The Budwig diet, sometimes called the Budwig protocol, is an eating plan that was developed to treat cancer.

The diet’s staples are flaxseed oil and cottage cheese, as well as fruit juice. The diet is named after its creator, Dr. Johanna Budwig, who theorized that a diet high in polyunsaturated fatty acids would energize healthy cells to keep cancer from spreading.

When you’re on the Budwig diet, you’re also supposed to spend time exposing your skin to the sun to stimulate immune function and promote vitamin D circulation throughout your body.

However, there’s no research-based proof that the Budwig diet as a whole is effective against cancer.

The medical community at large considers the Budwig diet to be scientifically unproven to treat cancer. However, some specific components of the Budwig diet might show more promise.

For instance, Cancer Research UK indicates that there’s research being done into the use of flaxseed as an anticancer ingredient. It’s possible that there are properties in flaxseed oil itself that can stop cancer from spreading or keep it from coming back.

Though there haven’t been extensive studies into the effectiveness of flaxseed in treating humans with cancer, one study of hens with ovarian cancer indicated that, although there was no change in the incidence of the disease, a diet of flaxseed oil improved their cancer outcomes.

The Budwig diet focuses on eliminating foods that keep your body from functioning at its optimal level. That’s why you’re advised against eating any form of processed food. When you’re on the Budwig diet, you must avoid:

  • processed meats
  • meats that contain antibiotics or artificial hormones
  • shellfish
  • processed cheeses
  • hydrogenated oils and trans fats
  • soy products
  • white sugar
  • animal fats
  • refined grains
  • foods containing artificial preservatives

When you’re on the Budwig diet, the focal point of your food intake is the signature “Budwig mixture.” This is a mixture of cottage cheese and flaxseed oil, which must be taken several times every day.

Sometimes the mixture is altered to use yogurt instead of cottage cheese, but the flaxseed oil ingredient cannot be altered.

You’ll also need to eat large amounts of:

  • fresh fruits and fresh fruit juice
  • uncooked vegetables
  • olive oil
  • almonds and walnuts
  • goat’s milk or raw cow’s milk

Strictly following the Budwig diet can result in a vitamin B nutritional deficiency, since the diet is restrictive in meats. B vitamins are important for brain health, hormone regulation, and energy.

While eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and cutting back on processed foods is good, some nutrition is lost with extremely restrictive eating plans. Taking a vitamin B supplement may help with this issue.

Eating a lot of flaxseed, flaxseed oil, or other foods containing flaxseed can cause constipation, bloating, and gas. Diarrhea and inflammatory bowel disease (IBS) can be triggered by flaxseed, according to the Mayo Clinic.

People that are nursing or pregnant, people with diabetes or hypoglycemia, and women with hormone-sensitive conditions should avoid large amounts of flax products in their diet.

Another thought to consider is the restrictive nature of this diet may lead to calorie restriction and, subsequently, weight loss. Weight loss may be dangerous for a person with a cancer diagnosis.

Also, be mindful of drinking plenty of water if consuming a high dose of flaxseed to prevent a bowel blockage (obstruction). Flaxseed may also interact with some medicines, so speak with a doctor before drastically increasing the amount consumed or before restricting your normal diet.

There are risks to other aspects of the diet, too. The level of sun exposure recommended in the Budwig diet can increase your risk of developing skin cancer and sunburn.

Coffee enemas, which are also sometimes part of the diet, can result in electrolyte imbalances and infections, inflame your lower digestive tract, and permanently change the way your bowels function.

Most doctors agree that no diet can cure cancer. That said, more doctors than ever are becoming open to supplementing traditional cancer treatments with alternative medicine.

In general, most people can benefit from eating less processed or refined foods and decreasing their sugar intake. However, there might be products and supplements or a more nutrient-dense plan that is better for you than adopting the Budwig diet.

If you’re interested in the Budwig diet, talk to your doctor and work with a dietitian to ensure you’re meeting your nutrient needs.