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Dear Doctor: Can you tell me about 'Gerson Therapy'? I have seen it on the internet described as a cure for cancer

CAN YOU tell me about "Gerson therapy"? I am receiving chemotherapy for cancer. I read about it on the internet, and would like your opinion, please.

Gerson therapy involves a very specific diet with supplements and has been used by some people to treat cancer. It aims to rid the body of toxins and strengthen the immune system. It is based on the belief that people with cancer have too much salt in their bodies, and that eating large quantities of fruit and vegetables will restore balance and allow the liver to rid the body of cancer cells. There are three key parts: a diet of organic fruits and vegetables and whole grains; supplements to help correct cell metabolism; and detoxification to remove harmful substances from the body.

Is it a cure for cancer?

Overall, there is no evidence that Gerson therapy works as a cure for cancer. It can help people feel better psychologically and may reduce the need for painkillers. But some Gerson therapists do not support chemotherapy as they believe it damages immunity. I can understand that you may want to try something if you think it might help treat or cure your cancer, but your cancer specialist can help relieve and control your symptoms.

What’s involved in the diet? Does a strict diet help treat cancer?

Diet may play an important role in helping to prevent cancer, but there is no proof drastic changes to your diet help kill cancer cells. With the Gerson diet, each day you need to drink about 9kg of crushed fruit and vegetables, take potassium and other supplements, including vitamin B12, pancreatic enzymes and thyroid supplements, and have three to four coffee or castor oil enemas.

Are there any side effects?

Coffee enemas remove a lot of potassium from your body and can cause infections, dehydration, fits and salt and mineral imbalances. Some elements of the diet are healthy, such as eating low-fat food and lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. But taking this to the extreme and limiting your diet to very large quantities of one food group can be harmful for people who are already weak and ill.

You will also need to think of the costs involved -- Gerson therapy is very expensive. Talk to your specialist about any alternative or complementary therapies that you want to try.