Budwig Diet

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The Budwig diet is a set of dietary and lifestyle recommendations created by Johanna Budwig in the 1950s. Proponents claim it can prevent and cure cancer.

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What Is the Budwig Diet?

The Budwig diet is a mostly vegetarian regimen that focuses on a blend of oil and protein in the form of flaxseed oil and cottage cheese.

Also known as the Budwig protocol, the diet emphasizes whole foods, juicing and herbal teas. It also recommends sun exposure.

The diet was developed in the early 1950s by Johanna Budwig, a German pharmacist and biochemist. Budwig claimed the diet may prevent cancer, shrink tumors and sometimes make them disappear entirely.

Budwig believed eating processed fats was the primary cause of most diseases, particularly cancer. She theorized that combining the fatty acids in flaxseed oil with the protein in cottage cheese would have an effect on the growth and spread of cancer.

Scientific evidence does not support that theory, but many online anecdotal accounts support the Budwig diet.

“You can’t ever get rid of the mesothelioma, but you can get rid of, or shrink, the tumors,” said Marilyn B., wife and caregiver of pleural mesothelioma patient , who turned to the Budwig diet after chemotherapy failed. “I do know something very good has happened since he went on this diet.”

What Is the Budwig Diet Protocol?

The Budwig diet protocol involves a mostly vegetarian diet, a flaxseed and cottage cheese mixture, enemas and daily exposure to the sun.

What You Can Eat

  • Mixture of flaxseed oil and cottage cheese
  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Beans and pulses
  • Whole grains
  • Fermented foods
  • Herbs and herbal teas

What Not to Eat

  • Pork and cold meats
  • Shellfish
  • Animal fat
  • Refined sugars
  • Most dairy products, including butter
  • Refined flours and grains
  • Refined or hydrogenated oils
  • Processed foods
  • Preservatives
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine

Other Recommendations

  • Food should be fresh, organic and eaten raw or lightly cooked
  • Take a 20-minute walk in nature each day for sun exposure
  • Use enemas (Budwig believed this promoted detoxification)

Budwig recommended flaxseed oil enemas to her patients, but modern descriptions of the protocol recommend coffee or water enemas. There is no scientific evidence that enemas promote detoxification.

Oncologists warn against this aspect of the Budwig protocol because of the serious risk of infection for cancer patients.

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Potential Benefits

The Budwig diet can provide the following nutrients:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids such as ALA, EPA and DHA
  • High amounts of protein

The benefits of consuming omega-3 fatty acids include anti-inflammatory effects, reduced blood pressure and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. Some epidemiological studies show that high levels of EPA and DHA may reduce the risk of cancers of the breast, colon and prostate.

Mesothelioma Patient Reported Benefits

Marilyn and James B. were shocked by how drastically James’ health turned around after going on the Budwig diet. He initially came home from the hospital in a wheelchair with an oxygen tank to help his breathing. He also had a PleurX catheter to drain fluid from around his lungs.

But after a few months on the diet, he was walking on his own and off the oxygen tank. The PleurX catheter was removed because the fluid stopped accumulating.

“We just weren’t ready to give up,” Marilyn said. “I don’t know exactly why this works, or how long it will work, but it’s remarkable how well he is right now.”

About a year after starting the Budwig diet, James’ tumors returned and he passed shortly thereafter. “Oncologists don’t understand this [mesothelioma] disease enough,” Marilyn said. “When they decide they can’t do anything for you anymore, that’s when you feel lost. And we were there. We were fortunate to find something that worked for us.”

Potential Side Effects

Side effects associated with the diet may be caused by flaxseeds, dietary restrictions, sun exposure and enemas.

