If you have a swollen liver, you're probably overweight. Incidences of fatty liver disease, in which fat accumulates in the liver, causing it to swell, are rising fast along with obesity and diabetes, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. Most medical experts will advise you to eat a healthy, varied diet to support your liver. But you might also consider trying a more aggressive diet to reduce your swollen liver.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in and of itself isn't typically harmful. But it can progress to a disease called non-alcoholic stetohepatitis, which eventually can destroy your liver, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. About one in five Americans has a swollen liver, but 80 percent of diabetics may suffer from the problem, which appears closely related to both type 2 diabetes and obesity.
In some cases, it's possible that your liver grew too large due to excessive alcohol consumption, according to the Penn State Hershey Medical Center. If this happens to be true for you, discontinuing drinking or cutting way back potentially can allow your liver to return to normal. However, many people who suffer from swollen livers don't drink too much, and need to look for some other diet option to reduce their liver size.
A diet low in what's called "high glycemic index" carbohydrates may help treat fatty liver disease, according to preliminary medical research in mice. Clinicians use the glycemic index to determine how quickly people absorb the energy from their food; foods high on the index, which include simple carbohydrates such as bread, pasta and sugar, tend to be absorbed faster than foods low on the index, which include whole grains such as oatmeal, beans, fruits and vegetables. Therefore, it's possible that basing your diet on whole grain foods and fresh fruits and vegetables can help reduce your swollen liver.
Dr. Sandra Cabot of the website LiverDoctor.com takes this approach further. She urges people with fatty livers to focus their diets around fresh, preferably raw fruits and vegetables, along with homemade juices, and to purge their diets of all simple carbohydrates, including pasta, bread, pastries and desserts with sugar and flour. Followers of Dr. Cabot's diet eschew fried foods and any processed foods, and eat mainly organic dairy products.
Medical research hasn't proven yet that any type of diet works best to reduce a swollen liver. However, losing a bit of weight -- even five or 10 pounds -- seems to help, according to the University of Southern California. Eating a sensible mix of healthy foods, such as whole grains, fruit and vegetables, along with limited amounts of lean meat and low-fat dairy products, potentially can help you lose weight. Talk with your doctor about your weight loss options and about whether you're at risk for progressing into liver disease.
- Department of Veterans Affairs: Fatty Liver Disease
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis
- Penn State Hershey Medical Center: Fatty Liver
- U.S. News and World Report: Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
- University of Southern California: Healthoughts Newsletter