Can A Strict Vegetable Diet Cure Cancer?


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Almost 40 percent of Americans can expect a cancer diagnosis in their lifetimes. As the number of new cancer cases per year is expected to rise to 23.6 million by 2030 worldwide, people are desperate for answers, turning to alternative therapies that fall outside the typical “slash, burn, poison” treatment model.

Director and producer Sarah Mabrouk was initially inspired to report on the “quack” cancer clinics in Mexico that purportedly prey on the fear and vulnerability of cancer patients. But as she began researching the background of some of those doctors, she found that alternative therapies were not as absurd as she’d thought. Rather than take sides, or present the debate as conventional versus alternative treatment, Mabrouk decided to focus on the patients of a particular nutritional protocol called Gerson therapy. Dr. Max Gerson was a Jewish physician in Germany who began developing a dietary approach to treating cancer, but he soon fled to New York City to escape the Nazis. In the United States, he continued treating advanced-cancer patients with a strict organic, plant-based diet that included raw juices multiple times a day, nutritional supplements, and enemas, all of which had to be precisely followed as instructed for at least two years.

Mabrouk was interested in what made patients turn to alternative treatments for cancer. How did they fare undergoing these treatments? What support systems did they have and how were they affected? Would people let her record their experiences over a period of three years no matter the outcome?

Six people from different countries and their families said yes, and the result is Mabrouk’s documentary The Food Cure. The director selected patients as young as 5 months and as old as 72 by touring alternative therapy clinics internationally and writing to the Gerson Institute and asking for volunteers who, Mabrouk hoped, would be vulnerable enough to allow her to film their experiences, whatever the outcome. The product is a film that lets viewers see what three years of an intensive and controversial nutritional therapy does to patients’ bodies, spirits, and lives.

One might anticipate that The Food Cure would compare different nutritional remedies rumored to hack the malignant-tumor puzzle, but it turned out to cover only Gerson therapy. The viewer watches as patients adopt essentially a housebound lifestyle to make fresh juices every two hours. Such scenes leave the viewer wondering why, if the therapy is so intense, other food-based options weren’t compared. For example, research suggests that the low-carb, high-fat ketogenic diet, while controversial, is easier to follow and can drastically reduce both tumor sizes and the risk of developing certain kinds of cancers.

Dozens of pounds of produce a week are required to make the multiple juices a day prescribed in the plant-based protocol. One patient’s wife discussed the amount of debt the couple incurred as her husband followed the Gerson model, estimating that it was around $60,000, but surmised it would still be less than chemotherapy, which can cost thousands of dollars a month even with insurance. Although the expense of the therapy is dwarfed by the costs of conventional treatment, the former is no small burden; it would be cost-prohibitive to many, especially with insurance typically covering only conventional methods of treatments and, in many cases, not providing full coverage for even approved treatments. In other words, a “food cure” is not equally accessible across class lines, and the documentary doesn’t make that inequity clear.

Despite African Americans having the highest death rate of any racial and ethnic group in the U.S. for most cancers, the filmmaker chose to follow only one Black family (the other families are White). When the family is highlighted, key social issues that might impact their care are ignored: racial disparities in cancer diagnoses or treatment; underrepresentation in clinical trials; and implicit bias in medicine against people of color, women, and trans and nonbinary people. The reality is that racial, gender, and economic inequalities are lethal, and they take a much heavier toll on communities of color and the poor.

Additionally, the increasing toxicity of our environment and its role in cancer didn’t come up. Our planet’s health is inextricably linked to our health. According to the World Health Organization, 4.2 million people die every year as a result of exposure to outdoor air pollution, which accounts for 25 percent of all deaths and disease from lung cancer and 15 percent of all deaths and disease from ischemic heart disease. That the planet has become more polluted and our food less nutritious deserves at least a mention in a film about using food to fight cancer. That this environmental pollution is racialized—that people of color have less access to healthier foods, accurate nutritional information, and adequate health care—demands a deeper, more critical discussion.

Some of the patients in The Food Cure went into full remission after the Gerson therapy. Some of them struggled to follow the protocol exactly, while others adapted to the rigorous juicing protocol and found ways not only to maintain the intense treatment, but also get out of the house once in a while. Those who experienced what the medical establishment might call miracles found the severity of the therapy worth it. But the film is not black and white and does a good job of highlighting the uncertainty inherent in all cancer treatment and the gray area of alternative therapies, which still need more research.

Showing the impact of cancer treatment on relationships is where The Food Cure really shines. Some patients experienced strong support from partners and families; others, shockingly, were abandoned or plunked down in the middle of a custody battle for their children because of the treatment route they chose. Your heart will leap and ache and race for more reasons than pending test results, bad news after a biopsy, or the five-year “all clear”—when an oncologist declares a patient cancer-free five years after diagnosis. You can’t help but be drawn into each patient’s life so deeply that, rather than waiting for a medical cure, you’re just witnessing their journey, their hopes and fears, with compassion and a sense of shared humanity. And that, despite some of the more painful outcomes the film shows, at least feels like therapy.

Correction Sept. 4, 2018: A previous version referred to “the Gerson Method,” which is a protocol not endorsed by the Gerson Institute. This version has been corrected.

Megan Wildhood wrote this article for YES! Magazine. Megan is a freelance writer in Seattle. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, The Sun, and America Magazine, among others. Her first book, “Long Division,” was published in 2017. Read more about Megan at meganwildhood.com.

