One of the most common questions I have been asked over the years is “what is the best diet for cancer?” And while I don’t claim to be a cancer curer, I do believe there is sufficient evidence that there are certain healing foods, herbs and treatments that can help to fight and prevent cancer.
One of those protocols that has been shown to help defend against cancer is called the Budwig Protocol, also called the Budwig Diet. Along with treatments like Gerson Therapy, I believe the Budwig Diet is an excellent option for decreasing your risk for developing cancer, and for supporting cancer recovery.
What Is the Budwig Diet?
The Budwig Diet is a natural approach to preventing and helping to treat cancer and other diseases. The Budwig Diet Protocol was first developed in the 1950s by a German biochemist named Dr. Johanna Budwig. Dr. Budwig was a seven-time Nobel peace prize nominee and considered an expert on the topic of fats and lipids.
Today at the Budwig Center Clinic, programs are based on “the protocol and natural cancer treatments endorsed by Dr. Johanna Budwig…they combine the Budwig diet and natural medicine to treat cancer and other chronic diseases.” Although the Budwig Protocol can be used as an alternative to traditional treatment, it’s recommended that it’s utilized as a compliment to other medical treatment approaches.
What foods can you eat on the Budwig diet? The Budwig Diet emphasizes healthy fats, high antioxidant foods such as fresh vegetables, and fermented dairy products that provide probiotics. Foods used in the Budwig Diet recipe (explained below) include cottage cheese or yogurt, flaxseeds and flaxseed oil. For this reason, the diet is sometimes called the Flax Oil and Cottage Cheese (FOCC) diet or just the Flaxseed Oil Diet. For even more protective effects, I recommend adding additional anti-inflammatory ingredients to the Budwig Diet recipe, specifically turmeric and black pepper.
According to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, “The Budwig Diet has not been proven to treat or prevent cancer.” (1) It has not been “proven” because no large-scale clinical studies have been conducted using the Budwig diet protocol. However there’s lots of evidence showing that the foods used in the Budwig Diet provide many health benefits, including reducing inflammation and supporting cellular regeneration. (2) In layman’s term, this means the protocol helps recharge your body’s “dead batteries” by helping your cells to work properly. The Budwig Protocol has been associated with some of the following health benefits:
- Help supporting cancer recovery
- Reducing inflammation and related conditions like diabetes
- Improving neurological function
- Improving circulation and helping to heal heart disease
- Healing inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis
- Reducing arthritis symptoms
- Balancing hormones
How long does it take for Budwig Diet to work? Again, because there have not been clinical studies done to investigate the effects of the Budwig Diet plan, it’s hard to say exactly how long it will take for you to experience improvements in your health. If you’re consistently following the protocol you can probably expect to start experiencing benefits within a few months, based on the fact that it takes this long for changes to your diet to make a noticeable impact.
The Budwig Diet Protocol
The Budwig Diet Protocol consists of eating multiple daily servings of the Budwig Diet recipe (which includes flaxseed oil and cottage cheese) in addition to increasing intake of vegetables, fruits and fresh juices. Here are steps you can take to implement the protocol: (3)
1. First, STOP consuming processed fats like refined vegetable oils (such as safflower, canola, corn and sunflower oil), added sugar, refined wheat flour, conventional meat, and GMOs found in many packaged and processed foods.
2. Second, START consuming healthy unsaturated fatty acids, along with saturated fatty acids from quality sources, in order to repair damaged cell membranes. Omega-3 fatty acids are especially important for reducing inflammation.
3. Consume the Budwig Recipe daily for the best results.
4. Make other dietary and lifestyle changes that support overall health. This includes increasing vegetable and fruit consumption and choosing high-quality animal products for protein — for example, free range organic chicken, pastured eggs and wild-caught fish (like salmon, sardines, trout, halibut and tuna, all foods that provide omega-3s).
