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Budwig diet

The Budwig diet involves eating flaxseed (linseed) oil, mixed with cottage cheese and low-fat milk. There is no reliable evidence to show that the Budwig diet can treat or prevent cancer.

Summary

  • The Budwig diet involves eating flaxseed oil mixed with cottage cheese and milk
  • There is no scientific evidence to use it as a treatment for cancer
  • The diet might have side effects and it doesn’t contain all the nutrients we need

What is the Budwig diet?

Johanna Budwig, a German biochemist, developed the Budwig diet in the 1950s. The diet involves eating flaxseed oil mixed with cottage cheese and milk.

Dr Budwig believed in the combination of cottage cheese and flaxseed oil. She thought that it made omega-3 fatty acids more available to body cells. She also believed that the oil could stop cancers from growing.

Flax is a plant grown in many parts of the world. Pressing its seeds produces flaxseed (linseed) oil to use in cooking or as a food supplement. The seeds contain high levels of fibre and many vitamins and minerals. As well as flaxseed and cottage cheese, the Budwig diet is rich in fruit, vegetables and fibre.

On the Budwig diet, you can’t eat:

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

Dr Budwig also asked her patients to sunbathe and take walks in nature. They had to do this for 20 minutes a day. She believed that the sun supplied the body with vitamins. The vitamins strengthened the immune system. And she believed that it also helped to balance blood pressure, cholesterol and pH levels in the body.

Variations of the Budwig diet include coffee or water enemas for constipation.

Why people with cancer use it

People with cancer use the Budwig diet because flax seed contains omega-3. Research has shown that omega-3 fatty acids have some effect on cancer cells. The omega-3 reduces the levels of certain chemicals associated with cancer. 

Flax seed also contains substances called lignans and phyto estrogens. They have anti-cancer and hormonal effects.

But researchers are still investigating this. There is not enough evidence to say that this diet can prevent or treat cancer in humans.

Dr Budwig wrote books and papers. In these, she gave evidence of people that had been treated with her diet. She also explained how the diet works to kill cancer cells. But she did not publish clinical trials in medical journals.

How you have it

The mixture of cottage cheese and flax seed oil is the cornerstone of the Budwig diet.  

You make the mixture of cottage cheese, flax seed oil and some low-fat milk. You can have it as part of a muesli made from ground or whole flax seeds. You can also add some fruit, nuts and honey to the seeds.

You have to eat the mixture within 20 minutes of making it.

Side effects

Flax seeds

Possible side effects of flaxseed include:

  • frequent bowel movements
  • bloating
  • constipation
  • wind
  • stomach ache

There have also been reports of a few allergic reactions. Taking high doses of flaxseed without enough water can cause bowel blockages (obstruction).

Flaxseed may interact with some medicines. It can stop the absorption of some drugs. That is if you take them with flaxseeds.

Talk to your doctor if you are thinking of trying the Budwig diet. They might tell you not to have it if you have one or more of the following conditions:

  • bowel problems such as inflammatory bowel disease
  • diabetes
  • bleeding disorders

Eating plenty of vegetables and fruit is part of a healthy diet. But restricting your diet might not be right for you. You might not get enough nutrients for your body to work if you avoid certain food groups. You could also lose weight.

You might already be weak and underweight if you have cancer. So, you need to take in more calories than usual to cope with the illness and treatment. Talk to a dietitian before trying any specific diet. Do so particularly if you have lost weight since having cancer or if you have difficulty eating a normal diet.

Your doctor can refer you to a dietitian who will be able to advise you on the most suitable diet for you.

Sun exposure

Regular exposure to the sun puts you at higher risk of melanoma and other skin cancers. Wear appropriate protection.

Research into the Budwig diet and cancer

There is no scientific evidence that the Budwig diet treats or cures cancer in people.And there are no published clinical trials researching the diet in peer reviewed medical journals.

Peer reviewed journals mean articles are written by experts. They are then reviewed by several other experts in the field. Only then the article is published in the journal.

Most of the research has only looked at flaxseed not the Budwig diet and this has mainly been laboratory research. Scientists have tested substances in flaxseed on cancer cells. This is very early research. It suggests that these substances may help to stop the growth and spread of cancer cells.

Studies of flaxseed in animals have also shown that it may have some effect in stopping cancer from growing and spreading.

Scientists have also been looking at lignans or phyto oestrogens (plant oestrogen) in flaxseeds. They are not exactly sure how it works. But they think that lignans may act on cancers that depend on hormones, such as some breast cancers. They also think that they may act as an antioxidant and slow cancer cell growth.

How much it costs

Be cautious about believing information or paying for alternative cancer therapy on the internet.

A word of caution

It is understandable that you might want to try anything if you think it might help treat or cure your cancer. Only you can decide whether to use an alternative cancer therapy such as the Budwig diet.

You could harm your health if you stop your cancer treatment for an unproven treatment.

Many websites might promote the Budwig diet as a cure for cancer. But no reputable scientific cancer organisations support any of these claims.

Last reviewed: 
21 Dec 2018
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    A Cockbain and others

    Gut. January 2012;61(1):135-149.

  • Effect of dietary flaxseed on serum levels of estrogens and androgens in postmenopausal women.

    S Sturgeon and others

    Nutrition and Cancer. 2008; 60(5):612-618.

  • Bioavailability of alpha-linolenic acid in subjects after ingestion of three different forms of flaxseed.

    J Austria and others

    The Journal of the American College of Nutrition 2008; 27(2):214-221

  • Flax and Flaxseed Oil (Linum usitatissimum): A Review by the Natural Standard Research Collaboration

    E Basch and others

    Journal of the Society for Integrative Oncology 5(3):92-105 · February 2007 

  • The role of optical radiations in skin cancer.

    F Ayala and others

    ISRN Dermatology. 2013; 2013:842359.

  • Effects of flaxseed lignan secoisolariciresinol diglucoside on preneoplastic biomarkers of cancer progression in a model of simultaneous breast and ovarian cancer development

    M Devora and others

    Nutrition and Cancer. 2015; 67(5): 857–864.

  • The information on this page is based on literature searches and specialist checking. We used many references and there are too many to list here. If you need additional references for this information please contact patientinformation@cancer.org.uk with details of the particular issue you are interested in.

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