 

Any benefits seen from Gerson Therapy are likely due to eating more plant-based foods through meals and juicing. Overall, however, this regimen is largely unbalanced, severely low in calories, protein, and healthy fats, can be expensive, and poses risks for electrolyte imbalances due to excessive enemas.

If you’re looking to improve the nutrient density of your diet by including more plant-based foods, consider a more well-balanced diet instead. Focus on including plenty of fruits, vegetables, beans, soy, whole grains, nuts, and seeds at meals and snacks, with one or two servings of freshly juiced fruits and vegetables if desired.
Want to learn how to incorporate juicing in a healthier way? Read Juicing 101: What is Juicing – A Great Beginner’s Guide.

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