Dr. Budwig found that the health of your cells can quickly be reversed by consuming a daily mixture of cottage cheese (or quark, or similar dairy products), flaxseeds, and flaxseed oil. Dr. Budwig also discovered this method wasn’t just effective for helping to prevent or treat cancer, but also in healing heart disease, diabetes, eczema, psoriasis, arthritis, hormone imbalance, and neurological conditions.
In addition to consuming the Budwig protocol meal explained below, Dr. Budwig also recommended making other dietary and lifestyle changes to help increase protection against cancer and other diseases. These lifestyle changes (described in more detail later in this article) include increasing vitamin D levels through sun exposure and consuming fresh vegetable juices packed with antioxidants.
For protection against chronic disease, I recommend using principles of the Budwig Diet Protocol along with the Gerson Diet. What is the Gerson Diet (also called Gerson Therapy)? It’s another natural approach to helping prevent and treat cancer, created by Dr. Max Gerson, a German-born American medical doctor. Gerson therapy involves consuming lots of organic, plant-based foods, raw juices, beef liver and organ meats, supplements and using coffee enemas. It can help support colon health, improve detoxification, and help reverse nutrient deficiencies. The diet is low in fats, proteins and sodium but very high in antioxidants, vitamins and electrolytes, due to including up to 13 glasses of freshly prepared juice daily along with other plant-based foods.
The Budwig Recipe
The original Budwig Diet recipe provides many valuable nutrients; however, in my opinion you can reap even more benefits from including additional superfood ingredients. My “Beyond Budwig Recipe” includes the following ingredients: (4)
- 6 ounces of cultured dairy, such as organic cottage cheese, goat’s milk kefir, or amasai. I recommend checking your local farmers’ market and trying to find raw dairy products, if possible.
- 4 tablespoons of sprouted and ground chia or flax seeds. You can use whole seeds that you grind yourself, pre-ground seed meal, or seed powder. (DO NOT include chia or flax seed if you have colorectal cancer or a colostomy.)
- 1 tablespoon flaxseed oil
- 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl or blender and consume one time or more daily. Consuming this meal one time daily can help rebuild your cell membranes and is also an incredible colon cleanse. It is loaded with probiotics and fermentable fiber that can transform the health of your small intestine and colon. However, note that if you have colon or colorectal cancer or if you’ve had a colostomy, DO NOT include the chia and flaxseeds. (5)
*Note — If you simply cannot consume this healthy form of dairy because of a food sensitivity, I suggest replacing the kefir with unsweetened coconut yogurt or 3oz full-fat canned coconut milk.
7 Budwig Diet Benefits
1. Helps Improve Cellular Health
In 1952 Dr. Johanna Budwig was the German Government’s Senior Expert on lipids and pharmacology and was considered one of the world’s leading authorities on the benefits of healthy fats and oils. While doing her research, she discovered that many of the conventional processed fats and hydrogenated oils used in the modern food supply were destroying the membranes of our cells, in turn contributing to inflammation, disease and toxicity. Part of Dr. Budwig’s hypothesis regarding the formation of diseases like cancer was that disease resulted from reduced uptake of oxygen by cell membranes. According to her theory, one of the reasons that cells struggle to take up oxygen is because of too little omega-3 fatty acids.
Your body is made up of approximately 75 trillion cells. Your cells have a nucleus that has a positive charge and on the outside has electrons that are negatively charged. The modern processing of fats can contribute to destruction of cell membranes, stopping electrical signals within your cells from working properly. If you can imagine a car with a dead battery, this is basically what is happening inside your damaged cells! Eating healthy fats, including omega-3s and saturated fats, supports cellular membranes, which is foundational when it comes to overall health.
2. Improves Circulation & Supports Heart Health
Most of us are aware how bad fats can block our arteries, but bad fats also create problems throughout the entire body, leading to cell congestion and inflammation. When cells become damaged fats are no longer able to pass through capillaries properly, causing circulatory (blood flow) problems and raising the risk for cardiovascular disease. This is one reason why many studies have found that consumption of healthy fats, especially omega-3s, supports normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels and reduces risk for heart disease.