This article was republished from YES! Magazine.

See also:
Angiogenesis Control Through Diet: Can You Beat Cancer This Way?
More Evidence CT Scans Increase Brain Cancer Risk

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May 27, 2019

Sentimental favorites are a big attraction this Memorial Day. The Moon is in the emotionally charged sign of Pisces. Moods are apt to change from moment to moment. Psychic sensitivities are also activated. A lunar nod to Venus graces the early hours…
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May 2019

Sunday afternoon: 3–4:30pm at Hillside Herbals Healing herbs for women's health part I: tonic herbs for hormonal balance—normal cycling and aging. Rachel has created a 10...

Cost: Drop in Fee $10 includes all materials and handouts.

Where:
Hillside Herbals
Jefferson, MA


Sponsor: Hillside Herbals
Telephone: 508-847-8615
Contact Name: Rachel Ross
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Sunday Reiki treatments with Reiki master and practitioner Linda Simons in Brookline, MA. Start your week off on a more balanced note with a Reiki treatment on a Sunday afternoon. Please join me...

Cost: Sliding Scale $25-45

Where:
233 Harvard Street
Suite 36
Brookline, MA  02446
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Telephone: 617-304-2205
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This is a light fun evening to help get you going into the summer season. This evening we will be discussing and working with Geraniums and Pelargoniums. We will be discussing the plants, their...

Cost: $ 20 includes material, pre-reg required

Where:
Brookside Farms
8 Mammoth Rd
Sute #A
Pelham, NH  03076
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Sponsor: The Healing Power of Flowers - Heaven and Earth
Telephone: 603-275-7688
Contact Name: Stacey Smith
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Instructor: Pam Driscoll Wednesdays, April 17, May 8, 22, June 5, 19, 6:30pm–7:30pm Join us for the Mid-Week Meditation Sampler at Creative Spirit…an opportunity to pause,...

Cost: $20 per class

Where:
Creative Spirit
80 Washington Street
Marblehead, MA  01945
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Telephone: 781-797-0389
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Be An “Eat to Thrive” Graduate This Summer. Come to an introductory class for the summer session from June 6–August 15 in Point of Pines, Revere, MA. Congratulations to the...

Cost: Free—all are welcome!

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Point of Pines
Revere, MA


Sponsor: Eat to Thrive
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Activists and artists will create inspiring chalk imagery encouraging kindness to animals On May 31, people around the world will gather to create colorful chalk imagery promoting compassion for...

Cost: Free

Where:
Worcester City Common
Worcester, MA  01604


Telephone: 617-5430189
Contact Name: Melissa Scher
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Experience the process to a past life. Learn why it is beneficial and potentially: Clear emotional trauma and physical issues Calm feelings of stress and/or sadness Get insight into...

Cost: $50

Where:
Voice of Clay
16 Meetinghouse Hill Rd
Brookline , NH  03033
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Sponsor: Voice of Clay
Telephone: 603-672-2626
Contact Name: Wendy
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You do not need any musical background but please be sure to register early! Class is limited to 16 students. 6-hole flutes in G are provided for use during class. You are welcome to bring...

Cost: $35

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Circles of Wisdom
386 Merrimack Street, Suite 1-A
Methuen, MA  01844
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Sponsor: Circles of Wisdom
Telephone: 978-474-8010
Contact Name: Cathy Kneeland
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Learn an intro to the magick and science of dowsing. Tools, techniques for information, clearing, balancing, healing, and more. Bob will introduce you to dowsing and basic radiesthesia,...

Cost: Class is $45

Where:
The Healing Power of Flowers - Heaven and Earth
68 Stiles Rd
Suite #A
Salem, NH  03079
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Telephone: 603-275-7688
Contact Name: Stacey Smith
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In celebration of ushering in the Strawberry Moon Cycle and we will be doing a new moon planting. This is a great opportunity to literally sow the seeds for some of our other upcoming workshops...

Cost: Pre-reg $35, $40 at the door, materials included

Where:
The Healing Power of Flowers - Heaven and Earth
68 Stiles Rd
Sute #A
Salem, NH  03079
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Sponsor: The Healing Power of Flowers - Heaven and Earth
Telephone: 603-275-7688
Contact Name: Stacey Smith
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June 1–2 Join other like-minded seekers as we take a journey through the concepts of the new Earth paradigm, higher self and soul sovereignty, ascension mechanics, and spiritual alchemy.

Where:
Chester, VT


Telephone: (617) 366-6042
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Using Lessons from Music to Harmonize Your Life You know how you want to show up in the world—expressing yourself through your essence, centered in your heart, effective in your life and...

Cost: $90 prepaid by May 30th, $100 at the door

Where:
Center at Westwoods
590 Gay Street
Westwoods, MA
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Telephone: 617-784-4426
Contact Name: Janet Kessenich
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May 4–June 8, 2019 Saturdays 10am–11:30am Taijiquan (Tai Chi Chuan) is a healing martial art using breath and movement. It is just one way to stay young and healthy. It...

Cost: $120

Where:
Metta Wellness
679 Pleasant Street
Paxton, MA  01612
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Sponsor: Metta Wellness
Telephone: 774-245-5487
Contact Name: Rick Rocha
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