Flaxseed Side Effects

  • Stomach pain
  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Gas
  • Frequent bowel movements
  • Bowel obstruction

Dietary Restriction Side Effects

  • Vitamin B deficiency (caused by restriction of meat consumption)
  • Other nutritional deficiencies
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue

Sun Exposure Side Effects

  • Skin redness and blistering
  • Pain or tingling
  • Skin swelling
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Dehydration
  • Increased risk of skin cancer

Enema Side Effects

  • Inflammation of the rectum and colon
  • Rectal burns, infections and pain
  • Electrolyte imbalance

Patient Warning

Patients with the following conditions may experience serious complications on the Budwig diet:

  • Diabetes
  • Bleeding disorders
  • Bowel problems such as inflammatory bowel disease

Scientific Research

Researchers have not conducted clinical trials to study the Budwig diet as a potential cancer treatment. No case reports have been published and the safety of the diet hasn’t been directly assessed in medical literature.

However, a diet similar to Budwig’s, called the Bill Henderson Protocol, was reviewed by the nursing faculty at the University of Calgary in Canada.

Review of Similar Diet: Bill Henderson Protocol

In 2011, the peer-reviewed journal Nutrients published a review of the Bill Henderson Protocol including a history of the Budwig diet.

Henderson’s protocol follows the Budwig diet, including the flaxseed and cottage cheese mixture. The primary difference between these protocols is the addition of supplements to Henderson’s protocol.

The review reports that Budwig believed incomplete cellular division caused cancer. She made her recommendations to speed up cell division because she believed it would cause tumors to self-destruct. Researchers today believe that incomplete cellular division does not play a role in cancer.

The review states: “Although Budwig lived until 2003, and was actively lecturing until the late 1990s, there does not appear to have been any attempts to test her theories using modern technology or different source materials, such as fish oil.”

Evidence for an Anti-Cancer Diet

Most of the research conducted on diet and cancer involves the potential of a particular diet to prevent cancer, not treat it.

Currently, cancer researchers do not believe any diet can cure cancer.

However, there is growing evidence that certain dietary choices may reduce the risk of developing cancer including:

  • Eating lots of fruits and vegetables especially allium and cruciferous vegetables
  • Consuming foods rich with antioxidants and omega-3s
  • Eating a diet rich in carotenoids, chlorophyll, folate, selenium and vitamins D and B-12
  • Supplementing with digestive enzymes and probiotics

Additionally, there is evidence that a high-fiber diet reduces the risk of rectal cancer and avoiding overeating may reduce the risk of developing obesity-related cancers.

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Joining the team in February 2008 as a writer and editor, Michelle Whitmer has translated medical jargon into patient-friendly information at Asbestos.com for more than eight years. Michelle is a registered yoga teacher, a member of the Academy of Integrative Health & Medicine, and was quoted by The New York Times on the risks of asbestos exposure.

Walter Pacheco, Managing Editor at Asbestos.com
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8 Cited Article Sources

  1. MSKCC. (2017, January 26). Budwig Diet.
    Retrieved from: https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/integrative-medicine/herbs/budwig-diet-01
  2. Mannion, C. et al. (2011). Components of an Anticancer Diet: Dietary Recommendations, Restrictions and Supplements of the Bill Henderson Protocol.
    Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3257729/
  3. Cancer Research UK. (2018, December 21). Budwig diet.
    Retrieved from: https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/cancer-in-general/treatment/complementary-alternative-therapies/individual-therapies/budwig-diet
  4. Weil, A. (2017, December 20). Budwig Cure for Cancer?
    Retrieved from: https://www.drweil.com/health-wellness/body-mind-spirit/cancer/budwig-cure-for-cancer/
  5. Geeraert, L. & CAM-Cancer Consortium. (2017, February 8). Budwig diet.
    Retrieved from: http://cam-cancer.org/en/budwig-diet
  6. Fletcher, J. (2017, December 18). What is the Budwig diet protocol?
    Retrieved from: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320352.php
  7. Donaldson, M.S. (2004). Nutrition and cancer: A review of the evidence for an anti-cancer diet.
    Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC526387/
  8. Budwig Center. (n.d.). Budwig Guide. Retrieved from: http://www.budwigcenter.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Johanna-Budwig-Guide-natural-therapies.pdf

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Last Modified July 24, 2019

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