Studies have found that omega-3 fatty acids help modify the production of eicosanoids by reducing thromboxane A2 and leukotriene B4, resulting in reduced inflammation. The anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3s has been shown to help reduce vascular atherogenic inflammation, to improve endothelial function, and to decrease resting systolic and diastolic blood pressure. (6)
3. Supports Cognitive Health
Your brain and nervous system help control the function of your entire body, and about 60 percent of your nervous system is made up of fat. Your body produces over 500 million new cells a day, which require a steady supply of fatty acids.
Every cell and organ in your entire body requires fat in order to function properly. When conventionally processed fats and hydrogenated oils shut down your cells’ electrical power, your cognitive health suffers. Diets that are too low in healthy fats, omega-3s/polyunsaturated fatty acids, have been linked to a higher risk for cognitive disorders including dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Studies have found that omega-3s have neuroprotective effects including helping with early brain development, supporting learning and memory, improving regulation of neuronal membrane excitability, improving capacity for neuronal transmission, and reducing oxidative damage. (7)
4. Cultured Dairy Provides Nutrients & Probiotics
Cottage cheese is rich in sulfur protein, healthy saturated fats, and essential nutrients like B vitamins, phosphorus, selenium and calcium. There are additional benefits associated with cultured/fermented dairy products because they provide beneficial probiotic bacteria that help improve gut health. Studies suggest that probiotics found in cultured dairy can help to restore intestinal homeostasis and maintain balance between pro- and anti-inflammatory responses of intestinal immunocytes. (8) Yogurt in particular has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects and to help people suffering from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). (9)
When cultured dairy and flax are combined together it makes the fats in both foods more soluble, so they can be absorbed into the cell membrane more easily. Kefir (from goat’s milk), organic cottage cheese, amasai (from A2 cow’s milk), or yogurt (sheep or goat’s milk) are the best dairy products to purchase, if possible. Make sure these products are low-temp processed or raw and that they are organic and come from grass-fed animals.
5. Sprouted Super Seeds Provide Fiber
Chia seeds and flax seeds are two of the most nutrient dense seeds in the world. Both have incredible health benefits, but they are best when consumed sprouted since this helps make their nutrients most available.
Some of the benefits associated with chia and flax seeds include:
- decreased constipation
- improved skin moisture
- improved hormonal balance
- protection against heart disease
- increased protection against cancer
Flax seeds, used in the Budwig Diet, contain lignans, α-linolenic acid, fiber, protein and components that may possess phytogestrogenic, anti-inflammatory, and hormone-modulating effects.
Studies have found that flax seeds can help to fight cancer by inducing apoptosis and inhibiting growth of cancerous cells, including breast and colon cancer cells. (10) A study conducted by the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in Toronto found evidence that flax is associated with decreased risk of developing breast cancer and also a reduced risk of mortality among those already living with breast cancer. (11)
6. Cold-Pressed Flaxseed Oil Provides Omega-3s
Flaxseed oil contains the type of polyunsaturated fatty acids called omega-3s, which have been shown to reduce inflammation and offer protection against many diseases, especially cardiovascular disease. A number of studies have found evidence that omega-3s found in flaxseeds can also cause anticancer effects, including inhibiting or halting the development of a tumor. (12) Additionally, omega-3 have been shown to increase tolerability of conventional cancer chemotherapy, to help with adenoma (polyp) prevention, and to lower the risk for cancer recurrence.
