The Budwig diet, or Budwig protocol, is a diet plan that some people believe can support the treatment of cancer.

Standard medical treatments for cancer include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy. Some people also look for complementary therapies that can support the treatment process.

One such therapy is the Budwig diet. This diet involves the consumption of a flaxseed oil and cottage cheese mixture, as well as the avoidance of processed foods and animal fats.

Flaxseed contains omega-3, a healthful fat that may reduce the levels of certain chemicals that contribute to cancer. It also contains lignans and phytoestrogens, which may have anti-cancer effects.

In this article, we consider whether there is any evidence to support the use of the Budwig diet and discuss the possible risks and side effects.

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The Budwig diet involves many servings of flaxseed oil mixed with cottage cheese or yogurt.

People who follow the Budwig diet eat a mixture of flaxseed oil and cottage cheese.

According to Dr. Johanna Budwig, who developed the diet in the 1950s, eating a lot of polyunsaturated fat from these specific sources will help prevent cancer cells from spreading.

The diet plan also focuses heavily on the following foods:

  • fruits
  • vegetables
  • foods that are high in fiber

Dr. Budwig also recommended spending 20 minutes a day outdoors to:

She recommended following the diet strictly and consistently for at least 5 years.

Foods to avoid

A person who follows the diet should avoid:

  • pork
  • cold and processed meats
  • sugar
  • refined grains and cereals
  • shellfish
  • butter and most other dairy products
  • margarine and other refined and hydrogenated oils
  • tea and coffee

Why follow the Budwig diet?

Dr. Budwig designed this diet to support the treatment of cancer, but proponents claim that it can also help with other conditions, including:

However, health authorities insist that there is not enough evidence to support the use of this diet.

The basis of the Budwig diet is a mixture of flaxseed oil and either cottage cheese or quark, another bland cheese. A person may also use low fat milk or yogurt.

To make the mixture, a person should combine the following ingredients and mix them well until the oil is no longer visible:

  • 8.5 ounces (oz) of flaxseed oil
  • 16 oz of 1% cottage cheese or low-fat quark
  • 4 tablespoons of honey

People on the diet should aim to eat 1.5 oz of flaxseed oil and 4 oz of cottage cheese or quark per day. They should eat these at different times throughout the day but always as a mixture.

There is little or no evidence that the Budwig diet can treat cancer. However, some research does suggest that flaxseed may help fight cancer.

Flaxseed

A 2017 study found that mice with lung cancer that consumed flaxseed had fewer new lung tumors compared with mice that ate a diet without flaxseed.

Other research involved hens with ovarian cancer. The hens that ate flaxseed had fewer late stage tumors and better outcomes after a year than hens that did not eat flaxseed.

However, there is not much recent research available about the effects of flaxseed in humans with cancer.

In one small trial from 2001, the researchers recruited 25 men with prostate cancer and found that enriching the diet with flaxseed might lower the levels of the male hormone testosterone. Decreasing the amount of this hormone may help reduce the size of the tumors.

Budwig diet

One case study followed an individual with breast cancer who used the Budwig diet in addition to traditional treatments, including chemotherapy.

Her cancer went into remission, but it is not clear whether this was due to the Budwig diet or the conventional therapies.

These results are encouraging, but before reaching a conclusion, scientists need to investigate further how flaxseed and the Budwig diet affect humans with cancer. For now, it is not possible to call the Budwig diet a cancer treatment.

However, eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and limiting the intake of animal products — especially processed meats — is likely to benefit a person's overall health. In turn, this may boost their chances of recovery and their well-being while they undergo medical treatment for cancer.

What diet is best for a person with breast cancer? Find out here.

The Budwig diet primarily promotes healthful eating, and it has limited side effects. However, it is not suitable for everyone.

Possible adverse effects

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Possible side effects of eating a lot of flax, or flaxseed oil, include excessive gas and an upset stomach.

People should bear the following in mind before adopting the Budwig diet:

  • High consumption of flaxseed may lead to gastrointestinal problems, such as excessive gas and diarrhea.
  • The contents of the diet may not be suitable for people with some types of cancer.
  • People with a dairy intolerance will not be able to eat cottage cheese.
  • Eating a lot of flaxseed can increase the risk of a bowel obstruction. Drinking plenty of water can help reduce this risk.
  • Consuming flaxseed during pregnancy may increase the risk of breast cancer in the child.
  • Flaxseed may interact with some pain relievers and drugs for bleeding disorders, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
  • Flaxseed may worsen a bleeding disorder.
  • Additional sun exposure can lead to skin damage and a higher risk of skin cancer. A person should ask their doctor how much time they should spend in the sun and what precautions to take.
  • People who lose weight while they have cancer may need additional calories. A doctor can advise on any special dietary needs.
  • Some people have claimed that this diet can cure cancer. It is important to understand that there is no evidence that any diet can cure cancer.

People should follow their doctor's instructions regarding cancer treatment and ask them about any dietary or lifestyle changes.

Dietary and other therapies should only be complementary, supporting and not replacing conventional treatment.

Allergy and intolerance

Some people may have an allergic reaction or a sensitivity to flaxseeds or dairy produce. It is rare for a person to have a flaxseed allergy, but if they do, they may experience:

  • tingling in the mouth
  • hives on the skin
  • difficulty breathing

If a person is struggling to breathe, someone should call for medical help at once.

People who have an intolerance to dairy products could have similar side effects from eating cottage cheese.

Who should not follow the diet?

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A person with diabetes or hyperglycemia should talk to their doctor before trying the Budwig diet.

The Budwig diet is safe for most people. For some, however, it could do more harm than good.

People should not follow the diet if they have:

  • diabetes or hyperglycemia
  • certain hormonal conditions
  • inflammatory bowel disease or other intestinal problems
  • a bleeding disorder

People who do not have these conditions and want to try the Budwig diet should speak to their doctor first.

Flaxseed has shown some promise as a cancer-fighting food in animal studies. However, there is not yet enough research to prove that it is an effective treatment.

Scientists have not produced enough evidence to show that the Budwig diet can benefit a person with cancer.

Anyone who wishes to follow the diet should first speak to their doctor. The use of the Budwig diet should only ever be complementary to conventional medical treatments.