Furthermore, flaxseed oil has been shown to decrease levels of proinflammatory cytokines, tumor necrosis factor (TNF) alpha and Interleukin-1 beta, suggesting it supports the immune system and reduces the risk for various inflammatory conditions. (13)
7. Turmeric and Black Pepper Fight Inflammation
Today there is more research focused on the cancer-fighting benefits associated with turmeric (specifically curcumin, the active ingredient found in turmeric) than any other herb in the world. (14) Turmeric/curcumin has been shown to help decrease tumor size and help fight colon and breast cancer. Adding a pinch of black pepper is recommended because this can increase turmeric’s absorption.
A Note About Dairy
While the Budwig Protocol can be very helpful for defending against “Western diseases,” given our food supply today, we run into a problem. Most conventional/store-bought cottage cheese isn’t as good as it was back in 1952 in Germany. There are three major problems with most dairy products sold in major grocery stores today:
- Ultra High Temperature Pasteurization (280 F) — Pasteurization is used to kill bacteria, but such high heat can also damage many of the vital nutrients found in dairy milk, including proteins and probiotics.
- Chemicals — Most dairy today is made from cows that have been treated with hormones, antibiotics, and pain killers, plus given GMO food that contains pesticide residue.
- A1 Casein — There are two types of protein in milk, casein and whey. In the last 1,000 years there has been a genetic mutation in some dairy cows that has caused them to produce an irregular type of protein called beta-casein A1. A1 casein is a protein that for some people can be highly inflammatory, similar to gluten. This type of protein isn’t found in certain cattle and is never found in human, goats, sheep, buffalo, and A2 cows (to learn more about this topic, I recommend reading “Devil in the Milk”).
To overcome these obstacles when shopping for dairy, ideally look to buy organic cottage cheese, goat’s milk kefir, raw milk yogurt or amasai from A2 cows.
Additional Lifestyle & Diet Strategies
In addition to consuming the Budwig Diet recipe above, other strategies that are part of the complete protocol include:
1. Juicing Vegetables — Juicing can give you a large, concentrated dose of enzymes, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants from plant foods that may help support the body in cancer recovery.
2. Frankincense Essential Oil — Frankincense oil was recommended by Dr. Budwig for helping to fight formation of brain tumors. Rub this essential oil on your body (neck area) three times daily or take 3 drops internally three times daily. To be safe, avoid using oils that are not 100 percent pure, especially if taking them internally.
3. Sunshine Therapy — Getting 30 minutes of direct sunlight exposure daily can increase low vitamin D3 levels, which can help support immune function and potentially increase protection against chronic diseases.
Precautions Regarding the Budwig Diet Protocol
While it can support you during recovery from a disease such as cancer, the Budwig Diet should still not be used in place of standard medical treatment or care. Never avoid visiting a doctor if you’ve been diagnosed with a chronic health problem as this can be very risky and even life-threatening.
- It’s not recommended that you follow the Budwig Diet protocol immediately following, or if you have an existing bleeding disorder, due to how flaxseed can cause thinning of the blood and risk for bleeding.
- You should also not start the Budwig protocol if you are pregnant or nursing, since it may result in under-eating or nutrient deficiencies.
Potential Budwig Diet Protocol side effects can include:
- changes in digestion function, such as increased gas, bloating, constipation, stomach aches and frequent bowel movements (usually initially while you get used to eating the recipe)
- potential for increased bleeding
- possible GI issues if you are intolerant to dairy
Key Points About the Budwig Diet
- The Budwig Diet is a natural approach to preventing and helping to treat cancer and other diseases. Benefits include reducing inflammation, supporting heart health, balancing hormones and protecting cognitive health.
- The Budwig Diet emphasizes healthy fats, especially omega-3s from nuts/seeds/fish, high antioxidant foods such as fresh vegetables, and fermented dairy products that provide probiotics.
- The Budwig Diet Protocol consists of eating multiple daily servings of the Budwig Diet recipe and increasing intake of vegetables, fruits and fresh juices. It eliminates processed foods made with refined vegetable oils (such as safflower, canola, corn and sunflower oil), added sugar, refined wheat flour, conventional meat and GMOs.
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